Comments: What did the Archbishop actually say?

I am outraged at the recent speech by Archbishop Williams regarding the possibility of introducing aspect of Islamic law into my country.
We are CHRISTIAN peoples and we wish to be governed by by laws evolved in the Christian environment.
This is NOT the first time that Williams has spoken out completely at odds with Christian doctrine.
The man is supposed to be intellectual, but he shows very little common sense. The fact that he is 'did not anticipate the strength of feeling' on the matter begs the question of whether he up to the job. A man in his position should not have been caught out like this. Better he should be looking at the dwindling church attendances and concentrate on building his flock.
We no longer want him as head of our Church in England. Please inform me of the protocol surrounding his appointment and how he can be replaced by a bishop who will fight to the end for Christian values, - not some of them

Yours sincerely
Dudley Price

Posted by Dudley Price at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 6:49pm GMT

'What did the Archbishop actually say' is a question that could be applied to many of Rowan's lectures, since his opaque language often seems to give rise to a number of interpretations. This isn't exactly a defence, since his leadership role entails some responsibility to speak clearly and carefully on sensitive matters, and Rowan often seems to give much more attention to the latter than the former. That said, the statement from Lambeth Palace argues that it is very clear what he did 'not' say, so let's examine this:

(i)The Archbishop made no proposals for sharia in either the lecture or the interview, and (ii) certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law.'

Does this hold? In respect of (i) he says in the interview

'I'm simply saying that there are ways of looking at marital dispute for example within discussions that go on among some [islamic] contemporary scholars which provide an alternative to the divorce courts as we understand them. In some cultural and religious settings they would seem more appropriate.'

In the lecture he enters into a discussion on (ii) 'how Islamic law and Islamic identity should be regarded in our legal system', arguing in the same paragraph that 'if one approaches it along the lines sketched by Shachar in the monograph quoted earlier, it might be possible to think in terms of what she calls 'transformative accommodation': a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that 'power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents'. This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution.' This 'transformative accommodation' is good in that 'both jurisdictional parties may be changed by their encounter over time, and we avoid the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies.'

Even if he didn't mean this to be a proposal for giving aspects of sharia legal identity in the UK, then it is certainly seems a fair interpretation of the text. What else could he mean by individuals choosing to decide the juristiction under which various matters could be heard? The following, penultimate, paragraph of the lecture makes it clear that it is such a 'market element' in our approach to law that Rowan believes to be both 'unavoidable' and desirable - as an aspect of the 'interactive pluralism' which he so approves.

Posted by John Omani at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 7:42pm GMT

Well, there you go. I must work for Lambeth Palace Press office. Even they are saying **read the speech**!

(BTW. Busy day, Simon. Thanks for all the hours you put in slaving over hot pixels.)

Posted by Justin (3MinuteTheologian) at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 7:48pm GMT

what's this - is Rowan imposing Shariah law on the UK?


the Times Online article stated that Orthodox Jewish communities are allowed to adjudicate certain affairs under their own religious laws. if so, Muslims should be given the same courtesy. this is for select civil affairs, not criminal. as long as Muslims (and Orthodox Jews) can choose which system to obey, it's fine.

also, as long as we can be sure that people who commit crimes against humanity go to prison, it's also fine. oh wait, they mostly get off scot-free these days...

Posted by Weiwen at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 8:11pm GMT

Curiously enough, this is what I *thought he said.

As such, it is of a piece with his willingness to countenance special provision under the law for the, um, sensitivities of such groups as reactionary RC's and the Conservative realignment camp within the CofE and the AC with regard to discrimination law.

So what were we on about?

Posted by Oriscus at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 8:41pm GMT

As predicted, a nice clarification from Lambeth Palace. I am beginning to believe that +++Rowan is too smart for his job, overqualified. The position requires someone more tuned in to "sound bites" and less subtle, less nuanced, less complex.

Posted by Andrew at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 9:16pm GMT

This may all very well be but what on earth was the Lambeth Press Office doing letting Rowan walk into this one like a blind man? Did no-one sit down for five minutes with him and say, 'What is the likely outcome of this'?

What he said may need to be said but, surely this was not the time to do it!

I have heard people today, passers by and supporters of the archbishop, talking about him as never before. Judging by what they were saying, it is not clear that the ill-judged timing and/or content of this lecture has enhanced the Office of Archbishop of Canterbury.

I am not sure, either, that it has done much for social cohesion unless that is measured by getting the press, the Government, the Opposition Parties, Christian, Jewish and Islamic spokespersons and the Equalities Commission to condemn the lecture as with one voice.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Friday, 8 February 2008 at 11:33pm GMT

"What else could he mean by individuals choosing to decide the juristiction under which various matters could be heard?"

