February 09, 2008

Rowan Williams should not resign

There are calls coming in from various places for Rowan Williams to resign over yesterday's comments. I don't think he should resign at all.

Firstly what Williams has done is fly a kite about a particular issue- he has mused in public. He has got it wrong and yes he has been naive: but the speech is intelligent and thoughtful and furthermore it is part of a real debate (not a politician's debate which means a debate with only one answer). I think if more public thinkers actually made some speeches reflecting actual ideas even unpopular ones in public that would be better for everyone. I don't agree with Williams's view- but I don't think its a resignation matter and I think if it was made such it would reflect a lamentable real decline in the way that free speech is practised in the UK. The Archbishop of Canterbury's job is partly to think about religion- that means he will get it wrong sometimes- but he should be allowed to as should his bishops: if we demand they are sacked everytime they get it wrong, we won't have public discussion, merely public discussion as governed by the Daily Mail! (Incidentally I'm particularly disappointed by the reaction on the right- normally rightwingers are so fond of free speech- but in this case they seem to think that people ought to lose their jobs if they disagree with a particular line which doesn't have any relevance for their job (Williams isn't in charge of any courts).)

Secondly I actually do admire Williams as a person. I think he is an exceptionally clever and intelligent person. He was appointed because he was a semi-academic who understands theology perhaps better than any other senior cleric of our day. Furthermore he says interesting things, provocative, yes but interesting. In that sense he is a pastor to the nation because he actually talks about our concerns- and though he may not do it in the perfect way he does do it. This can't be undervalued- the other archbishop I've known was George Carey whose ponderous pomposity was a very different kind of rule from Williams's intelligent questioning.

Yes Williams was wrong, yes Williams should probably not have said what he said- but there is no case for resignation here.


Anonymous said...

All Williams has done is deploy a crude piece of post modern analysis to replay a series of old reactionary arguments against the Enlightenment, against secularism and against the notion of legal equality.

The guy is clearly nothing more than a particularly unimaginative religious civil servant, and perhaps the worse prose stylist in the English language. This so called scholar, has rejected the notion of 'creation in seven days' but still maintains a literal belief in the virgin birth, the resurrection and the ascension. Beliefs that any intelligent seven year old would find incredible.

I'm afraid his pretentious circumlocutions and whispering monologues are not a sign of intelligence or thoughfulness.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

He has got it wrong and yes he has been naive: but the speech is intelligent and thoughtful and furthermore it is part of a real debate

The speech was moronic, divisive and ill fitting a prelate of his calibre in what is, despite the humanists and Prince Charles, still a Christian country in its mores.

Enough is enough with this Deobandi madness in what, after all, is Britain.

Gracchi said...

Anonymous and James- I say this on the basis of reading other things that Williams has written. If you look below you will see that I completely disagree with his point of view on this particular issue.

As to your view Anonymous that he beleives in things a seven year old would find incredible- so do many other Christians and there are quite a few in the world, not to mention a couple of people with other religions- and there are quite a few within that group who have high IQs and think a lot.

James Britain is not a Christian country: it is a secular country in which Christians live with a Christian history. I am British and am not a Christian but am as British as any Christian. Furthermore the Archbishop was not being Deobandi- I don't understand the way that you are using the word humanist either.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

The Coronation involves a Christian ceremony rather than a Muslim or Hindu one. The law and traditions of the country are Christian. Ipso facto, the country is nominally Christian, irrespective of people's personal beliefs.

To even countenance another system in competition with it is, as Carey says, destabilizing.

But this thng was not just about that in the end - it was also about the appalling relativistic equivocal nature of the church pronouncements in recent years.

The enemy has indeed got inside.


Political Umpire said...

We still have an established Church (wrongly in my view, but presumably not that of Dr Williams ...?????) The Queen is head of the C of E. The A of C sits in the Lords. Therefore, what on earth is he doing making these statements?

He has since retreated and suggested all he meant was akin to freedom of contract: hundreds of arbitrations take place in the City every week under different legal systems eg shipping contracts under New York law, share deals under Texan law etc. The courts enforce the arbitration results. But they do so not as a recognition of the legal system under which the arbitration took place, but on the basis of freedom of contract: parties agreed that their disputes would be resolved in x fashion and the courts uphold that. It has nothing to do with 'incorporating' or 'recognising' other legal systems.

If that's all Williams was referring to, there was no need for him to say it at all. But I don't think it was, despite his attempts to weasel out of it. Why did he refer to 'the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty' or complain about the "unqualified secular legal monopoly"??

The fact is that he was acting totally inconsistently with the job for which he is paid. If he doesn't want it - if, say, he agrees with me that there should be a separation of church and state - then he should resign, not stay in his role and infuriate his flock.

Gracchi said...

James I disagree- the historic forms in which the constitutional propriety of the day are clothed are indeed Christian but de facto as opposed to de jure the UK is a secular state.

Political Umpire- that's an interesting point of view- its one I'm thinking about. As you'll know from my previous post I do think Williams was completely wrong- but I think he should be allowed within his post to make it. I understand your point and understand I haven't answered it but am thinking of putting up an answer as a discussion point with Matt Sinclair later today when my mind is a bit less cluttered.