Mr Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr Sentamu, the archbishop of York, added: “At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage.

“This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.”

The Church of England had attracted controversy after stating that civil partnerships, a legally recognised partnership of two people with rights similar to those of a marriage, should be no more than “sexually abstinent friendships”.