Friday, 11 September 2009

Ian Hislop and Rowan Williams

Ruth Gledhill has the details of this event, which happened in Canterbury Cathedral last Friday. See Archbishop of Canterbury laments loss of Christian knowledge.

There is a transcript, and links to a complete audio recording on Ruth’s blog.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has blamed education and pluralism for Britain’s loss of Christian culture. He said the Church does still have its foot in the door but the foot is being ‘squashed very painfully’. Writers in the past such as PG Wodehouse could assume knowledge in the reader of the Bible and Hymns Ancient & Modern. No longer. ‘It’s all gone, gone because of shifting patterns of education not just religious education, it’s gone because of a much more anxious awareness of a plural society and not wanting to privilege one religious tradition over another. What to do about it? I’m not sure I have a quick answer. The good side of it is that if not everybody knows it the story isn’t necessarily boringly familiar.’

The Archbishop was speaking at a Christian ‘gathering’, a new form of community meeting that seems to be gaining ascendancy. There was one such last Friday at Canterbury, where the sell-out event was Private Eye editor Ian Hislop in conversation with Dr Williams…

The Church Times also has a report, Door is closing on Church’s foot, says Williams by Ed Beavan.

“THE FOOT is still in the door, even if it is being squashed very painfully,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said last weekend when he was asked about the Church’s participation in public debate. He did not think that the Church had yet “dropped off the radar”.

Dr Williams was in dialogue with Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and panellist on the BBC’s Have I Got News for You, at an event during “The Gathering”, a series of activities for all ages at Canterbury Cathedral.

Mr Hislop described the difficulty that Dr Williams faced with the media when people called for a moral lead from the Church. “When the Archbishop of Canterbury says anything, they say, ‘Shut up,’” he suggested.

Dr Williams responded that “the leadership thing is a problem.” It was “a matter of trying to remember that when you’re speaking from the Church you’re trying to give some sort of critical perspective to try and show some­thing”. The Archbishop admitted that he was “not brilliant at sound-bites”…

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At which point I'd say that Don Cupitt has it right about the direction of the Western Churches, and indeed the foot is being squashed (probably in part by the Churches themselves - they keep shooting the gun into the foot in the door).

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/09/so-profound.html

(Normally I'd cartoon the face (I will) but I just love his animation - partly age exaggerates and partly for him always was.)

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 11 September 2009 at 4:10pm BST

Rowan Williams has let lesbian and gay people down and in so doing he has failed the liberal vision and spirit, I believe he was appointed to foster.

So he has failed us all -most of us.

He gave the Michael Harding Memorial Address -still in print- and has gone back on it. Does he not think of Michael as well as the public ? Michael was a friend.

He spoke to the LAndG Clergy Consultation -The Consultation --and what he said to us (I was there) he has now gone back on.

His behaviour is a disgrace --he has never admitted what I charge him (as far as I know), he had never apologised. By God he owes us an apology.

How can the people of this land take him / Church sriously ?

George Carey before him, also has turned many from Xtiantiy. He has more excuse though....

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 11 September 2009 at 6:09pm BST

Comments such as these atrributed to the Archbishop make me so cross! If society doesn't know much about Christianity, perhaps Christians have simply been poor at communicating appropriately?

It's pointless to blame society when the Church, certainly throughout my lifetime so far, has been appallingly amateurish about how it relates to the wider society - the ongoing (everlasting?) daftness of its (and the Archbishop's official) attitudes to gay people being merely the current case in point.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 11 September 2009 at 6:10pm BST

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has blamed education and pluralism for Britain’s loss of Christian culture."

If true, what's the real worth of a "Christian culture" that COULD be lost to (for heaven's sake!) education and pluralism?

I hear the voice of Eliza Doolittle coming on: "Art and music will thrive without YOU! Somehow Keats will survive without YOU!" ;-/

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 11 September 2009 at 8:18pm BST

"When asked what constituted success for the Church, he spoke of Jesus’s death on the cross, and the persecution of the Early Church. “God left us with a very troubling model of success. I think success for the Church has to be something measured by the degree to which the compelling radiance of God comes through.”
- The ABC's interview with Ian Hislop -

And herein lies the paradox of triumphalism as the emerging paradigm for GAFCON Christianity. Where the cult of success is valued above the Churches' involvement with the suffering of Christ in the people of the world; there is always the danger of fundamentalism.

Archbishop Rowan is right to admit that the influence of the Church can never be measured by numerical or other characteristic of worldly *success*. If numbers were important as a reflection of where society if headed, then the absence of people in the congregation should warn the Church that something is not right. Where is the attractiveness of the Gospel, when people no longer see its message as helpful or hopeful?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 1:32am BST

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has blamed education and pluralism for Britain’s loss of Christian culture."

