The Church of England must show it can manage disagreement "gracefully" over issues such as women bishops and gay marriage, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Church faced a "challenge" of showing the rest of society that its members can hold different views but still remain "gracefully and deeply committed to each other" before it could be a "sign to the world" of peace and reconciliation.

"We need to understand reconciliation within the Church as the transformation of destructive conflict, not unanimity," he said.

"It doesn't mean we all agree, it is that we find ways of disagreeing, perhaps very passionately but loving each other deeply at the same time, gracefully and deeply committed to each other.

"That is the challenge for the Church and that is the challenge if the Church is actually going to speak to our society which is increasingly divided in many different ways, here and overseas, over huge issues."

  • Justin Welby makes his Thought for the Day debut

Welby's remarks were part of a wide-ranging interview for an Easter Sunday broadcast of the Travellers' Tales slot on Premier Christian Radio.

The 57-year-old former oil industry executive, who was enthroned earlier this month at Canterbury Cathedral, told the programme of how he first become a Christian and how he met his wife Caroline.

Speaking of how they had coped after their first born child, Johanna, died in a road accident in France in 1983, he said:

"God is aware of our suffering, of the suffering of this very broken world and our suffering was as nothing compared to many people and he is at work even in the darkest places.

"I think the cross is the great point at which the suffering and sorrow, torture, trial and sin and yuck of the world ends up on God's shoulders out of love for us."

Welby said he "opened my life to Jesus" as a 19-year-old student at Cambridge University after a friend "explained the cross" to him following a church service.

He said he remembered attending chapel at Eton as a schoolboy, but the only interesting events there had been when the headmaster fell out of the pulpit and when the late Archbishop Trevor Huddleston gave a "mesmeric" sermon.

The father-of-five, who left the oil industry in 1989 to be ordained, said working in the oil industry was "not even a quarter" as pressured as being a parish priest.

He said his former colleagues had been "very supportive" and very friendly when he left to train as a Anglican clergyman.

"There was a good deal of humour and a certain amount of teasing which was all quite witty," he said.

"One of my colleagues said at my farewell party 'this is the only known occasion in which a rat has joined a sinking ship'."

Welby said he only found out that he was being offered the post of Dean of Liverpool in 2007 through the post and at first had mistaken the letter in a brown envelope from Downing Street as a tax demand. "We were so happy at Liverpool, it was wonderful," he said.

He said he was told to apply for the post of Bishop of Durham, and was astonished when he was appointed.

"It was a very tough decision, because the children weren't at a point where moving again was a viable possibility," he said.

"So what we did was Caroline stayed in Liverpool and I moved to Bishop Auckland.

"We commuted at weekends. It is not a whole load of fun. Lots of people have do it, but it is not a whole load of fun."

The Archbishop, who has more than 25,000 followers on Twitter, said it was important to use the social networks but denied that he was good at tweeting: "I try to tweet regularly, it is a strange old thing, because a lot of twitter stuff is 'well I am just having my second piece of toast for breakfast' that sort of stuff. I am not very good at it," he said.