It is an otherwise ordinary church in the unassuming suburb of New Barnet.

But when the members of Holy Trinity Lyonsdown unanimously agreed not to pay their annual quota of £33,600 to the diocese of St Albans this month, it was suddenly at the centre of a debate that is dividing the Church of England.

Matters were brought to a head in April by the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans, the Anglican diocese which covers the northern part of the borough.

It is the first time that anyone can recall a parish witholding its payment in the diocese, but it can hardly have come as a surprise. Dr John, although celibate, has had a gay relationship with another clergyman for 27 years and openly argues for same sex relationships something which many churchgoers believe automatically excludes him from a position of moral authority.

Last summer he was nominated as Bishop of Reading, but had to withdraw because of a public outcry rather like the one being experienced now in Barnet.

"We are deeply grieved," said Reverend Charles Dobbie, a father-of-three and the minister of Holy Trinity Lyonsdown in Lyonsdown Road, Barnet. "Our action of suspending the quota is essentially an expression of protest against the diocese for putting in place someone who is in a position of considerable influence and authority but is so far outside the standards of Anglican orthodoxy."

Effectively, Holy Trinity has decided to pay its own clergy and costs, and will not accept money from the diocese. It amounts to holding back around £5,500 a year from the diocese, which it intends to give to a charity which supports Christians who struggle with homosexuality, but do not want to follow a gay lifestyle.

Mr Dobbie continued: "The authority of scripture is very plain on this and we refuse to surrender ground to a revisionist authority. We love homosexuals, but we love them so much we want them to know the truth about their practice and do not affirm them in their practice, but hope to deliver them from their lifestyle."

Such talk may be traditional Christianity, but it is deeply offensive to many gay people, who berate the Church for misunderstanding them.

Jeremy Marks has been married to his wife Brenda for 12 years in a union he said they have made work as well as we can do'. But he is a gay man and has struggled to reconcile this with being a Christian.

In 1988, he established the Courage Trust in Guildford, to provide a support for people in his position. Fourteen years later, he decided he could no longer regard homosexuality as inherently sinful and formally split from the conservative Evangelical Alliance in 2002.

Renamed the Courage Ministry, he now works with Christians who want to live within a homosexual relationship a position not that dissimilar to the controversial Dr John.

He said: "The initial changes came about when I saw that people who were not allowed to explore their sexuality were being seriously damaged. It was driving people to suicide attempts and I began to feel if we didn't deal with it seriously, we would be held to account by God.

"The way the Church deals with it is to say you may not be able to help the feelings, but you must not act on them. So I got married to a very courageous lady, because we felt that was the only thing to do. But I began seriously to re-evaluate the ethos because I was unhappy about the results everyone continued to feel real struggles with this and it undermined their faith because there was no way out.

"Celibacy is not a long-term option. I became convinced that while the Church may not be able to accept gay relationships, that God certainly does."

Mr Marks's view is that the lines of scripture which appear to condemn homosexuality are actually condemning 'out of control' promiscuity. He believes God blesses committed monogamous partnerships which is why, despite everything, he and his wife have stuck together.

Mr Marks said he was very, very sorry indeed' about Holy Trinity Lyonsdown's decision to withhold their quota.

"That sort of action in that sort of public way just means they are shooting the Church of England in the foot by refusing to accept a man eminently able to do the job. It's shabby tactics and it's divisive," he said.

A less liberal position is taken by the True Freedom Trust, which seeks to help homosexual Christians find a 'way forward'. The trust, which is based in Liverpool, has helped around 10,000 men and women since it first began in 1977, but does not aim to cure' people of homosexual desires.

Co-director Martin Daly said: "We teach that within the context of Christianity as a whole, we believe that homosexuality falls short of God's ideal. Any sexual activity outside marriage is wrong. That's what we believe and, as in all things, there is an element of discipline and self-control needed.

"We do not set out to change people or to cure them it's not an illness but as we work on the underlying issues, sometimes orientation does change.

"Some people are bisexual, and sexuality is a bit of a sliding scale. There is no clear evidence that there is a homosexual gene you are born with and, in many people we deal with, the root issues do seem to go back into childhood and have a lot to do with broken relationships with parents.

"We try to help people to know they are loved by others we encourage the Church to love them and that they are loved by God. As people's understanding of that grows, sometimes orientation changes. We don't dangle a carrot, though, because we can't promise people will change, it often doesn't work like that."

For Mr Daly, encouraging anyone male or female, homosexual or heterosexual to live a celibate lifestyle is a tall order.

But just as, he said, a Christian woman who desperately wants to marry, but cannot find a Christian man, chooses to remain celibate, so do Christians who struggle with homosexuality.

Nevertheless, all sides of the debate accuse each other of acting divisively, amidst calls from Church leaders for reflection and restraint until the Lambeth Commission reports on its position on homosexuality later this year.

Mr Marks' final plea is just for the debate to be kept open.

"I don't blame anyone for not understanding," he said.

"But I do think they could listen to us."

The parish church in Barnet agrees but for its members, this is a matter of conscience.

"Ignoring it doesn't seem honourable or right," said Mr Dobbie. "But we want to honour God, so we have drawn a line in the sand."