Friday, 22 May 2009

Archbishop speaks about parliament

Updated again Monday morning

Ruth Gledhill reports in The Times about an article to be published on Saturday by Rowan Williams.

Her blog entry: Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘Stop humiliating our MPs.’

Her preview article, with video: Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams: humiliation of MPs must stop

Here is the article itself: Enough humiliation. We must move on by Rowan Williams.

Updates Saturday
The Independent has a leader agreeing with the archbishop, The pursuit of MPs is becoming a witch-hunt.

The Telegraph has an article headlined MPs’ expenses: politicians and church leaders defend Telegraph’s investigation which reports the opinions others, including Lord Carey and the Bishop of Rochester, and opening with:

There was strong opposition to a call from Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for an end to the “systematic humiliation” of MPs, which he claimed was undermining democracy…

Ekklesia has published Poll challenges Archbishop’s idea that expenses scandal is bad for democracy and You’re missing the point, archbishop told over scandal-hit MPs. And also Public backs independent candidates to challenge failing system.

Update Monday morning

George Pitcher has some interesting comments about all this, in the Telegraph. See MPs’ expenses: Things the Archbishops never told us.

…unbeknown to either of us, as we were talking a column by his successor to the See of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was being put to bed by The Times, along with the headline: “Archbishop appeals for end to MPs’ humiliation”.

When I relayed the headline to Lord Carey later, he said he was “surprised that Rowan is taking this approach”. So, presumably, was Dr Williams. Because actually he had said nothing of the sort.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 May 2009 at 10:32pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Would that Rowan would apply the same principles to church leaders who think it is okay to insult the occupants of this planet and its mother (Eve).

"The question “What can I get away with without technically breaching the regulations?” is not a good basis for any professional behaviour that has real integrity."

One of the problems with the convenant with Jesus is that a whole lot of nasty Christians have determined they can get away with insults, genocide, tyranny, lies, deceit and abuse because they technically have not breached the regulations. They consider that songs of praise to Jesus are the proof of their integrity, or at least their pass to heaven where there is no consequence for their conduct.

Jesus might be happy to spend eternity with pedophiles, misogynists, thieves, liars, prostitutes, tyrants, opportunists, vandals and the selfishly complacent. God might have granted Jesus his heaven and choice of companions.

However, God does not and has never liked or approved of such behaviour.

Rowan should contemplate what he doesn't like being done to MPs and contemplate that non-Christians and women and the abused do not like what his "leaders" have done to them. If he wants people to be nice to MPs, maybe his church leaders should try being nice to others too.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 12:46am BST

I thought RW's combination of (1) scepticism about the bloodthirstiness of the public's attack on the politicians with (2) exposing the problem of going by regulations rather than integrity or virtue - was exactly right.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 9:09am BST

As always, Cheryl, you speak the most sense on this blog.

Perhaps I have not reviewed the whole gamut of reporting on the Westminster debacle but I am not sure this is humiliation, or if it is, then Jesus was merely humiliating all those he denounced as hypocrites.

This state has increasingly criminalised breaches of its regulations and rules, anything from TV licences to car tax. The state is swift and uncaring in its application of the strictures it has laid down in relation to fraud, especially benefit fraud. It has failed in its own covenant with the people; it has squandered vast amounts of the people's money by not managing strict oversight of the deployment of tax dollars, everything from MOD contracts to the building of the Scottish parliament, to the upgrading of the rail infrastructure, and the running of the 2012 Olympic games.

Meanwhile the state has also seemingly capitulated to a financial system that is clearly no longer adequate, if it ever was, in the way it measures concrete worth, metaphysical value, and underpins transactional necessities in the creation and movement of goods which people need on this planet.

MPs are public servants. How would people feel if He Who proclaimed to have come to serve was discovered to be fundamentally a proponent of the very characters he had denounced?

Funnily enough, am currently reading Plexus by Henry Miller. In it Miller reveals how astounding to him is the Biblical phrase, "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes". The interpretation is usually that wickedness followed because there were no kings and there was no priesthood to guide the people.

