Comments: Wilberforce lecture

The usual utter irrelevance and unreality of Williams.

We live in a postmodern society - relativism and diversity is here to stay - and his views are just one of many on offer. The sooner he realises that, the better - otherwise he just displays his utter other-worldliness.

They should have no more place than any other - personally, I think we would be better off without unelected bishops in parliament. Particularly if this sort of stuff is the best they can come up with. Rather than bemoan his loss of influence, he should be asking why it has happened.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 8:31pm BST

After glancing at the article by Christopher Morgan, it seems entirely incredulous, after the Equality Act legislation the ++ABC can lecture the MP's about a "reluctance to take up big moral causes" (quoted from C. Morgan).

He's waiting on the platform at Waterloo, and the train's halfway to freaking Salisbury.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 9:16pm BST

ABC and other clerics were bruised in the recent spat over SORs. They lost the argument and MPs who won the debate claim a moral victory.

He idealises Wilberforce. But this is hardly a case for keeping the Lords Spiritual, who attempted to block abolition.

Perhaps he should look a little more closely at the AC, to those who are advocating human rights, and those who are not.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 10:29pm BST

It is unfortunate that, for an intellectual, Rowan Williams talks such a load of rubbish whenever he opens his mouth – his Wilberforce lecture being the latest example if his own press release is anything to go by. Apparently, he will urge politicians to rediscover the moral energy and vision which inspired Wilberforce; defends the right of the citizen to call the State to account for its actions; and asks whether we still believe in the notion of "a moral State".

It sounds as though it is going to be a cheap knock at Government and politicians, a headline grabbing foray into politics only a week before the elections.

The problem for Williams is not that politicians and the general public are less moral (Britain is probably a more moral society now than it has ever been) but that our morals do not accord with the CofE’s traditional stance on ethical issues. I was reminded recently that at the beginning of the 19th century, the Church opposed the passing of the Reform Bill, which extended enfranchisement to a larger sector of the population. At about the same time, the bishops in the House of Lords voted in favour of the Poor Law Amendment Bill, a very cruel, unchristian and inhuman law that drove the poor into workhouses, where families were forcibly split up and inmates were often reduced to starvation. And at the same time, Wilberforce, whom Williams has rather belatedly discovered as the Church’s very own hero, was actively campaigning against extending civil freedoms to the working class.

In our day, Parliament has displayed moral vision by consistently refusing to reintroduce capital punishment despite clamour from the wider populace. Serious moral vigour is shown about embryo research and other related issues. Members of Parliament even forced through the abolition of fox-hunting because they felt that committing gratuitous violence against animals for fun was immoral and unworthy of a civilised society. And, of course, there has been the small matter of the Human Rights legislation that has been enacted over the past few years – not least the granting of legal protection to homosexuals, despite opposition from many in the CofE.

Posted by Terence Dear at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 10:33pm BST

Without reading the whole lecture, points to Williams for realising that the issue of one church's input to the government (CofE) is being questioned. Also for realising that if CofE is dissestablished, where remains the mechanisms for offering channels of independent moral comment?

Williams raises the question of how to do this? This important question has global implications for how other States are run.

What have we seen that we don't like? States that listen to only one church, and then that church runs off on its own group think agenda with no input or advocacy for those who are not "in" with their clique?

Well funded, well organised think tanks and lobbyist groups, who may or may not work openly? Who again have no accountability for what is on their agenda and prioritised in their lobbying. There was a fantastic interview on the 24 April BBC Hardtalk with Roberta Combs, who is the President of the US Christian Coalition The interview is worth watching to see how or what agendas they pursue and how or when they choose what requires consultation versus what is taken for granted.

Then there are discussions of who has a legitimate moral voice. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Humanists and/or others? Conservatives, Orthodox, Puritans and/or Reformists?

What is moral? Is aggressive theology moral? If not, how can wars be "just"? Is pacifism too wishy-washy and some kind of justice needs to be applied? Do we need to care about the "least" of our citizens? Do we have "citizens" with rights and aliens/outcastes with none?

Personally, I think it needs to be an open debate that will not always be clear cut. There will be people who advocate for the "least of these" while others demand that good conduct be rewarded. There is a tension between rewarding good conduct versus ensuring the poor and undesired have a minimum standard of dignity. As technology and resources vary, so these tensions will vary. No solution that tries to deny the existence and gloss over the needs of any element of society can be said to be "moral".

How to do this will not be easy. But it is a discussion that needs to be had, with all the risks and pitfalls identified and addressed.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 10:39pm BST

No, history is not exactly on his side is it? It would not be so bad either if recent campaigns had not been regressive regarding human rights and pursuing a narrow agenda even for within the churches.

