The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Anglican church must listen to gay and lesbian people and provide a safe place for them.

He was responding to an internal church report into the progress of dialogue within the Anglican communion.

At a conference in Lambeth in 1998 the church promised to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian people.

Archbishop Williams acknowledged that the process may be repudiated by both conservative and liberal Anglicans.

“There is inevitably a suspicion either that this is just window-dressing, or that it is a covert programme for changing doctrine and discipline,” he wrote.

The Archbishop said the reoprt showed that, “in many places, including Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes, hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms.”

Last month his fellow primates tried to reach a compromise over the behaviour of the American Anglican or Episcopalian church, which had ordained an openly gay bishop and allowed clergy to bless same-sex partnerships in church.

The African churches and others refuse “the pastoral care of homosexual people,” as Dr Williams referred to, preferring to condemn them as unbiblical.

The Anglican primates called on the American church to stop appointing gay bishops and blessing same-sex couples, but it seems likely their remonstrations will go unheeded.

Archbishop Williams has conceded in the past that the church could split over gay issues.

“The Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people to be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected, whatever serious disagreements about ethics may remain,” he wrote.