Well, unfortunately, Rowan Williams has sided with the kings who will not or cannot lead as they are supposed, so what use kings and priests now? The ordinary people are not eager to commit sin, they are merely waking up to the fact that those who lead them, who have moats and country houses, while the people face poverty and unemployment, those who talk about social justice for the people while enjoying nice little earners on the side at the people's expense, are indeed hypocrites, and no better for all their pomp and circumstance than are they, the poor, the meek, and perhaps are worse (despite the BBC having this week tried to explain scientificaly all this away by getting psychologists to report that venality is somehow humanly congenital).

Rowan Williams should have said more bravely that MPs should show proper contrition rather than, in many cases, arrogant self-justication and smugness that they have apparently broken no rules. Perhaps no rules have been "broken" but I think this state has itself cracked and splintered the rod of the covenant it has wielded over the nation.

Posted by: orfanum on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 9:35am BST

It's hard to imagine how an Archbishop of Canterbury at the beginning of the 21st century could be worse than Rowan williams. He sides with oppressors at every opportunity, within the Church and outside it. He gives help and succour to homophobes and those who oppress women within the Anglican Communion, and now he sides with crooks and frauds. Please can he stand down?

Posted by: poppy tupper on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 11:41am BST

The Archbishop says stop, it endangers democracy, but goes on about a culture of rules. Rather, the danger to democracy is if this is not fully exposed, because what is needed is full scale root and branch reform. MPs are part of a cynicism of rules based activity and need their own professionalism and decision making to return.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/05/rot-of-culture-of-rules.html

Posted by: Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 2:37pm BST

I think that Rowan Williams is voicing concerns that many have about the media circus surrounding the issues raised, quite genuinely regarding the misuse of public funds by some individuals in a position of trust.

The hysteria and anger that it has provoked, reminds me very much of the treatment of Diana Princess of Wales following her seperation and divorce from Prince Charles. The media circus would not let her alone, and whatever they might say, were part of the cause of her unfortunate demise.

whatever Rowan Williams does is open to criticism as is the actions of all prominent churchmen. He is walking a fragile path, attempting to make or maintain peace between different 'factions' within the Church and Anglican communion, who all have their own agenda's and self interests or positions to preserve.

He was being criticised for saying little about the expenses scandal, and when he does, he is criticised for getting it wrong, in the opinion of the authors, particularly the media, who have a vested interest in maintaining their sway over public opinion.

Oh for a Neutral Media, with some values and standards worthy of the country and people they supposedly serve.

Posted by: Ernest on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 7:26pm BST

One finds virtue in the most unexpected places. The 'Telegraph' has performed signal service over the last two weeks. Had they not done what they did, little of this would have surfaced. As for RW's comments, (a) the responsibility is those corrupt politicians';(b) the exposure is necessary and therapeutic. Even David Cameron understands this (virtue etc.). This latest instance is yet another illustration of the dangers of Church leaders pontificating outside their area.

Posted by: john on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 7:51pm BST

What about the perks and expenses in the House of Bishops and the rest of the Church of England... reduced Public school fees, Clergy Hospital and no rates on the Vicararge. Parishes in some cases paying utility bills etc.

Remember this is the same Church that forced a Warwickshire couple to maintain their parish church.

I think Private Eye summed up the Parliament scandal well with its cover... The house of Commons... with a caption saying we are ashamed (we got found out)....

But there again Rowan like the Church of England is the result of Parliament , who remains its final Master.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 8:57pm BST

Can I implore everyone to take a deep breath and read Cantuar's article again? We desperately need a mature debate on the matter of public morality, and +Rowan's article seems to me to be a good place to begin. It helps, of course, that +Carey and +Nazir-Ali have set themselves against him; that, in my book, means he must be right. (That's my conditioned reflex out of the way.)

Much more importantly, the article itself clearly and helpfully distinguishes between the pillorying of MPs for their disgraceful venality and the need to base the conduct of public life on something more profound than simply keeping within the letter of the law. (Now, where have I heard that before?)

He is absolutely right to call time on the former: the prospect of the denizens of Grub Street, of all people, tearing into MPs over expenses abuse, grows daily less appetising. Spluttering indignation is a condition we all rather enjoy, but it's no way to spend your life. There are deep issues here, about why we are such an angry nation and why the concept of proportionate response seems to be vanishing, on which we need our spiritual leaders need to speak up - but you can't say everything in one short article.