An ethical agenda has been pursued in parliament, just not by Rowan Williams' seemingly approved representatives, and indeed it is good that voices other than those whom he seems to support have been making the ethical legislation.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:40am BST

Rowan needs to work a little harder to make the church a voice for morals before he makes lectures like this.

He could start by taking a firm stance in favor of the equality legislation that he fought, and then he could prove that he has the courage to speak out against church leaders who support violence in Africa.

Rowan has a long way to go before he can be taken seriously as a voice for moral leadership.

Posted by Dennis at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 3:05am BST

It will not do to claim that only the Church is moral, that only the Church's positions are moral, regardless of what they are. Non-religious people clearly can be just as moral, just as virtuous, as any Christian.

The Church's moral teachings are worth supporting only if they actually are moral. The Church is composed of fallible human beings who err in their concepts of truth and virtue. The Church's teachings must be tested and proven for their truthfulness, just like any other moral claim.

I for one am convinced that the church's position on gay and lesbian people as embodied in Lambeth 1.10 is fundamentally immoral, a cancer in the Body of Christ, which undermines the moral legitimacy of the Church every time it is affirmed.

We must always be aware of the beam in our own eye every time we point out the moat in the eyes of others. As Christians we are called to humility, not the kind of moral arrogance far too many so-called Christians exhibit in their certainty about their stance on moral issues.

Posted by John N Wall at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 3:39am BST

Reading the Pope's book Jesus von Nazareth I am amazed at how the downplays all justice and peace concerns of the Gospel -- even to the extent of suggesting that Isaiah's prophecy "they will turn their swords into ploughshares" has little to do with the Gospel. Obviously, the social role of Christianity has become highly problematic. The suppression of Liberation Theology was a major event in the failure to cash in on the ground-breaking insights of Vatican II and the social encyclicals of Paul VI and John XXIII. Rowan Williams seems far more concerned than Benedict XVI to forge a social gospel, but his account of the role of the Established Church seems to me a doubtful idealization.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 3:47am BST

Dr Rowan Williams ABC lecturing the politicians on moral leadership? of all people!

(it's not that he talks about war-mongering, spin, education, slums and greed - in which case he would have had a case :-(

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 6:47am BST

And what are the Wilberforce Lecture Trust thinking of?

Zuneta Lidell, Wole Soyinka, Dr Hanan Ashwari, ++Tutu, Clare Short, GC Taylor, OS Arthur… and now Sentamu the Discriminator and Williams the Spineless!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 6:55am BST

amazing - this is not "Thinking" Anglicans responding to the ABC's words (try "Spiteful", "Bitter" - they fit some of the postings better!)

"Moral" leadership....I guess some would have preferrred VGR to the ABC??

Remember, the ABC is a man sympathetic to the views of liberals since he is one and one of the cleverest ones at that....maybe there is something to learn from the fact that even he is not convinced enough by "liberal interpretations" of certain passages to split the AC?

There is also something to learn from the postings above which show that since he is not going to sacrifice the AC for VGR, some people here seem to hate him.

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 10:19am BST

I can honestly say, NP, that I for one don't hate Williams but I do feel very sorry for him. He is clearly out of his depth. I think the fact that he has never had to deal with human problems as a parish priest puts him at a disadvantage. I also think he is being ill-advised if not deliberately misled by the staff he inherited from Carey. And I don't see a correlation between being an academic and being "clever". Robert Runcie was far brighter than Williams and dear old Michael Ramsey was cleverer and more shrewd - and at the same time a very loving and lovable pastor. We wouldn't be in this state if Michael was still Archbishop.

And yes, NP, I do prefer VGR to Williams. I don't of course know either of them but judging by their fruits I would say that Gene Robinson has a clearer understanding of the Christian gospel and has much greater integrity than Rowan Williams, and is therefore in a better position to provide moral leadership.

Posted by Terence Dear at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:49pm BST

I think a good question for your NP, is why have you used the word and acronymn "hate" and "[+]VGR" for the first time in this string?

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 2:21pm BST

The memory of Michael Ramsey has cheered me. Thanks.

'NP' certainly keeps us all busy--and now I'm falling for it!

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 2:47pm BST

choirboy - quite obvious reaons:

1) as I said, some postings show what looks like hate for the ABC;

2) I referred to VGR because some were using the word "moral" and I like the irony in some of his supporters criticising the ABC using that word.

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 3:51pm BST

Moral leadership? Let's go back to Richard Harries' Observer article a few weeks ago, readable at,,2052440,00.html One could loosley paraphrase it as saying "don't worry all you gays and liberals. Rowan is really on your side. He just can't really say that in public or the Evos will get together and send him some nasty e-mails." Moral leadership?

