Jerome Taylor: Mystery of Archbishop who didn't speak for his Church


Jerome Taylor
Monday 31 October 2011 12:11

With the prospect of anti-corporate protesters being forcibly removed from the steps of St Paul's Cathedral by riot police now almost inevitable, the silence from across the river at Lambeth Palace has been deafening.

So far the Archbishop of Canterbury has kept his head far below the ramparts, choosing not to utter a single word on a deepening public relations disaster for the Established Church.

For the past three days, Rowan Williams has been physically distant from the furore engulfing his Church. He is in Italy, at the invitation of the Pope, for an interfaith love-in in the town of Assisi. Pulling out and returning to Britain would have been a diplomatic faux pas at a time when relations between the Catholic Church and Canterbury remain strained over Rome's ongoing attempts to woo disaffected Anglicans. But the Archbishop could have easily released a statement through his staff at Lambeth Palace had he wanted to or felt it necessary.

Some have argued that the Church of England needs constructive leadership now. The reality is a little more complicated. Friends of Rowan Williams say he is less than pleased with the way that St Paul's has handled the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters, particularly its decision to close the cathedral for the first time since the Blitz. His private sympathies lie more with the aspirations of those protesting against the economic status quo than the bureaucrats of St Paul's.

In the world of ecclesiastical politics, the Archbishop is between a rock and a hard place. He has always encouraged his bishops to be the leading authority in their dioceses, so any intervention or critical statement on the protest would risk undermining Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London.

But equally the longer he remains silent, the more the Church hierarchy comes across as a robed elite, locked in its ivory towers, refusing to come down and talk to those on the street who are desperately unhappy about the way wealth is being distributed in our country.

It is telling that not a single senior bishop has released even a generic, apolitical statement encouraging society to reform the way business is done in the City of London. Those who have spoken out have largely toed the St Paul's line of "you've made your point, now move on and let us handle things". Instead, it has been left to individual Christian groups and now two St Paul's clergymen to lead the moral criticism.

All of which threatens to undermine Rowan Williams. Less than a month ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury was revelling in his successful trip to Zimbabwe where he confronted Robert Mugabe. He won praise for showing such leadership abroad. The praise – and the leadership – is less forthcoming at home.

For and against: What the bible says

For the status quo

The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. (Romans 13: 1-2)

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. (Matthew 22:21)

If any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (Matthew 25:29)

Against capitalist greed

He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want. (Proverbs 22:16)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. (Matthew 6:19)

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)

And Jesus...cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers. (Matthew 21:12-13)

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.' (Matthew 6:24)

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