A pestilential priest

Archbishop of Canterbury pays tribute to Queen's selfless service but hijacks ceremony to preach sermon on financial services greed, the environment and immigration.

Salvation? What's that? Is he even a Christian?

His congregation were not enthused

The Archbishop of Canterbury used the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving service today to bring up concerns about environmental recklessness, executive pay and immigration.

While Dr Rowan Williams, who is due to step down shortly, heaped praise on our monarch he used part of his sermon to air the liberal views he has become well known for during his ten years in the role.

The service at St Paul's was about celebrating the Monarch's 60 years on the throne and head of the Church of England.

However, Dr Williams brought up financial greed in the City, environmental concerns and launched a thinly veiled attack on a huge section of the population who are worried about the unprecedented levels of immigration in the country.

The Archbishop at first paid tribute to the Queen’s ‘ lifelong dedication’, saying it ‘is to take a huge risk, to embark on a costly venture. But it is also to respond to the promise of a vision that brings joy.’

He then used that as a springboard to enter more controversial territory, saying the challenge the Jubilee sets the nation is, as St Paul taught us, to be ‘overwhelmed by the promise of a shared joy far greater than narrow individual fulfilment, that we find the strength to take the risks and make the sacrifices - even if this seems to reduce our individual hopes of secure enjoyment.’

In full swing, he went on: 'Moralists, including Archbishops, can thunder away as much as they like; but they'll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together - being glad of each other's happiness and safety.

'This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal - and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.'

The phrase 'fear of strangers' was interpreted by many as a warning to the majority of people in the country who are concerned about the huge rise in immigration into Britain over the last decade and the pressures it has put on British society.

The head of the Anglican Church, who is due to stand down from his role, is well known for his liberal views. He turned on the City of London by calling for a Robin Hood tax on bankers last year.

The coalition Government was represented by Cabinet members, and opposition leader Ed Miliband was also present.

Other groups invited included the Diplomatic Corps, Lord Lieutenants, the Duchy of Cornwall, the Duchy of Lancaster, the Royal Household and leaders from other faiths.

When everyone had taken their seats, the Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul's, told the congregation: 'We come to this Cathedral Church today to give thanks to almighty God for the prosperous reign of the Queen and to rejoice together in this year of Her Majesty's Jubilee as we celebrate 60 years of her sovereignty and service.

'As we come together as loyal subjects from all parts of the Realms and Commonwealth of Nations, we give thanks for the blessings bestowed by God on our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, and we celebrate the identity and variety which our nations under her have enjoyed.'

Despite his liberal views, the Archbishop did praise the Queen's lifelong dedication to country and Commonwealth. He also had words of support for the Duke of Edinburgh.

Dr Williams told those gathered: 'I don't think it's at all fanciful to say that, in all her public engagements, our Queen has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others; she has responded with just the generosity St Paul speaks of in showing honour to countless local communities and individuals of every background and class and race.

'She has made her 'public' happy and all the signs are that she is herself happy, fulfilled and at home in these encounters.

'The same, of course, can manifestly be said of Prince Philip; and our prayers and thoughts are very much with him this morning.

'To declare a lifelong dedication is to take a huge risk, to embark on a costly venture. But it is also to respond to the promise of a vision that brings joy.'

Dr Williams highlighted how the Queen's commitment to others had brought her happiness: 'But we are marking today the anniversary of one historic and very public act of dedication - a dedication that has endured faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult lives of most of us here.

'We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found.'

After the service, the Queen left the cathedral to a huge cheer from the waiting crowd as the bells rang out loudly. She stopped midway down the steps to wave to the public.

It's not the first time Dr Williams has been controversial.

Last year he spoke out about how society is paying for the 'errors and irresponsibility of bankers' - yet in the City it remains 'business as usual' with 'still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices'.

And in the most brazen political intervention by a head of the Church of England for more than two decades, Dr Williams questioned the democratic legitimacy of the Coalition in an article for the left-wing New Statesman magazine.

Dr Williams, who was selected as Archbishop of Canterbury in the Queen's Golden Jubilee year in 2002, has a reputation for being liberal and controversial.

Many voiced doubt before he took the role as he backed the separation of church and state in England. He has been critical of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq in political statements he has made over the years.

He was also in the reformer’s camp on both the issue of women bishops and openly gay clergy, but in the face of huge opposition from the conservative element of the church he has been forced to sit on the fence, pleasing no-one.

In 2009 he was forced to defend his controversial comments about the introduction of Islamic law to Britain.


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