Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England, warned liberal churches considering the ordination of gay clergy and authorizing gay unions of being isolated from the mainstream Anglican Communion.

Earlier this month at their General Convention in Anaheim, California, the Episcopal Church – the Anglican Church in America – voted to give dioceses the option to consider the ordination of gay clergy and bless gay unions, especially in states where gay unions are legally recognized.

In his opening remarks to the convention, Williams warned: “I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart.”

On Monday, he reiterated his feelings, saying that the church's decision to include gay men and lesbians in such roles was unlikely to “repair the broken bridges in the life of the other Anglican provinces” and that “very serious anxieties had already been expressed” among Anglicans.

Williams said the answer might be a two-tier church where Episcopal dioceses who do not repudiate the gay resolutions would be relegated to a lesser unofficial role.

“It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude cooperation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the communion,” Williams said.

As the head of the Church of England, Williams serves as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion but does not have the authority to impose his will, yet remains one of the most influential voices among the world's 80 million Anglican believers.

In a statement, Rev. Susan Russell, president of the pro-gay Episcopal group Integrity USA, responded to Williams' warning of being cast aside. “And as we continue to move forward in mission and ministry with those who embrace historic Anglican comprehensiveness, we believe those 'outer darkness' threats are going to ring more and more hollow until they fade away altogether.”

The Los Angeles-based ministry is expected to be the next diocese to consider a gay or lesbian candidate for clergy later this year. Leaders have also expressed loud opposition to California's gay marriage ban passed by voters last November.

The Episcopal Church first opened the row with its decision to consecrate the first openly gay bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003. Robinson, 61, lives in Weare, New Hampshire with his husband. The church retreated a bit by imposing a moratorium on the ordination of gay clergy, which has now been effectively lifted.

Several mostly African churches have broken off over the issue. And while few U.S. dioceses have joined in the defection, their protests have grown increasingly louder over recent events.