The National Secular Society must speak for its own members, estimated at 7,000–10,000. They don’t disclose figures themselves, but this number would fill two or three of our 42 cathedrals.
Their claim to speak for members of the Church of England when they say that Prince Charles adopting the title “defender of faith” on his coronation would antagonise many of our supporters is a mite presumptuous (Charles’s coronation could ‘open debate on church-state relationship’, 11 December). Prince Charles has held this view for nearly two decades and expressed it both in his words and actions. I would suggest that many Anglicans are familiar with the church’s neighbourliness to people of other faiths and in some places it is already embedded in their DNA.
In my own diocese of St Albans, as in many others, parishes enjoy warm contact and a shared commitment to acting for the common good.
Perhaps the National Secular Society, rather than speaking for the Church of England, would like to share some of our concerns at this time of year for bringing care and cheer to the lonely, the poor and homeless, the hungry, the forgotten and all those including many of the foregoing who wish to celebrate the message of peace on Earth and goodwill to all, still so clearly needed in many places and hearts.
Rt Rev Richard Atkinson
Bishop of Bedford
• There is a simple solution for the coronation oath for Charles: he should use Latin, which had no definite or indefinite article, so that fidei defensor has the constructive ambiguity to mean either defender of the faith or simply defender of faith.
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