Despite no agreement on how to tackle the issue of homosexuality in the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the “pieces are on the board” for a settlement.

He also called on American churches not to elect any more gay bishops.

In a sermon on the final day of the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams said: “In these days together we have not overcome our problems or reinvented our structures: that will still take time.”

But despite there still being “many questions” on the issue, a Covenant to bind the Communion together is needed, he said: “We may not have put an end to all our problems – but the pieces are on the board.”

The Covenant could mean churches with new gay bishops could be expelled from the Anglican Communion.

The Lambeth Conference, held once every ten years, is a meeting of the leaders of the Church from around the world. This year more than 200 bishops boycotted the event.

Liberal and conservative factions of the Anglican Church have been at loggerheads ever since the consecration of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

In a reference to the bishops who refused to attend the Conference Dr Williams said: “In the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages.”

He added that the Communion must not just be “an association of polite friends,” rather, it must “embrace deeper and more solid ways of recognising and trusting each other.”

He said he has a “vison of a global Church of interdependent communities, not a vision of an ecclesiastical world empire – or even a colonial relic. He added that without one the was a “danger of slowly surrendering to the culture around them and losing sight of their calling to challenge that culture.”

He said that the Episcopal Church in the United States should agree to abide to a mortatoria on electing further gay bishops and on gay marriage but that the aim was not to discrimnate against gays and lesbians.

Dr Williams said the conference had “worked out very much as I had hoped and prayed for it to.

“It has not evaded the difficult questions even if it hasn’t answered them in the way that some people would have liked.”

Earlier during the conference, the Bishop of Colombo called on the Anglican Communion to be inclusive of gay and lesbian people.

“Here my dear sisters and brothers is an insight of what the Church is called to be: an inclusive communion, where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of colour, gender, ability, sexual orientation,” he told the church leaders assembled in Canterbury Cathedral.

“Unity in diversity is a cherished Anglican tradition – a spirituality if you like, which we must reinforce in all humility for the sake of Christ and Christ’s Gospel.”

Bishop de Chickera stressed the social justice responsibilities of the Church and their duty to the poor.

“The Anglican Communion must speak on their behalf – whether it is the crisis in Sri Lanka,
whether it is the crisis in Zimbabwe, or Sudan, or Afghanistan or Iraq.

“The voiceless must be given a voice through the leadership of the Anglican Communion.

“The second strand that goes with a voice for the voiceless, is the calling into accountability of those who abuse power:authoritarian regimes who oppress and suppress the people. The prophetic voice will ask poignant, relevant questions: “why”, and sometimes, “how dare you?”"

The only openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, was not invited to Lambeth, while 260 fundamentalist bishops declined invitations.

300 bishops gathered at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in June.

They approved the formation of a new global network to fight against the preaching of “false gospels” of homosexuality and other “immoral” sexual behaviour.

The group claims to represent 35 million of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide and rejects the acceptance of gay relationships and the ordination of gay clergy and formed the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA).

Critics have called the new group a “church within a church.”

Though the majority of dissenting clergy are from the developing world, some traditionalist English, Australian and American Anglicans have joined the fellowship.