THE Queen said on Wednesday that the Church of England was “commonly under-appreciated”, and she assured non-Christian faiths of “the protection of our Established Church”.
Speaking at a reception of religious leaders from a number of faiths, in the Guard Room of Lambeth Palace, during one of the first public engagements to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee year, the Queen said that she wanted “to pay tribute to the particular mission of Christianity and the general value of faith in this country”. She wished to remind people “of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life”.
The Queen continued: “The concept of our Established Church is occasionally misunderstood, and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”
The Queen concluded by saying that she and the Duke of Edinburgh wished to send good wishes to each of the faith groups represented by the guests, “in the hope that — with the assurance of the protection of our Established Church — you will continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society”.
In his speech to the reception, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Queen had “always been explicit in her public declarations — more than ever in recent years — that her personal commitment to her office as a call from God is at the heart of her understanding of her role, and she has not hesitated to be explicit about the Christian grounds of that commitment”.
Dr Williams said that the Queen had demonstrated, both in her “own person and as the Supreme Governor” of the Church, a “generous” spirit, which sought “to exercise responsibility for the good of an entire national community”.
The Queen had shown “that being religious is not eccentric or abnormal”, Dr Williams said. “As Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, has often reminded us, we need to work hard at sustaining a true sense of ‘covenant’ in our society; and our celebration of this Jubilee year is a way of acknowledging gratefully the part played in this by the faith and dedication of our Queen.”
Before the main reception, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by Dr and Mrs Williams, met a select number of representatives from the main faiths in the UK. Each was gathered around a sacred object that they had chosen as being of significance to their tradition. Among others, the Buddhists displayed a silver Stupa; the Muslims, a holy piece of Kiswah; and the Christians, the coronation anointing spoon.
The speeches by the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury can be read here