The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said that the churches of the Anglican Communion must be safe places for gay and lesbian people.
His comments come in a welcome to an interim report on the Anglican Communion's Listening Process, a commitment to listen to the experience of homosexual people.
Williams warns that the challenge to create the safe space for their voices to be heard and for their dignity to be respected is based on a fundamental commitment of the Communion.
"The commitments of the Communion are not only to certain theological positions on the question of sexual ethics but also to a manifest and credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people, a commitment again set out in successive Lambeth Conference Resolutions over many decades" he said.
In what will be seen as a reference to the situation in Nigeria where Anglican Archbishop Akinola is backing legal measures which would oppress gay and lesbian people, Rowan Williams said; "I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties. It is impossible to read this report without being aware that in many places - including Western countries with supposedly 'liberal' attitudes - hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms.
"No-one reading this report can be complacent about such a situation, and the Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people to be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected, whatever serious disagreements about ethics may remain. It is good to know that the pastoral care of homosexual people is affirmed clearly by so many provinces."
In his statement, Archbishop Williams paid tribute to the work of Canon Phil Groves and the team at the Anglican Communion Office involved in coordinating the Listening Process.
The interim report, comprising summaries of the Communion's 38 Provinces' progress on the issue, can be found at: http://www.aco.org/listening/reports/