In this society, institutions do not gain moral authority simply because of their existence and traditions. Deference is gone. Respect is something you earn. It's not too late for Rowan to earn moral authority but obfuscating what it is you really believe is not going to earn you anyone's respect. And you can't sidestep on to areas where there's a sort of easy wishy-washy consensus, like the environment is good and consumerism is bad.

Rowan has to bear the cross that has been placed upon him. There ain't no way he can avoid it. Far from hating the man, I feel profoundly sorry for him. But he hasn't earned any moral authority in my book.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 3:59pm BST

Under what circumstances is it moral to silence a dissenter and refuse to permit them to own and operate their own institutions in the ways that they believe will best serve the community composed of those who agree with them in their dissent? Looking over what Parliament has done recently it is not entirely clear that Parliament has behaved in entirely blameless ways.


Posted by Jon at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 4:00pm BST

Jon asks:

"Under what circumstances is it moral to silence a dissenter and refuse to permit them to own and operate their own institutions in the ways that they believe will best serve the community composed of those who agree with them in their dissent? Looking over what Parliament has done recently it is not entirely clear that Parliament has behaved in entirely blameless ways."

No-one is silencing the church.

The people that the church wishes to discriminate against, unlawfully and (in my view) immorally, do not agree with them. I am a member of the church and I do not agree with the discrimination either, although it is not directed at me.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 4:17pm BST

Williams' problem is that he is 1) spineless and vascillating, 2) disloyal, 3) can't say anything clearly and openly, and 4) simply no leader. He can't lead, only follow in order to stop the boat from rocking

He's not up to the job. He could have been, but he chose not to be.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 4:33pm BST

So in criticizing somebody we hate them.

And criticizing them we are deigning moral authority to somebody else.

And all supporters of +VGR are immoral because +VGR is inmoral.

Have you ever looked at the symbol of the Anglican Communion? You'll find it's not an arrow (or a rat maze of logic games) that only points or ends up in one direction, but a compass with many.

I think that it is fair to say that many of us are frustrated with ++RW. We pray for him, shake our collective heads over him, grumble about him, but I do not think hate is a word that enters most of the readers' mind of this blog about the ++ABC. And I will concede that the many who react negatively towards the LGBT community hopefully do not hate them as well. I pray that this latter point is true.

I suspect that morality has something to do with leaping from disagreement to hatred.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 5:17pm BST

""moral" and I like the irony in some of his supporters criticising the ABC using that word."

Would you object to a critique of ++Akinola using that word, or is morality simply about sex?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 6:47pm BST

But they can and do operate their institutions to suit themselves, Jon. No argument there.
They also want to be able to discriminate against those outside those institutions on the public purse, and that's not on.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:20am BST

I find the remarks on the ABC here rather petty and myopic. He shows a far broader outlook than anyone here in his lecture:

"Slavery has given them – through exposure to Christianity – the tools they need to attack it. Chigor Chike, a Nigerian who has made an intriguing and very valuable study - Voices from Slavery’ The Life and Beliefs of African Slaves in Britain - of the experiences and testimonies of four African slaves active in Britain during the eighteenth century, observes that they both deploy their Christian resources with great energy against slavery itself and support further evangelisation of their own people by missionaries who are free from any taint of supporting slavery. The famous Olaudah Equiano asks uncompromisingly, ‘Can any man be a Christian who asserts that one part of the human race were ordained to be in perpetual bondage to another?’(Chike, p.53). Similarly Ottobah Cugoano, author of the first published attack on the trade by an African (1787), both uses the Bible to threaten divine judgement against political authorities who maintain slavery and argues for mission activity as a ‘restitution’ to Africans for what they have suffered."

How many of you could show such familiarity with Nigerian writers? Hands up all of you who know who "the famous Olaudah Equiano" was!

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 3:08am BST

Williams' lecture is a very brilliant and deep reflection, such as few public figures in Britain today would be capable of producing. It is certainly not the work of someone lacking in leadership. British public discourse has been corrupted by the meretricious mouthings of the mediacratic Mr Blair, and such an intervention as this is a welcome breath of wholesome air. You may say, "it is only a speech", but remember Hegel's dictum "a speech is a deed" (Eine Rede ist eine Tat).

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 3:26am BST

I use the word "hate" not merely because people criticised the ABC but beacuse of the words, personal nature and tone of some comments - just read above.

Ford - He is not my leader but if he were, I don't see Akinola telling me to disobey the bible on anything - show me where he says "don't do x, it is a sin" means "do x, it is holy".

Posted by NP at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 8:41am BST

so you believe that supporting a law that imprisons homosexuals and their supporters for up to 5 years simply for meeting together is a Christian stance? Please tell me where the bible says that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 9:52am BST

"Throw innocent people in jail" you call that moral?

