Bishop Mark Joseph Lawrence, head of the Diocese of South Carolina, likened the Episcopal Church's recent pro-gay votes to a cheating husband.

Lawrence made his remarks Saturday before the diocese agreed to distance itself from the church.

“Our purposed action is similar to a wife whose husband is having an affair and after frequent confrontations and conversations he continues in his adulterous behavior,” Lawrence told clergy members before voting during the special convention in Mount Pleasant.

“Eventually, without ending the marriage or leaving their home, she says, 'I'm moving my bedroom down the hall. I haven't given up on this yet, but somehow I have to get your attention that this isn't working for me!',” Lawrence, the father of five children, added.

Eighty-seven out of 105 clergy agreed and approved a resolution that authorizes Lawrence and the diocesan Standing Committee to disengage from church bodies that have “assented to actions contrary to the Holy Scripture.”

The skirmish is the latest in the long-running saga that has pitted conservatives against liberals over control of the world's third largest church.

Liberals fired the first shot in 2003 with the decision to consecrate the first openly gay bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Robinson, 61, lives in Weare, New Hampshire with his husband.

Conservatives within the Anglican Communion – which includes U.S. Episcopalians – pressed for a moratorium on gay clergy, and Episcopalians agreed.

But in July, Episcopalians lifted their self-imposed ban. During its General Convention, the church also gave churches their approval to bless gay unions and marriages at their discretion.

Some conservatives have reacted with their feet and formed a rival church called the Anglican Church in North America. The Diocese of South Carolina, which is comprised of 75 parishes, says it's not leaving just yet, just sending a message.

The resolution acknowledges “we have entered a time when the need for more radically ways of speaking is painfully apparent,” Lawrence said.

At least one church in Massachusetts has blessed a gay wedding and several dioceses have nominated gay clergy for bishop, including one in Minnesota and another in California.

The high-profile marriage of openly lesbian Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons to her longtime partner Mattie B. Hayes was held in the predominantly African-American church of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Cambridge just weeks after the Episcopal Church's actions.