Wow, you educate them at your peril. Better to let them rot in prescientific ignorance. I find it hard to believe that an academic is hostile to education - but Rowen astonishes every time he opens his mouth. What a petty person he is.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 2:55am BST

Some of Abp Williams' comments sound like they come straight out of James Dobson's (Focus on the Family) or Jerry Falwell's or any number of American fundamentalist preachers' mouths. God forbid (apparently literally) people should be educated! God forbid (definitely literally in the case of the fundamentalists) we should respect diversity! This may seem a shock to some, but Christianity isn't the only game in town. Conservative literalist closed-minded Christianity definitely isn't the only game in Christianity, and, I believe, isn't the path Jesus of Nazarewth intended people to follow. If this is path that Anglicanism pursues, it is dead. Maybe not right away, but eventually.

Posted by: peterpi on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 7:09am BST

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has blamed education and pluralism for Britain’s loss of Christian culture."

Am I the only one who doesn't see this as showing pettiness or shallowness of Rowan?

To me, these are just statements of fact. If you move from a closed society where the priest dominates the villages and everyone goes to church on a Sunday because it's the expected social thing to do, to one where children are educated and taught critical thinking, and where many philosophies and faiths are on offer, where it's easy to find other religious communities, and where information about them is readily available, then it is natural that Christianity will loose its primary status. Those are the effects of good education.

The lamentable thing is that opinion polls show again and again that children have lost even the most rudimentary knowledge about the faith that forms the cultural and historical background to much that shaped their own country. That is down to poor education in a surrounding culture that often fails to understand the importance of teaching religious education at all.

And so you have two strands - true education and pluralism foster critical thinking and genuine choice.
While poor education leaves another sector of society unable to make any valid choices at all.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 9:32am BST

Dr Williams responded that “the leadership thing is a problem.” It was “a matter of trying to remember that when you’re speaking from the Church you’re trying to give some sort of critical perspective to try and show some­thing”. The Archbishop admitted that he was “not brilliant at sound-bites”…

Too bad about that 'leadership thing.' Howlong did it take you to figure that out? I'd say it's a VERY telling 'sound bite.'

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 2:01pm BST

What the Church and the world is suddenly discovering about leadership in the Church, is that it does not all devolve around a single person. Christ called twelve disciples, and not just Saint Peter, and that is why the Roman Catholic Church errs in its insistence that God speaks solely through the charism of the papacy.

The Church was always meant to be conciliar, and where it is seen to speak only through a single person, there are problems. One only has to take account of statements made by individual Church leaders during the past five decades to realise that a single spokesperson cannot be credited with all the wisdom there is to be gained from the Christ of the Gospels. This is why Jesus chose twelve disciples and not just one.

Archbishop Rowan, like the Pope, is just one voice from the accummulated wisdom of the Church, and while we can look for a modicum of wisdom from a single voice, we can never expect to hear the fullness of truth from any individual source.

This is why the Roman Catholic Church has its consistory. This is why the Church of England and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion have their separate Covocations and Conventions. For the Church to be heard as an apostolic medium, it needs to be heard as a collective, and not merely a singular, voice. This is why, when any single voice is heard on any issue that is contentious it must surely carry the conviction and personal emphasis of that person's theology.

This is what makes the task of any Pope or Primate difficult - that he (or she) is expected to enunciate the accummulated wisdom of the Church, while in fact not always being privy to its multiple agenda. This is why the Anglican Church is so subtly different from that of Rome. The Roman Pontiff has supreme headship over his own Roman Catholic Church; whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury is acknowledged to be Primus inter pares, that is; first among equals of the Primates of his Communion. As such, the ABC can never exercise an absolute magisterium, presuming to exercise fiefdom over every Province. While Abp. Rowan can be commended when his statements accord with the concensus of his fellow primates, he can also be criticised when he speaks from his own personal convictions. the ABC is vulnerable to his own constituency. The Pope is not.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 September 2009 at 1:37am BST

It seems that Abp. Williams keeps confusing "Christian Culture" with "The Good Old Days of England's Glory" or, perhaps, the good old days when bishops had temporal, as well as ecclesial, authority.

There's no hope left for this alleged archbishop!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Monday, 14 September 2009 at 6:42am BST

It seems that Abp. Williams keeps confusing "Christian Culture" with "The Good Old Days of England's Glory" or, perhaps, the good old days when bishops had temporal, as well as ecclesial, authority.

There's no hope left for this alleged archbishop!
Posted by: MarkBrunson on Monday, 14 September 2009

And not very good coming from a Welshman ! -- or has he given up on that too, along with his pro-gay commitments ?

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 at 6:18pm BST

I have a feeling, Rev. Roberts, that it's very hard to be a witness to power and a Welsh patriot, when you become "Lord Bishop" with a place in the House of Lords.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 at 10:45am BST
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