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 10:47am BST

I just discovered a wonderful blog for "thinking" Christians -- please have a look:

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 11:22am BST

well, you gotta remember that he takes the bible very seriously when it condemns sins - he is not making the exceptions you choose to make - his position is consistent and genuine (as the ABC says)

Posted by NP at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 11:27am BST

let me get this straight.
Akinola supports a law that will imprison also celibate gays and their straight friends and family, for no worse crime than meeting up in a group for a cup of coffee. For up to 5 years. In prisons that usually mean the death of gay inmates.

Please, for the love of Christ, tell me that you do not support this!

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:29pm BST

Fr Joseph - there is a difference between being very, very, very clever and very, very, very well read and showing moral courage. No-one doubts that Rowan is exceptionally well read and exceptionally clever.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:33pm BST

"Hands up all of you who know who "the famous Olaudah Equiano" was!"

Execrpts from his autobiography are included in both of the anthologies of English literature most widely used in survey courses in American colleges and universities.

The whole text has been published in a critical edition with essays and background materials by Bedford-St. Martin's. You can probably find their website easily. His book is often included in university courses in Black Literature, in history courses, in courses about the writing of personal narrative.

In fact, I have just yesterday ended the survey of early English literature I regularly teach with excerpts from Equiano's autobiography. Students have also read Behn's "Oroonoko."

So my hand is up!

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 1:02pm BST

Yes Gerry (per 12.33pm 26 April posting) but does ABC show moral courage???

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 1:12pm BST

NP: So you can INFER from the words, personal nature, and tone of comments that the above discourse equals hatred of the ++ABC.

You're arriving at a conclusion from YOUR interpretation of presented premises on this site.

Do you not think that YOUR interpretation of scripture could lead to a faulty conclusion as well?

And if you can legalistically defend ++Akinola's support of jailing people no more guilty of assembling and talking about a certain subject, you've certainly not a very good job of convincing us that these actions are "moral"

In Judism I believe that there is something known as the "Talmud", where they openly agree that OT interpretation and discernment is a continuous process. Can you NP, even fathom the idea that scripture is a living piece of communication that we haven't a total grasp of as yet?

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 1:25pm BST

"he takes the bible very seriously when it condemns sins"

And this equates with throwing people in jail for merely meeting in public? I have respect for the fact that he believes that homosexuality is a sin, but do you really believe it is a Christian thing to say that he therefor has the right to jail people? Why? St. John Crysostom says we Christians have no right to force other people to our view, we must persuade, not coerce. If +Akinola was truly concerned about the salvation of gay people, he would be talking to gay people in Nigeria, finding out why they reject his message. He might actually find a better understanndiong of how to communicate that message in a way that would actually have an effect. Do you seriously think that throwing people in jail where they are very likely to be killed is an acceptable way of preaching the Gospel? Please, for the love of God, at least acknowledge that we Christians are called NOT to oppress people, and that if a bishop fosters measures that would, he is not acting in accordance with the Gospel, regardless of what you think of everything else he teaches. If you seriously believe he IS acting according to the Gospel, then please, Bible mine just this once and find a verse that says it is a good thing for Christians to persecute others in this fashion.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 3:04pm BST

The more conservatives claim to own all the intellectual oxygen among us by God's gift and command, the more people of good will and flexible pluralistic thinking have to ask them to brake their heavy roll to power - out of basic considerations for good citizenship, human dignity, and universal human rights.

Interesting trend. The burdens of proof are weigh quite heavily on conservatives these days in western liberal democracies, and so far conservatives are failing to take anybody else very seriously. Interesting trend.

Let she who has eyes, mind, heart, and ears - see, think, feel, and hear.

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 4:22pm BST

Oh, Joseph, for goodness sake - surely you can see through Williams' meaningless, flowery prose?

I don't hate the man but I certainly find it hard to hold him in anything other than contempt. That's exactly how I feel about organised religion these days.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 5:05pm BST

Ford - I would not jail people....but the bible is not soft in its prescriptions against sins so he is not being inconsistent.

drdanfee - yes, right the trend is interesting in our ANGLICAN church - we have required 5 new buildings in the last 7 years and that has not come by "good citizenship", it has come by the faithful preaching of the gospel - try it and see what happens

Posted by NP at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 5:28pm BST

So ridicule isn't a method of silencing an undesired voice without explicitly prohibiting the dissenter from speaking? I'll have to try to remember that next time I see a liberal complaining about the conservatives ridiculing liberal positions.

