address to a multi faith gathering at Lambeth Palace yesterday and already groups such as Anglican Mainstream have offered a slightly skewed version of what she said. The Queen did not acutally say that the Church was unappreciated - she said that the concept of an established Church is often misunderstood and under-appreciated. She explained that people fail to appreciate that, as the established church, the Church of England, has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country." Her Majesty was also keen to promote the idea that the Church of England should foster a society for "those of other faiths and indeed people of no faith to live freely" -which is not quite, as some reports have claimed, an attack on secularism.
The whole tenor of the Queen's address reminded me of the statement Prince Charles once made, that he did not want to be the defender of the faith but rather the defender of faith. I think the Queen has offered a good defence of faith (whether Christian or not), describing how it can "act as a spur for social action" and reminding us that,
"religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves."
Perhaps the Queen has been reading Matthew 25: 35 , or maybe she has been informed by her awareness of the role of service. Either way her words are much needed. It is time that society woke up to the gift of faith, the valuable things that those of us who are people of faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, have to offer. The Queen's words offer a vision not of battlelines drawn but of bridges built, not of taking offence but of offering service, not of one privileged religious elite but of a society where all can learn from a diversity of faiths and beliefs and where all have a place, believers and atheists.
Amen to that!