Leading article: Dr Williams's leadership is wanting


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The Independent Online

In his Richard Dimbleby lecture in 2002, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, railed against the "value-free" nature of the "market state" and how it was incapable of tackling challenges such as the degradation of the environment. He argued two years later that "every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game".

Given that these are the Archbishop's views, his failure to say anything significant about the crisis at St Paul's Cathedral is extraordinary. Dr Williams responded to the resignation yesterday of the Dean, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, with a few anodyne words about good faith, good people and unwelcome consequences – an utterly insufficient response to what has become the starkest challenge to the Church of England's integrity of recent times.

The Cathedral's Canon Chancellor, Giles Fraser, resigned last week because of the threat to have protesters removed violently from the steps. That threat, of course, originates with the Corporation of London. More and more, St Paul's finds itself caught between the protesters and the power of the City. How far the Cathedral is in a position to take a stand, and how far it is compromised by the high-flying capitalists who pack the Cathedral Foundation's board of trustees, is a matter of some conjecture.

We know that Dr Williams's position is not analogous to that of the Pope: he is not a monarch but the first among peers. But the man notionally in charge, the Bishop of London, is looking increasingly weak and isolated. Now is the moment for a primate of principle to seize control of this shambles and tell his Church and the world precisely what he stands for.

Last month, Dr Williams braved intense criticism by travelling to Zimbabwe and holding a meeting with Robert Mugabe in his efforts to forward the cause of that country's beleaguered Anglicans.

The absence of similar leadership on his home ground cannot be excused by claims that he wishes to leave diocesan matters to the relevant bishops. Dr Williams must take a stand.