Are you suggesting, Merseymike, that it would be wrong for a government to provide grants to any male single-sex university to pay a portion of the students' tuition, or are there circumstances in which this might be appropriate?

Does anyone have an answer they'd like to offer to the theoretical question of where the balance point is between the rights of dissenters and the needs of the majority ought to be? After all, only having our gut to go on in figuring out how things ought to be makes it hard to turn a appropriate ought into is.


Posted by Jon at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 9:50pm BST

Gavin Esler's Newsnight Interview with ABC:

In Hull ABC said:

"The more politics looks like a form of management rather than an engine of positive and morally desirable change, the more energy it will lose"

You could replace "politics" with "church" and you identify the ABC's current difficulties quite starkly, as Gavin Esler pointed out.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 10:04pm BST


I share your concerns about the dynamics of that possible Nigerian legislation.

My other realisation about how draconian that potential legislation is that it could actually imprison legal defence advocates. You spoke in a public venue on behalf of a GLBT, therefore you are off to jail for five years.

If you were to substitute Christian in an anti-Christian society, or Jew in an anti-Jewish society, or Muslim in an anti-Muslim society; then there would be a complete uproar from the religious institutions.

Praise be to God that there has been from some religious institutions, and from many other civilized organisations and peoples.

Shame to those leaders and organisations who consider this degree of repression suitable for any level of their society.

They would create a precedent that could simply be modified to insert whatever hate victims the power brokers want to persecute e.g. Christian/Jew/Muslim.

Naive souls sometimes allow bad things to happen to "bad" people and think that it could "never happen" to themselves. Haven't they learnt from the Holocaust yet? Tyranny is a ravenous beast that is never satiated and is always looking for new victims.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 10:28pm BST

>>>yes, right the trend is interesting in our ANGLICAN church - we have required 5 new buildings in the last 7 years

Are you an accountant?

Posted by JPM at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 1:27am BST

Jon ; you still don't get it.

What you are calling for is the right to actually discriminate against gay and lesbian people in terms of provision of goods and services.

The example you give has nothing at all to do with that. Please justify why you should have the right to discriminate against other citizens who are doing nothing wrong in the civil law and who pay their taxes, just as you do. Simply saying 'because of my religion' isn't good enough. You have the right to believe your religion, just as a racist has a right to dislike black people. But he can't put that practice into action.

Now, the Government have agreed that you can put your prejudices into action within your own churches - but not in civil society. There, you have to treat people fairly and in a non-discriminatory fashion

And if you can't do that, you have no place in the provision of goods and services.

Your views on gay and lesbian people are every bit as unacceptable as the racist and their views about black people. I think its that which you find hard to swallow - that your religion is no longer pursuing socially acceptable aims. Get used to it, because the days of acceptable institutionalised homophobia are gone.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 1:45am BST

"Ford - I would not jail people....but the bible is not soft in its prescriptions against sins so he is not being inconsistent."

So being born gay is sinful?
Still loving your son when he tells you he is gay and still going out with him for a coffee is sinful?

Because THAT's what Ankinola's legal pursuits are implying.

You truly seem to have written Christ out of your Christianity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 9:18am BST

Just a thought:

Secular society refers to Zeitgeist in the same way as we refer to Spirit. Perhaps they are one and the same?

The moral zeitgeist since 1807 has moved away from accepting slavery as part of life, to one of abhorrence.

Similarly the moral zeitgeist is shifting from socially acceptable homophobia to one of abhorrence at this attitude.

This is way many people, particularly the younger generation, are turning away from the church, as the letter from Hereford in the Church Times of 2 weeks ago indicated.

Young people are taking a moral stance with regard to the church, and don't want to be associated with an institution which appears to endorse outright discrimination.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 11:03am BST

And it would have to be a leading conservative evangelical to turn the tables and declare that the church's perceived homophobia is hurting mission

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 11:22am BST

Erika says "You truly seem to have written Christ out of your Christianity"

You do know that JC did not make the exceptions that you want to make?
You do know that there is ZERO evidence to support the assertion that he would support anything other than the consistent teaching on marriage from Genesis onwards?

Maybe you are making JC in your own image, Erika?
I will stick to his Word

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 11:23am BST

"Ford - I would not jail people....but the bible is not soft in its prescriptions against sins so he is not being inconsistent."

Now that the shock is wearing off, I can answer more or less calmly. How is it consistent with the Gospel to jail people, putting their lives at serious risk, for being sinners? Where does the Gospel tell us we can jail sinners? The Gospels?The Epistles? The Fathers? Oh, sorry, that last one is just "the traditions of men" I guess. Seriously, NP, honestly, how is jailing sinners consistent with the Gospel?

