Thursday, 14 February 2008

Rowan Williams and Islam

I can't help feeling that most people have rather missed the point in the recent controversy about Rowan Williams and Sharia. Damian Thompson isn't one of these; in his typically acerbic style he has compared the Archbishop with Prince Charles, especially in the light of the latter's desire to be a defender 'of faith' rather than 'of the faith'.
Now, let's establish that I am not one of those who follow the tabloid line about the ArchImam of Canterbury. That's plainly nonsense and in some cases amounts to malicious misrepresentation. But there must have been some purpose behind what he said, and, entertaining though it may be to think it, I don't think that he is trying to deflect attention from the bigger issues at the up-and-coming Lambeth Conference.

Though I would identify myself as being rather a traditional Catholic, I have always had an abiding affection for the old C of E: I have never been a member of it, so my affection can come without cost or pain: evensong in a dark cathedral, the choirs, the dignified presence on state occasions, and many other things.
As my Anglican friends will know, however, there is one thing that gets right up my nose, and that is the Anglican claim to pastoral responsibility for all people living within their territory, irrespective of whether they belong to any other faith. When I was a curate (ah me! I was a pale young curate then!), the local vicar went as far as to describe my boss and me as his 'delegates for the Romans in Xville'.
With Damian, I think that the Sharia comments of the Archbishop were aimed along these lines. Since he thinks of himself as the spiritual leader of the whole country and all people here, of whatever faith, he feels that British Moslems, too, are put by the Establishment (and therefore God?) into his tender care, and therefore he should do his best for them, as for any other members of his flock.
There are times when I think that as Catholics we continue to live in something of a ghetto, for many good historical reasons; we tend to restrict our work to our own people a bit too much. But I think that the Archbishop, and the same principle down the line into the parishes, goes too far in the other direction.
I really do not see that 'Establishment' confers, by law, on all Anglican clergy the right of entry to all peoples homes. This point of view was advanced to me by a vicaress of my acquaintance. I do not see that it confers a sort of universal pastorate on the C of E clergy, which comes across as at best patronising and at worst infuriating.

Finally, I wonder whether the Moslem clergy find this intervention on the matter of Sharia touching or irritating.


Anonymous said...

LOL I was wondering when someone would dress him in mufti. The comment concerning the "Roman delegate" was very amusing. However, the rantings of a deformed minnow cannot really cause offense surely.:-)

I would not fault him for speaking up on behalf of any faith community whether in the UK or elsewhere. As indeed I do not fault our own Pope for doing so. The issue is whether his intervention serves Christ or entrenches error.

At Ragensburg, the Pope delivered a speech that challenged every faith and none. As Pope it is his duty to call out to all men. Is it not the duty of every Christian to do this in accordance with the light and talent and authority given to him?

The fact is the Anglican Communion is the established religion of the UK. Dr Williams does have a right to speak out in matters relating to faith issues. Islam does affect the faith landscape of the UK and how in operates in this country is a matter of concern for him. As the head of the established faith I would not question his right to speak out. However, his intervention does not serve Christ. Islam needs to be firmly controlled. Give it an inch and it takes a mile. By proposing limited Sharia you open the door to full Sharia.

I would be happier to see him argue for the adoption of Christian laws by the secular state (as it should be in a Christian country) than a flight from secular law for faith groups, even if only limited.


Ttony said...

You're spot on, Father. He's trying to speak for people he's no claim on.

Anonymous said...

As an irish anglican cleric who has served in England - and thus been in both an established and dis-established context I agree that we often exhibit frightful swagger and pride. I have always acted on the premise that as we call ourselves Church of Ireland, Church of England and Church in Wales we should be prepared to accept the claims of anyone in the nation who ASKS for them rather than assert any form of rights over the nation.

The Archbishop is a good man seeking to be a peacemaker. Like the wonderful Benedict XVI he has a profound and nuanced mind. Sadly they both inhabit a world of short hand sensationalism.

God has blessed us with these great and prayerful men. I fear for Anglicanism the blessing has come too late.

thank you for you blog Father
Orate ad invincem

Michael Thompson
Clerk in Holy Orders

Caroline said...

Goodness gracious.

If a person in power says "I choose to claim responsibility of spiritual care for x amount of people" regardless of what building of worship those people choose to align themselves with, is it really a matter for concern?

Surely we would be a far kinder and spiritually richer world if all inhabitants chose to give care to others rather than see just how much him/herself could possibly grab for him/herself?

Some people, also, really need to hear themselves speak, regardless of what they have to say. Some people, likewise, appear to need to type as many words as they possibly can to appear clever and as a thoughtful human being.

There is much to be said about going within to find the centre of the universe within oneself. Watch one's breath enter the body, and watch one's breath leave the body.

A quiet self.

How about you all be quiet?

Bet you can't.