He could mean that parties to a private civil dispute should be permitted to choose by voluntary agreement the forum that decides their dispute and the rules that the forum will apply. Private companies do that every day in arbitration agreements with their customers, suppliers, and employees. Orthodox Jews do it nearly every day in referrals to the Beit Din (which are treated by English law as binding arbitration agreements). Nonreligious litigants do it almost hourly in various forms of alternative dispute resolution.

For Abp. Williams to suggest the likelihood that devout Muslims might someday have the same power to refer their disputes to a forum they choose applying rules they prefer, hardly constitutes advocating "some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law." This is particularly true when he was careful to say that any such mechanism should have safeguards guaranteeing the basic rights of the litigants under the ordinary English civil law by allowing an appeal to the secular courts.

His meaning was quite obvious to me, once I took the trouble to parse out what he was saying (long before the Lambeth Press Office clarification confirmed my reading). I am bewildered that so many people have read him so wrongly, and continue to do so even after the clarification.

Posted by Dale Rye at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 12:28am GMT

May I point out that the Philippines is also a Christian country, and, by law, we allow Muslims to apply Shariah to settling marriage and property disputes. By law, mind you.

That is what I understand Williams meant.

We allow Muslims to freely practice their faith in our countries, but Williams should have been clearer, at the risk of being banned from Al-Azhar, that Christians ought to freely practice their religion in Muslim countries too.

And to make it clearer that Muslims would be more truly human if they followed Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Posted by Ren Aguila at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 12:49am GMT

One wonders who the highly placed anonymous churchman calling for his resignation is? The article in the Times Online was written by Ruth Gledhill and Joanna Sugden. Gledhill is certainly no friend of liberals. Sugden is the daughter of Canon Sugden, principle organizer of GAFCON and head of Anglican Mainstream. Sugden has been intensely critical of +Williams. Joanna joined the Times of London last year having served as an intern for the right wing Washington Times. The headline and tone of the artcle reflect a singular perspective. The speech and interview were highly nuanced, as +Williams, an academic, is inclined to be. It may not have been his most savvy political moment but it certainly was't the statement of advocacy for sharia law in England Gledhill and Sugden pesented it to be.....

Posted by EmilyH at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 1:42am GMT

Well, Dale, Simon and Garfunkel have the key insight here, from 'The Boxer'

"... a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest ..."

Some commentators have been pointing out the automatic prejudice inherent in using the word "sharia" - that is itself dangerous and divisive, because it makes it very difficult for us to speak or write about the subject. Sometimes one can get around that kind of problem. On other occasions someone simply has to have the courage to face it, because after the gut reaction and loud shouting has died down, the intelligent conversation and analysis begins.

I wonder what this might mean for Christians "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you ... woe to you when all speak well of you ... but I say to you that listen. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." [Luke 6.22f]?

I do think that it suggests that popular approval is not an indicator of success or faithfulness - and those Christians who respond as if it is a fundamental requirement of the Archbishop's job need just to step back a little and reflect.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 5:38am GMT

I can't work out if this is sophistication or plain stupidity.

On one hand, it has managed to avert the media's attention from the compensation payout - a stroke of pure genius.

On the other hand, it has opened up a can of worms that makes the debate about homosexuality seem tame.

At the end of the day, there are elements of Sharia law where I think Gabriel and Mohammad and their successors went too far (remember Mohammad was never divinely confirmed in battle, much to his chagrin). Yes. There were problems of aggression in early Islam. But Gabriel was given permission to anoint Mohammad to raise up a prophet to counterweight Christian aggression. That the Shechina did not support his aggressive military forays really defines the boundaries on how far aggression would be tolerated.

Both Christianity and Islam need to re-learn gentleness and hospitality. The Shechina does not condone blood baths or advocates of cruelty and elitism. They need to learn to live with each other, their older Jewish siblings, along with all of the other children of this planet.

Isaiah 4:-6 “The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

If this is evil imagery, and the Shechina is evil, then rescue from slavery by the Pharaoh and the very foundations of redemption for the Jewish (and thus Christian and Islam) traditions is evil.

Did denying the Shechinah’s existence or keeping her in a box for 2000 years bring about peace? No.

Rather than whining about Eve and how the world “should” be, leaders would do better to realize that you can not heal a patient unless you have both an accurate diagnosis and a commitment to the patient’s wellbeing. You want the Shechina and all she stood for to die? Fine. She will. It’s just that this whole planet will die along with her.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 7:53am GMT

'power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents'

This still troubles me. The assumption behind the statement is that the constituent is a free agent. The reality behind the lives of some Muslim women is that they aren't, that they may be subject to abuse, loss of home, and loss of family if they were to use secular courts.

Posted by sheila at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 8:17am GMT
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