"your religion is no longer pursuing socially acceptable aims"

What does that have to do with anything? It was once socially acceptable to burn women and gay people. Frankly, why trust what is "socially acceptable". In 1940s Germany, genocide was, on some level, socially acceptable. I'm not interested in putting evanescent social values above those of the Kingdom. We Christians might argue what those Kingdom values are, but we all think they trump the oh so transitory values of society, the above notwithstanding.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 11:29am BST

Ford ; please don't take my words out of context. I was explaining to Jon how the assumptions he makes are no longer so. But I think it is important to work for change in society - indeed, I rate that as more important than doing so within the church, which I think has largely reached the end of any useful purpose.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 12:38pm BST

Ford - I am sure you would support jailing thieves and what is your big shock?

Now, I have said many times that I do not agree with the Nigerian legislation or Akinola's support for don't try and tag me with that.

I do support firing "priests" who are unrepentant sinners, however, whatever the sin may be - including stealing money from church funds (so it is not just about one sin)

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 12:47pm BST

Merseymike says " the church.... I think has largely reached the end of any useful purpose"

So, why are you wasting your time getting involved with church debates here?
Are you lonely, trying to kill time or something? If you think the church has no useful purpose, please go and spend your time on something you think has purpose.

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 12:58pm BST

I felt I was taking your words very much in the context of the things you have posted here. You seem to have expressed in many previous posts that it is your idea that society is more advanced now than it was, and that the Church is backward and needs to fall in behind what you believe to be the more enlightened views of society as a whole. I strongly disagree with both aspects of that contention. If this is not your view, I apologize for misrepresenting you.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 1:43pm BST

Yes, I do think society has overtaken the church in many areas.

i think that if the Church has got it wrong, and socity right, then it needs to be pointed out that the Church continuing to justify its wrong-ness - in this case, the right to discriminate - it will win itself few friends.

But I don';t think the Church should always follow society

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 3:08pm BST

Because the Church needs to change, NP. That's why a split and a new start is required.

Yopu conservatives can carry on doing just as you do, but that's not of concern to me - I'm interested in how progressive approaches to spirituality can be realised, and it certainly won't be via the current church.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 3:09pm BST

Merseymike - you are not going to change the church or get more than a self-interested minority in it to agree with you unless you get some strong arguments which might persuade people....just hanging around saying "that's not fair to me" is not very persuasive (or interesting)

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 4:42pm BST

I wasn't talking about gay marriage, I was talking about your view that Akinola's views are consistend with Christ's teachings, but that you would refrain from sentencing gays to jail.

I repeat, he supports a law that will make BEING gay illegal, that will punish people who are seen out in public with known gays, which includes all their friends and family.

As long as you don't firmly distance yourself from this, you are supporting the moral judgement.

THAT is where you have taken Christ out of Christianity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 6:53pm BST

'NP' You are such a flirt !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 6:57pm BST

I don't believe change is likely unless people are prepared to walk away from conservative theology. However, I believe that viewpoint to be essentially a delusionary one. It isn't based on any sort of rationality - witness your view as to the Bible being other than a book. Strong arguments make no difference because your position doesn't respond to any argument.

It is based on irrational delusionary beliefs.

Hence, a split is what is needed. There isn't any way that liberal and conservative can co-exist - because our views are fundamentally and utterly different. Surely you agree with that?

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 27 April 2007 at 7:09pm BST

The hostile comments on Rowan Williams here show little sign of being based on a reading of his Wilberforce lecture. They are in repeat mode, flogging the dead horse of his opposition to the government requirement that Christian adoption agencies accept gay couples as adopters, or fuming over his handling of the threatened split in Anglicanism. Name-calling (e.g. "Williams the spineless") is out of place in a forum like this one.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 4:22am BST

While I agree about the tone of two of the (64 so far) comments, Fr Joseph, I do think the text of his lecture left the archbishop open to considerable criticism, of the pot vs kettle variety, precisely in relation to the issues he raises.

Gavin Esler's Newsnight interview let him off very lightly.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 9:12am BST

"I am sure you would support jailing thieves and killers"

NP, the Saviour tells us to visit those imprisoned, not put them there. Note that it also doesn't specify whether those we visit are guilty or innocent. Christians ought to be concerned about helping criminals find redemption, not in making sure they are punished. Surely, one of the basic tenets of our faith is that we who are forgiven must forgive in turn. Surely we are called to help people find redemption, not make sure they are adequately punished.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 6:33pm BST

"I am sure you would support jailing thieves and killers."

