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Archbishop of Canterbury 'unable to stop church leaders quitting split talks'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted he is powerless to stop church leaders walking out of talks aimed a healing splits in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality.

African representatives at the meeting in Canterbury are poised to pull out of the discussions sparking fears of a permanent schism.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said he hoped to achieve "reconciliation" at the gathering of Anglican primates over the course of this week.

"Certainly I want reconciliation. Reconciliation doesn't always mean agreement, in fact it very seldom does. It means finding ways of disagreeing well," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"There is nothing I can do if people decide to leave the room. It won't split the communion."

Anglicans across the world have been divided since the liberal Episcopal Church in America consecrated Canon Gene Robinson, who is gay, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The archbishop said: "The Church is a family and you remain a family even if you go your separate ways."

He added: "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."

Mr Welby, who has called for countries to welcome refugees, said the wave of sex crimes in t he German city of Cologne called for "clear-eyed" handling.

"It shows that the process of welcoming and being hospitable is a really complicated one that has to be thought through and dealt with in a sophisticated and highly intelligent way and with a very clear-eyed view about people who, as Angela Merkel has said, come and don't keep the rules."

He added: "The kind of people who raped women in Cologne will, if they turn out to be from abroad, be deported."

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