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Archbishop attacks self-indulgence

The Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked "self indulgence" within the Church of England as he spoke of how his visit to the eastern Congo left him "wanting to be a Christian".

Dr Rowan Williams said hearing about the "transforming" work of the Anglican Church in the central African country had helped put into perspective "fashionable sneers" faced by the Church of England in this country.

He added that the dedication of Anglican workers in the eastern Congo has put into a "harsh light" the "self indulgence of so much of our church life" which gives people the excuse not to take God seriously.

Dr Williams said church members had risked their lives to rescue young men and women trapped in militias in the forests of eastern Congo.

The experience had highlighted how the church "mattered so intensely", he said, and how if it wasn't for the Church no-one would have cared for these young people.

"It left me wanting to be a Christian," he said, adding jokingly: "Never too late."

"It left me thinking that there is nothing on earth so transforming as a Church in love," he said.

The Archbishop was speaking after returning last month from a nine-day trip to Kenya and the Congo where he visited church projects helping traumatised people rebuild their lives after years of conflict.

In Kenya, he visited Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums, and home to 700,000 people.

* The Archbishop told General Synod members that the Church of England was facing a "startlingly far-reaching" prospect of restructuring as part of the Government's education policies.

He said the Church of England did not support a system of "confessional" schools designed to secure its own membership but a "critical partnership" with the state that seeks to keep open for as many children as possible the "fullest range imaginable" of educational enrichment.