The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned against division within the Church of England, as he described “expressions of hatred” in correspondence sent to his London home.

Mr Welby said such expressions were “normally coming from within the church”, and gave another example of someone who had been working on a project for the church and had feared opening their emails “because of the bitterness and abuse” they faced.

In his presidential address to the General Synod as it opened on Friday, he said the fear and suffering which arise from division can make people see each other as enemies, something he said must be resisted.

He said: “Causes of fear, which leads to a sense of enmity, are well-disguised as uncertainty, unpredictability and uncontrollability of life and, like barnacles on the hull of a ship, they attach themselves to make us see other people as our enemies, and that is the devil’s work.

“Enemies make us afraid. Fear makes us suffer.

“Someone the Archbishop of York and I met recently from outside the church said that while they were working on a project for the church, they grew to fear opening their emails, because of the bitterness and abuse they were subject to.

“At Lambeth (Palace), the brilliant member of staff who deals with the endless correspondence that comes in, is worn down by the expressions of hatred, normally coming from within the church.”

Lambeth Palace is the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, his family and two religious communities, and is also described as the centre of his ministry, worship and hospitality.

The church has been divided on issues such as blessings for same-sex couples, which were approved at Synod, the church’s parliament, last year, but are still strongly opposed by many church members.

More recently it has faced scrutiny from politicians over the conversions of asylum seekers to Christianity.

The case of Clapham alkali attack suspect Abdul Ezedi, believed to have been supported in his UK asylum claim by someone from a Baptist church rather than the Church of England, prompted debate on the overall issue of the involvement of faith leaders in conversions and asylum applications.

The Church of England has repeatedly said it is the “duty of the Home Office, not the churches, to make decisions on asylum applications”, but has said it is considering an update on its 2017 guidance document for clergy on supporting asylum seekers.

Elsewhere in his speech Mr Welby spoke of the suffering raging across the world, with the war in Ukraine “frozen”, and the “havoc and horror” being experienced in the Middle East, as well as devastation in places including Myanmar, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and poverty in the UK.

He said: “As Lord Cameron said recently, when he looks around at the world today as foreign secretary, all the lights are flashing red.

“We live in a world of suffering and, unlike in the past, it is a world where we are aware of the suffering.”