The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised for the “hurt and pain” caused to LGBT people by the Church.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, said he felt it was a “constant source of deep sadness”, that LGBT people are persecuted.

His words came after a meeting of 38 Anglican leaders voted to sanction a US church for its support of gay people.

The Anglican Communion caused shock waves among LGBT Christians as it overwhelmingly voted to sanction a liberal US church which supports same-sex marriage.

“For me it’s a constant source of deep sadness, the number of people who are persecuted for their sexuality,” he said after the meeting.

“I don’t have the right to speak for everyone. I wanted to take this opportunity…to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, the church has caused.”

Of the decision, Lib Dem peer Jonathan Oates tweeted: “Born into CofE, grew up in it, baptised in it, confirmed in it. Today, thoroughly ashamed of it. No backbone. No leadership.”

Others said they were shocked that there was “no acknowledgement of the deep pain the Anglican Communion’s decisions will cause, nor any concern for the pastoral care of LGBTI Christians.”

An open letter sent before the meeting and signed by over a hundred senior Anglicans urges the Church of England to “repent” for its treatment of gay and lesbian people.

The meeting also came as it was found that the attendance of Church of England services had dropped to its lowest ever level.

The head of Stonewall warned that a split in the global Anglican church could bolster anti-gay churches.