I guess that shows they're worried. My immediate response is that of course they're worried about the criticism they're copping, and of course they should respond. I don't expect them to shut up when criticised. Let them defend themselves in public debate - preferably as a routine matter without a lot of fuss about that being what they're doing.
The greater concern here is not that Anglican leaders are concerned about criticisms of the church, and have a natural wish to reply. That's fair enough. But there are plenty of familiar expressions quoted from the report that suggest more worrying aspects of their thinking. Take this para, apparently from the report:
"There is still work to be done to counter the prevailing tendency of treating faith as a private matter which should not impact on what happens in the public realm."
That is misleading. Generally speaking, secularists do not say that faith is a "private" matter in the strict sense that it should not be discussed in public or that religious people should not be able to speak up in public in an effort to convert others. They have freedom of speech, and they should write all the books and make all the public speeches that they want. Let them put their best arguments. The point is that otherworldly considerations should not affect political decisions. Governments should confine themselves to protecting and promoting worldly interests. They should not purport to have knowledge of the truth about otherworldly claims. In that sense, they should be religion-blind.
For their part, religious organisations should voluntarily accept a situation where governments do not claim any otherworldly knowledge. Churches and sects should not claim any expertise in the political sphere, based on their claims to that knowledge. They should not expect governments to be motivated to take certain action because it helps the spiritual salvation of citizens, or because acting in that way is commanded in a holy book, or because it accords with some prophetic utterance, or because it enforces religious canons of conduct. In this sense, church and state should be separate.
The church has worldly interests, obviously, and it has every right to expect the government to protect them. If somebody robs a church, the police should investigate in the same way as if somebody robbed, say, an art gallery. If a cathedral catches fire, the fire brigade should arrive at the scene and try to put out the blaze, just as if a cinema caught fire. Like everyone else, churches should be able to get the ear of the government to protect their worldly interests. And like everyone else, they should pay taxes - with exemptions for charitable work only on the same criteria as apply to everyone else.
While the question of worldly interests gets more complicated (and apropos of our discussion on one of the other threads, there are some complex evaluations here; I'm not talking about some single metric that can be used), the general principle is clear enough. Governments should be looking after secular interests, including those of religious organisations. They should not be deferring to religious organisations' claims of otherwordly authority, including claims of a special moral authority. They should not be in the business of imposing religion on people who don't accept it. The various churches and sects should go along with this.
So, I'm not concerned about the Church of England answering back to criticisms from New Atheist figures like Dawkins and Hitchens. I'm much more concerned when it uses language that suggests it doesn't "get", or does not fully accept, secularism. When a report suggests that the church's views should have some "impact" in the public realm ... that looks awfully like a claim that the government should act on some non-secular basis, deferring to the authority of the church.
I don't, of course, know how far the report goes in that direction. However, I've been immersed, over the past year in particular, in the current literature on separation of church and state, secularism, and related issues. As a result I'm particularly sensitive to the fact that many religious thinkers do not accept the above. They still think that the state should be making decisions partly on the basis that religious beliefs point in a particular direction - rather than relying on whatever information is available about the likely secular harms and benefits from course of action A or course of action B.
In short, much of the language quoted is pretty familiar. It encodes the view, often held by church leaders, that religion is entitled to a special political influence and to special legal privileges. It's about time the Church of England put that view behind it and moved on.