The Dean of Southwark Cathedral has publicly challenged comments by a former Archbishop of Canterbury about migration as 'extraordinary' and lacking a connection between "political thinking and scriptural integrity".
Last week, George Carey backed an attempt by anti-immigration campaigners to turn migration into a confrontational election issue, saying that migrants who accepted 'Christian values' should take priority.
The group of largely Conservative politicians, backed by Lord Carey, Baroness Boothroyd and Labour's Frank Field MP, issued a call on 6 January 2010 for manifesto commitments from the main parties to reduce net immigration to the UK to 1990s levels and to accept a population cap of 70 million.
The move was widely challenged by Christian campaigners and those working with migrants, as well as the Bishop of Lincoln who in a letter to The Times suggested that George Carey should be more careful.
George Carey subsequently defended his comments in his own letter to the Times.
Now, in another letter to the newspaper, the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, Colin Slee, has challenged the former Archbishop of Canterbury as failing in theological literacy.
"I cannot be the only Christian, indeed not the only Anglican, in this country who is astonished by Lord Carey of Clifton’s remarks last week" he wrote "and perhaps even more regretful of the unfortunate tone of his letter in The Times".
Quoting a paragraph from a sermon preached in Southwark cathedral last Sunday he writes: “It is extraordinary that this week, on the very day Christians remembered Joseph taking Mary and Jesus to safety in a foreign land which did not even share their faith, the former Archbishop, George Carey, should say immigration should be limited and preference should be given to people of this country’s majority faith; utterly extraordinary.
“Joseph and his family wouldn’t score immigration points to ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ by those criteria.”
"Not one of several hundred people present took issue with the sentiment of the sermon", he continued.
"I am perplexed to understand what seems to be very little connection between the political thinking and scriptural integrity; their articulation on the feast of the Epiphany was either naive or profoundly misguided, it was definitely insensitive."
The Office of National Statistics released in November 2009 concluded that net migration – the number of people who come to live in Britain minus the number who move abroad – actually fell by more than a third to 163,000 in 2008, its lowest level since Poland joined the European Union.