Gene Robinson, a divorced father of two who is openly gay, will attend the ceremony where he will be consecrated as bishop on Sunday.

Robinson, who has received death threats, will be flanked by police officers and is expected to be greeted by angry crowds in New Hampshire.

Leading Anglicans attending a crisis meeting in London last month said that Robinson's appointment would ''tear the fabric of the church''. The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, said he feared the issue could lead to "irrevocable" consequences.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Anglican church from 38 different countries including Pakistan, Canada and Nigeria.

Pressure

Robinson has resisted pressure to turn down the nomination of his diocese, saying that his appointment could be a catalyst for change in the Episcopalian (the US term for Anglican) church.

''I suspect that before too very long, other denominations will also follow and welcome openly gay and lesbian people into leadership positions. That's my prayer,'' said Robinson.

US Episcopalians opposed to Robinson's appointment plan to hold a candlelight protest outside the ceremonial venue, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

Backlash

The Anglican church is expecting a strong backlash against the appointment of Robinson from worldwide and, in particular, from Nigeria.

The country is home to 17.5 million Anglicans who are against the appointment of any gay bishops.

Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria has been particularly vocal against Robinson's appointment, warning that his church could split from the Anglican Communion over the issue.