Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury attended a meeting of the Clergy Consultation, a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex clergy and their partners.

Dr Rowan Williams presided and preached at a service of Holy Communion and later addressed the members present, responding to questions.

The Rev Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, was present at yesterday’s meeting.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury met with over 80 members of the Consultation yesterday,” he said.

“He preached on the lectionary readings for the day, A Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church.

“The readings were Daniel 6.12-end and Luke 21.20-28.

“He then spoke to the members present about the constraints which are affecting the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. He responded to questions and listened to our response.

“The Archbishop addressed us in his sermon and his remarks which followed as mature, adult Christians.

“As Director of Changing Attitude, I felt that the tensions we experience in our work was acknowledged by Dr Williams. We experience ourselves as being at the centre of an intense dispute about the presence of LGBT Christians in our Communion.”

Rev Coward described LGBT clergy as “mostly invisible” to bishops, congregations and other priests.

“We remain invisible because of the intense prejudice expressed by many Christians towards us and because of the hostile environment in many societies.

“The Consultation provides a safe place in which clergy and partners can meet in confidence and talk openly about our lives and vocations.

“To meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday was both a privilege and an appropriate opportunity to engage in listening to one another in the presence of God in the context of worship and prayer.”

He claimed there are more than 1,000 LGBT clergy in the Church of England alone, and many more in Anglican province.

“If every LGBT clergy person were to be inhibited from their ministry tomorrow, the Church of England would be thrown into crisis.

“The majority of bishops will be able to identify the parishes and areas of sector ministry which would be vacated were all their lesbian and gay clergy to be prevented from preaching or taking services this coming Sunday.”

Earlier this year, Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, demanded that the US Episcopal church ceased from consecrating another gay bishop or approve official ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The Church has been close to splitting over the issue of gay clergy since the ordination of openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

American liberals and conservatives from Africa, Asia and Latin America have been locked in a battle for the soul of the 77-million strong Anglican Communion for over a decade.

According to Reuters, the dispute over the ordination of gay bishops and blessing of gay marriages is threatening to create a schism ahead of next year’s Lambeth Conference, a meeting of more than 800 bishops which is meant to cement the global communion once a decade.