+Rowan's exposition on the latter point gives a brilliantly lucid insight into the need for a moral grounding in decision-making. (How I wish he would write and speak like this more often!) So many of our recent horrors - from Abu Ghraib to the banking crisis to That Covenant - are based on a grotesque pharisaical caricature that all righteousness can be fulfilled by keeping (just) within rules. We have to do better, and his assertion that "religion-based morality's....primary concern is with how to encourage us to act in such a way that we can be glad of what we have done" is a ready-made litmus test for decision making.

What his argument lacks or assumes - perhaps understandably for a largely-secular readership - is direct connection to Jesus' teaching on the law and the Pauline interpretation of it. Never mind. That allows me to pinch the meat of the argument to work into a sermon for Pentecost without feeling too guilty about plagiarism. A text? How about "the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life"?

Posted by: David Bayne on Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 10:38pm BST

"Would that Rowan would apply the same principles to church leaders who think it is okay to insult the occupants of this planet and its mother (Eve)." - Cheryl, on Saturday -

Cheryl, I don't know whether you read Abp. Rowan Williams' final speech to AC14 in Jamaica, where he outlined the wounds caused by the Churches' attitude towards the LGBT community, but if you had you would not have been able to say what you have said here.

Abp. Ropwan is too often criticised by the very community he knows to be vulnerable - simply because as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he must also seek to keep the membership of the community in dialogue while still in one piece. It is the re-Asserrters in the Communion, unfortunately, whose hasty rejection of the LGBT community has allowed them to divide the Communion on other issues, which are seen to be just as important - one of them being their lack of an up-to-date hermeneutical method of understanding the basic message of the New Testament Scriptures.

Until the Communion can get down to the business of unravelling the misunderstandings of centuries of faulty interpretation of the scriptures, the entire faith community will be unable to reconcile what the Scriptures actually reveal about such issues as gender and sexuality with what we now know about such things in the light of modern understanding.

Old habits die hard, and Church Leaders have to work through the issues patiently and with a great deal of diplomacy and courage. Pope John XXIII tried to overturn a few shibboleths, and look what has happened to his reforming zeal. May Anglicans learn the lesson and work with diligence and patience.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 24 May 2009 at 11:37am BST

The Archbishop seems to me quite right about the importance of trust and how, at a fundamental level, you can't regulate it into existence. But I couldn't help thinking how fundamentally the Church of England is failing on this very issue in the in the debate over women bishops and the demands for strict regulations to 'protect' opponents? Are we criticizing society in general for a lack of a standard of trust that the Church of England cannot muster among our own members?

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Sunday, 24 May 2009 at 2:25pm BST

When I wrote my blog entry at around 4 am Saturday (i.e. late Friday) I wrote:

Saturday, 23 May 2009
The Rot of a Culture of Rules

The Archbishop of Canterbury's commentary on British political culture in The Times is entitled Enough humiliation. We must move on, but this particular point is not pursued.

In other words, the title was there, he said something, but pursued a different tack. I stopped trusting newspaper splashes by headlines and journalistic spin a long time ago.

He does say:

the continuing systematic humiliation of politicians itself threatens to carry a heavy price in terms of our ability to salvage some confidence in our democracy.

And my point against this specifically is that we need to know it all, to clear the wrongdoers out, and have root and branch reforms to the democratic institutions, and also (regards the BNP) that the institution of the C of E is kept at arms length and it telling individuals how to vote could well backfire. For Anglican/ C of E insiders there are parallels between Rowan Williams own apparent wheeler dealing (at the ACC) and speaker Michael Martin's use of procedure and failure within his institution.

Posted by: Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) on Monday, 25 May 2009 at 2:41pm BST

"clear the wrongdoers out"

A near impossible task. The only honest politician is one who hasn't been caught. Increased clarity in these things is desirable, the strings on the public purse should be as tight as possible. But the outrage about this is kind of funny, just like it was here a couple of years ago when our politicians were caught doing the same thing. I really thought people here knew better. It's not like our politicians have shown themselves bastions of honour and honesty in the past few centuries.

Sure, get rid of 'em, punish 'em, make 'em pay the money back, vote 'em out. But don't think for a minute that the ones you put in their place are any better. Give 'em a few years of power and they'll have figured out whole new ways of doing the same kind of thing.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 25 May 2009 at 9:04pm BST
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