The leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion are in Canterbury for the start of week-long talks on how the Church should treat gay people.
Archbishop of Canterbury "powerless" to stop leaders walking out of Primates' talks
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has admitted that he is powerless to stop church leaders walking out of talks aimed a healing splits in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality.
There are worries that representatives from some African nations could pull out of the discussions, sparking fears of a permanent split in the church.
Justin Welby said that he hoped to achieve "reconciliation" at the Anglican primates meeting this week.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Certainly I want reconciliation. Reconciliation doesn't always mean agreement, in fact it very seldom does. It means finding ways of disagreeing well."
He added: "There is nothing I can do if people decide to leave the room. It won't split the communion."
In 2003 a gay bishop was consecrated, Canon Gene Robinson bishop of New Hampshire, by the liberal Episcopal Church in America and this decision split opinion.
The archbishop said: "The Church is a family and you remain a family even if you go your separate ways."
Justin Welby said: "A schism would not be a disaster, God is bigger than our failures, but it would be a failure. It would not be good if the Church is unable to set an example to the world of showing how we can love one another and disagree profoundly because we are brought together by Jesus Christ not be our own choice."