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Archbishop of Canterbury speaks to the UK press

Posted on: February 14, 2003 6:12 PM
Related Categories: England

by Matthew Davies

The Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Mr Charles Moore, recently conducted an extensive interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, just two weeks before the official Enthronement Service takes place at Canterbury Cathedral. This is the first daily newspaper interview that the Archbishop has given. The Sunday Times ran an interview by Christopher Morgan on 2 February.

Reflecting upon his childhood with fond memories, the Archbishop described to Mr Moore that one of his first impressions of the Anglican tradition was how the whole Christian enterprise hung together in an imaginative and intellectual way. Originally a member of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, he recalls how the 'discovery of liturgical life...was tremendously engaging.'

Archbishop Rowan described the Anglican liturgy as a grand narrative. "It is a story of what the world is like, and within that how different aspects of how we see God knit together," he said. "I'm very interested in what can be done, what I can do, in promoting good, imaginative and solid liturgy."

One of the difficulties of contemporary religion has been the interpretation of the scriptures, something that the Archbishop has been accused of abusing by his detractors. In analogical terms Archbishop Rowan says that 'Shakespeare's Macbeth tells us only some limited things about 11th century Scotland, quite a bit about 16th century England and an awful lot about human nature. And that is what it is meant to do. And I suspect that quite a lot of narratives in the Old Testament are actually meant to work at that level.'

Regarding the looming war with Iraq the Archbishop congratulated Tony Blair for his commitment to a moral vision of international affairs and a very strong belief that it is possible to intervene successfully. His two greatest anxieties are "the needs and the problems of Christians [and other minorities] in the region, and...the precedents set by pre-emptive military action."

Furthermore, he indicated his respect for George Bush, speaking of the US President's determination to avoid a repeat of the devastating events that took place on September 11. He did, however, share his concern about any one country taking on the role of 'global policeman.'

Another concern that the Archbishop voiced in the interview was the conclusions that are drawn about Muslims and he spoke about the eagerness of most people in Muslim communities to distance themselves from the terrorist rhetoric. "[Islam] is a religion whose primary focus and interest is about unity, the unity of God and the unity of the faithful community under God," he said. "It is one community under God. That is what has given Islam its moral power and passion through the centuries. Whereas Christianity has, I think, been more inclined to ironies and paradoxes, which has made the Muslims very impatient with us."

Ever since the announcement was made last year about the appointment of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, the interest of the secular press has been centred on the issue of sexuality. Some Evangelical Christians contend that Dr William's teachings are not in line with the teachings of the Bible. Responding to Charles Moore, Archbishop Williams said, "On homosexuality in general, my worry is that while we talk about particular bits of sexual ethics, we as Christians are in danger of losing the big cultural argument about sexuality; that it is a gift of God to be exercised in a way that shows God's faithfulness and commitment.

"My slight unease about the way in which debates have been set up recently is...that we are not looking at what the real heart of Christian teaching is in sexual ethics."

Other issues discussed in the interview included fox hunting, same-sex blessings and the role that Prince Charles will inherit as 'Defender of the Faith.'