The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing demands to quit last night as the row over sharia law intensified.
Leading bishops publicly contradicted Dr Rowan Williams's call for Islamic law to be brought into the British legal system.
With the Church of England plunged into crisis, senior figures were said to be discussing the archbishop's future.
One member of the church's "Cabinet", the Archbishop's Council, was reported as saying: "There have been a lot of calls for him to resign. I don't suppose he will take any notice, but, yes, he should resign."
Officials at Lambeth Palace told the BBC Dr Williams was in a "state of shock" and "completely overwhelmed" by the scale of the row.
It was said that he could not believe the fury of the reaction. The most damaging attack came from the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali.
He said it would be "simply impossible" to bring sharia law into British law "without fundamentally affecting its integrity".