Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England and leader of the 70 million strong global Anglican Communion, caused a stir last week by taking the unusual move of guest editing a political magazine, the New Statesman. In the June 13 issue of this well-established and widely circulated left-of-center secular magazine, his aim of "sparking a livelier debate" about where the U.K. political scene is headed has ignited a heated political conversation.
In his editorial, the Archbishop criticized both the coalition government and the opposition parties. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat leadership was accused of being stuck in a rut and of borrowing ideas from socialism for purely money saving reasons. He also argued that the Labor opposition has failed to offer a cogent alternative to the coalition's "Big Society" flagship policy. His most controversial comment raised questions about the democratic integrity of the government: "With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted."
The Archbishop's views have been seen as a challenge to the mandate for the coalition to govern the country and particularly to proceed with the extent of the cuts they are making to public spending. His critique of the democratic legitimacy of the government was not taken well by Prime Minister David Cameron, who gave a robust response: "I think the Archbishop of Canterbury is entirely free to express political views. I have never been one to say that the Church should fight shy of making political interventions. But what I would say is that I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed, particularly on issues like debt and welfare and education."
Anyone conversant ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.