The archbishops of Canterbury and York have apologised for a statement issued by the Church of England last week that claimed only married heterosexuals should have sex.

Justin Welby and John Sentamu said they took responsibility for the statement, and acknowledged that it “has jeopardised trust”.

They added: “We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

The pastoral guidance, published by the House of Bishop’s on January 23, said: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings.”

It was issued to clergy after a recent change in UK law allowed heterosexual couples to tie the knot in a civil ceremony instead of a traditional marriage following a lengthy legal battle.

The guidance said civil partnerships should be no more than “sexually abstinent friendships”.

The statement was strongly criticised on social media, with many posters claiming that it showed the Church of England was out of touch.

Some bishops have also said they were upset by the guidance.

The bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek wrote an opening letter saying she was “deeply frustrated and saddened” by the guidance.

Her letter was signed by 3,000 people, including 800 clergy. It states: “The guidance is cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects. It seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.”