Not in all circumstances. The evidence is in that a young child/teenager involved in petty shoplifting can often end up coming out of the penal system worse than when they went in. One of the banes that some law enforcers are contemplating is that when you introduce a naive child/group to organised unrepentant criminals. They are trained how to be more clever criminals and that the culture of thievery and violence is perceived as a legitimate subculture in our society. This article nicely points out that more and more nations are questioning the efficacy of capital punishment

Also, in societies where greed and corruption are rampant, the citizens become blind to the possibility of living in a more cooperative and compassionate societies.

For example, this article notes that the corruptness in Nigeria threatens all the economic gains that have been made
Then a recent survey indicates that Sydney's most affluent are perceived is the most selfish and shallow in the Asian region

I thought some other souls might be as amused as myself by how our holiest dioceses who are are "true teachers" operate admist some of the most internationally respected cultures. Cultures that are approved of by the bible?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 11:43pm BST

An internet google search on "Rowan Williams" unearthed this article. I thought others might appreciate the perspective as much as I did:

Personally, I would rather live in a world where we are all acknowledged as sinners (priest and otherwise). Remember, when Sodom and Gomorrah went down, there were no early warning signals fo the "pure" priest to evacuate in advance. The priests go down with the ship, if they have put forward that they are the navigators or captain of the ship then they go down before the passengers.

Better to be an incompetent prophet than someone who professes to follow (or be) God but fails to meet God's standard in the real world...

According to the sciptures, Jesus claimed to follow and honor a God that was above him. If Jesus keeps that tack, then Jesus is not in the front line for rebuke.

Thus any priests (or Jesus) who claim to represent and/or be all of God then they can go to God and explain why they are not accountable for the conduct of the sheep/goats within their dioceses. After all, being all of God means that they are above error and there are no problems of misconduct, abuse or greed within their parishes...

I'm looking forward to see how Jesus "unconditionally" supports these shepherds and then does the hyperboles with God.

Of course, you could kill me (or have others do it "unbeknowsist to you") , but then you will still have to explain and I will no longer be fettered with human limiations...

It's okay, I don't mind waiting several lifeforms or universes for you to work out the truthful answer, that washes beyond limited time-space continuum propoganda.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 9:07am BST

_Merseymike - you are not going to change the church or get more than a self-interested minority in it to agree with you_ NP

OK, well I'm a self-interested minority. Start somewhere.

I think the situation is far more demanding. It is not simply about the ethical mess the Church has got itself into, but that its whole mode of thought leads it into that mess.

Ford Elms tells us that there is a real objectivity of something beyond the socially acceptable, yet there has rarely been a situation regarding the larger Church where it has been dealing with other than the socially acceptable. Look at the Church Times 100 Years Ago column for displays of social attitudes.

I was listening to a very broad minded sermon this morning and yet thought to myself, people just do not talk in these categories of thought outside of this place. There was a statement a little like that at one point I admit. Yes I have had a contribution to Sarah Laughed, because it seems to me that a progressive like her is far closer to a reasserter than ordinary talk.

Ordinary talk is about what works, and it relates to ethics too - what we should and should not do and why. I think Jesus was a disturber of the status quo, he reversed current ethics and challenged, and for healing we might use holistic. What we don't need is this objective superstructure or reversion to some pure authority in another worldview. Here is ours, and the ethical battle is whether we include everyone who is living positively with others or not.

So whether by a loose confederation and part renewal, or a split and renewal, it is not Church first (where Rowan Williams has made his mistake since taking the job), or another supernaturalist thought-form first, but people first.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 8:05pm BST

As it happens, Merseymike, my views on homosexuality are liberal, and I'm still not entirely convinced that requiring RC adoption agencies to serve glbt people is entirely appropriate. My point about single sex higher education illustrates the dilemma. Many years ago now all the finest universities refused to admit women. In the US that was changed by the Courts, but not for every institution. Last I heard there were still 3 colleges that discriminate against women in admissions (ie. are male single sex schools), although there are more colleges that discriminate against men in admissions (ie are women's schools). The remaining single-sex institutions receive Federal money in the form of Pell grants and may receive federal money in other ways, which is precisely the same reason you gave for the RC adoption agencies not being permitted to continue to discriminate. If it is clear that the RC adoption agencies are engaged in an unacceptable sort of discrimination, then clearly the single sex colleges ought to be compelled to admit women since it is clearly not immoral to be female.

Pluralist, does God, like gravity, exist no matter what we think about it, or is God a human construct? How might we determine which answer to this question is most accurate?


Posted by Jon at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 4:17am BST

Merseymike - I agree a split is NEEDED - but I am not sure you even fit with "liberals". I reckon Ford and I could live together more easily than you and Ford (leaving myself open to rejection by Ford, here!!)

Ford - yes, he said visit prisoners - did he say they should not be in prison?

Erika - red herrring re ++Akinola since you ignore the many times I have said I do not agree with the legislation there....

