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The ordination of a gay man in Dunedin tomorrow by the Anglican bishop could split the church, according to opponents.

Despite pressure from conservatives in the church, Anglican Bishop of Dunedin George Connor will ordain three people, among them Juan Kinnear, who will become a deacon of the church.

When contacted, Bishop Connor issued a statement that acknowledged the ordination at St Paul's Cathedral was expected to be controversial.

He described Mr Kinnear as being in a "committed same-sex relationship" and said he and the Dunedin diocesan council were satisfied that the ordination was consistent with the rules of the church and with the past practice of the diocese.

"The bishop and diocesan council are aware that divergent views are held in the church about such ordinations, and that people of good will and deeply reasoned faith stand on both sides of the argument."

Issues of sexuality evoked deep responses and were "currently a matter of debate in the worldwide Anglican communion and in this country and diocese", the statement said.

"Bishop Connor and the Dunedin diocesan council rejoice at the beginning of these new ministries and pray that the new deacons be supported in their ministry."

However, the statement also acknowledged "the pain of those who cannot agree with this decision".

Mr Kinnear declined to comment.

An academic administrator at Dunedin's Knox College, he holds a bachelor of theology degree as well as masters qualifications from the universities of Natal and Waikato. The college website describes him as having research interests in Anglican ecclesiology and canon law.

Most people who are ordained as deacons, are later ordained priests after a short time.

Christchurch clergyman the Rev Malcolm Falloon, a member of the conservative grouping Anglican Mainstream, said the ordination could split the church.

The group had written to the archbishops of the church in New Zealand appealing to them to stop or postpone the ordination.