Dr David Hope, the second-most senior figure in the Church of England, used his All Saints Day sermon at All Saints church in London to launch a strong attack on the bland, uninspiring approach many associate with its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Hope said heated rows over female priests and gay rights have alienated grassroots church-goers and diverted attention from the "core tasks" of marrying, baptising and teaching the scriptures.
He contrasted the "awesome mystery" of worship at All Saints, a church built as part of the 19th-century Anglo-Catholic revival, with the "dull, pedestrian, committee-bound, utilitarian view of the church which all too frequently I experience". He said the church today was "hardly likely ever to inspire or convert anyone".
The sermon was calculated to resurrect debate on the future of the church which has seen Sunday attendances drop to one million. But spokesmen for both Dr Hope and Dr Carey yesterday played down suggestions of any personal attack.
Dr Hope's representative said: "Traditionally the Archbishops of York and Canterbury are complementary, in the theological sense, and that is the case at the moment, with Dr Hope being an Anglo-Catholic and Dr Carey from the Evangelical tradition. Tension between them is a positive thing."
A spokesman for Lambeth Palace said there was always a danger of losing touch with the grassroots and everyone in the church was aware of that.
But it is known that the concerns raised by Dr Hope are shared by some churchgoers who believe the Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to provide visionary leadership.Reuse content