Posted by NP at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 7:41am BST

Sorry, NP, no red herring.
You said: I don't see Akinola telling me to disobey the bible on anything - show me where he says "don't do x, it is a sin" means "do x, it is holy".

When we were all shocked and asked whether you support him despite the legislation he is pursuing you replied:

“well, you gotta remember that he takes the bible very seriously when it condemns sins - he is not making the exceptions you choose to make - his position is consistent and genuine”.

You later distanced yourself from jailing people, but it is clear that you support the moral stance in itself.

Now, Akinola’s particular moral stance does not refer to homosexual practice but to homosexual orientation. And it also condemns those who support homosexuals even if they’re celibate.

So, if I refer you back to your own comment that Akinola is not asking you to disobey the bible, and if his moral stance is consistent and genuine, then I can only infer your complete agreement with it.

That you wouldn’t jail celibate gays is a small nicety for which we are duly grateful.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 9:48am BST

"Ford - yes, he said visit prisoners - did he say they should not be in prison? "

I think this reveals a basic split in our understanding, NP. You have a strong desire to see people punished for their sins, to the point where you believe it is the Church's responsibility to do it. I believe the Church has a responsibility to seek after people's redemption. The civil law may punish those it feels deserve it. The Church has taken on the role of telling society what deserves punishment. I don't believe She has that right. I repeat, show me where Sripture says She does. The argument is not about whether thieves or murderers ought to be in prison, NP, though there is an argument to be had there. The issue concerns who does the imprisoning. To coopt a style of questioning from you, do you seriiously believe "JC" would agree with you on this?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 11:22am BST

I feel it is the job of the Church to seek for the redemption of sinners, you believe the Church has a right to punish sinners, using the civil law. I do not believe this view is in any way scriptural, show me otherwise. Civil law can do as it pleases. You would agree, I think, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that sin is sin. Well, you have received the abundance of God's mercy for the multitude of your sins, as have I. How then do you refuse it to others? Society may punish those it considers to have done wrong. It is for us to see the wounded humanity that brought people to those sins in the first place, and to bring to that wounded humanity the healing to be found in Christ. Also, insisting the aforementioned things about the sinfulness of all while insisting on the worldly punishment of some is not a good way to present the Gospel. It is a common Evangelical stance, and I think shows that Evangelicalism is all about punishment, they can even only understand atonement in terms of punishment. Thank God He gave us, among many others, images of atonement as punishment, so that such people can come to God as well as the rest of us.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 1:48pm BST

'Yes I have had a contribution to Sarah Laughed, because it seems to me that a progressive like her is far closer to a reasserter than ordinary talk.' Pluralist (above)

This is helpful to me. I have been scratching my head, as for the life of me, I couldnt relate to the language and categories used at all. Starting at once with 'Jesus is Lord' -- I just can't relate to it, be doing with it any longer. 'Jesus' --not even the 'Christ' of faith and para-history. I have a lot of time for Jesus, despair at the way the Churches, by and large ignore his message, grieve for the loss of much in the way of his original words, in his mother-tongue (apart from one or two echoes in the gospels). But 'Lord' is not word used in my world and its associations with hereditary peerages and privelege are not promising. Also 'Jesus as / is Lord' doesn't sit well with the Jewish faith communities, other faiths or your average Bit today.

Yes, I love the old hymns and liturgies and Sunday school stories and associations --but hey, that was a long time ago. Those who most loudly insist on this sort of language are, in my experience, least open to the world as is, people as are, or ordianry people like me, who wish to receive and to give ...

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 1:49pm BST

Ford - you want to let all the prisoners in your Canadian jails free???

Posted by NP at Friday, 4 May 2007 at 9:35am BST

Now who's putting words in whose mouth? I am saying it is not the business of the Church to decide who goes to jail. Simple. Again, we come back to the role of punishment in your faith. Why do you think the Church has the right to tell the State whom it may imprison? Why do you think the Church has the right to use the powers of this world to punish people, presumably in some preliminary fashion before God punishes them in Eternity? Why do you want to get the jump on God? And what's the going salary for judgement seat warmer these days? Jesus never asked me to keep the Seat warm for Him, so I never thought to look into it. How do you, who have benefitted from God's mercy toward your sins not seek to behave in mercy towards others? What does "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" mean? The State is not bound by this, but surely we Christians are. Again, Jesus tells us to visit the imprisoned. He doesn't say only to visit the innocent, and He certainly doesn't say we have the right to put them there. Indeed, given everything He says about humility and our own undeservedness, He certainly seems to me to be saying that we have no right whatsoever to condemn others. The State is another matter.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 4 May 2007 at 1:15pm BST
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