Monday, 11 February 2008

Andrew Brown on Rowan Williams: A very Anglican resurrection

[...] In essence, he agreed with all the critics who had not read his lecture, and disagreed with almost all who had.

Islamic law, he said, must not be allowed to remove from anyone the rights to which a citizen of the UK is entitled; he knew very well that Christian minorities in Muslim countries could suffer greatly even when there appeared to be legal protections for them; the traditional attitudes to apostasy "posed a very serious question" - which is the Anglican, rather less pompous way of saying they are wholly unacceptable.

None the less, he argued, it had been right to raise these questions. "If - and please note this word 'if' - this were thought to be a useful direction in which to move ... it would create a helpful interaction between the courts and the practice of Muslim legal scholars in this country."

In general, the Church of England remains the last place in English life where it is thought unforgivably rude to assert your convictions. This is quite different from having none. It's just bad form to inflict them on others. So one learns to measure the strength of a conviction by the number of negatives in which it is wrapped, and his belief that defending Muslims is part of the job description of Archbishop of Canterbury came wrapped in a Maginot line of qualification. He really means this stuff: "I believe quite strongly that it is not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues around the perceived concerns of other religious communities" - that is Archiepiscopese for "Get outta my face, Murdoch!".

He really does believe that he stands for all religious believers in resisting the march of a secularisation which would leave no room for the religious informed conscience. "If we can attempt to speak for the liberties and consciences of others in this country as well as our own, we shall I believe be doing something we as a church are called to do in Christ's name, witnessing to his Lordship ad not compromising it."

I don't suppose the Daily Mail will get off his case; and for most of the country he will forever be the bloke who wanted people's hands chopped off in Bradford. Even within the Synod, those who hate him will hate him forever, and some of them could be seen sitting on their hands during the general rejoicing. But by the time he was allowed to sit down again this afternoon, he had won back the hearts and trust - possibly even the love - of the overwhelming majority of the chamber. Read more
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