Thinking Anglicans

Wilberforce lecture

Updated again Thursday

Dr Rowan Williams today delivered a Wilberforce Lecture in Hull.

Last Sunday, the Sunday Times printed an advance extract from the lecture which you can read at Down with godless government and about which Christopher Morgan wrote Archbishop tells MPs to rediscover their moral mission.

Today, Jonathan Petre previewed the lecture in the Daily Telegraph in Archbishop attacks ‘erosion of Christian values’.

The official press release about this lecture is available on ACNS as Archbishop of Canterbury – moral vision should be at the heart of politics.

The full text of the lecture will no doubt eventually be now is available here.

Guardian People column commented:

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, was lecturing politicians in his Wilberforce lecture in Hull last night on the importance of rediscovering their moral energy. He also stressed the necessity of C of E bishops retaining their position in the House of Lords to continue offering “independent moral comment”. Meanwhile, central Africa’s Anglican bishops have taken a different moral line by saying the west ought to give Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, a break and lift sanctions. Their number includes the Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, a Mugabe crony accused by parishioners of inciting murder and seizing land, in contrast to the call by the country’s Catholic bishops for Mugabe to stand down. No sign yet that our archbishop plans to disinvite them from next year’s Lambeth conference.

Ekklesia said Williams says democracy not enough to determine ‘moral vision’

Update
The BBC interviewed the archbishop on Newsnight and carried this report of the interview: Williams urges political ‘morals’. The earlier BBC report of the lecture is here.
Update 5 May The transcript of the 25 April Newsnight interview is available here.

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Merseymike
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Merseymike

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.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

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.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

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.

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

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… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

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… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

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.

Dennis
Guest

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.

John N Wall
Guest
John N Wall

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… Read more »

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

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… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

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 🙁

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

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!

NP
Guest
NP

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… Read more »

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

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… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

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?

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

The memory of Michael Ramsey has cheered me. Thanks.

‘NP’ certainly keeps us all busy–and now I’m falling for it!

NP
Guest
NP

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.

Gerry Lynch
Guest

Moral leadership? Let’s go back to Richard Harries’ Observer article a few weeks ago, readable at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,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… Read more »

Jon
Guest

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.

Jon

badman
Guest
badman

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… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

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.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

NP: 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… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“”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?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

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.

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

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… Read more »

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

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).

NP
Guest
NP

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”.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

NP,
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.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Throw innocent people in jail” you call that moral?

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

I just discovered a wonderful blog for “thinking” Christians — please have a look:
http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/

NP
Guest
NP

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)

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

NP,
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!

Gerry Lynch
Guest

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.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“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… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

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

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

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… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“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,… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

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.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

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.

NP
Guest
NP

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

Jon
Guest

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… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

Gavin Esler’s Newsnight Interview with ABC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_4670000/newsid_4679900/4679986.stm?bw=bb&mp=rm

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.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Ford 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… Read more »

JPM
Guest
JPM

>>>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?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

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… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

NP
“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.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

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… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

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

NP
Guest
NP

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

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“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? merseymike: “your religion is no… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

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.