The news sites in Britain and the church blogs are lighting up with the news of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s newest essay in which he attacks the cuts being made to the social welfare nets in England.
As the Economist puts it:
“IN A country as secular as modern Britain, it is not every day that the Archbishop of Canterbury (the avuncular-looking bearded chap last seen officiating at the Royal Wedding) leads the BBC news bulletins. Rowan Williams has pulled it off this morning, though, via a startlingly direct attack on the coalition government in a guest editorial for the New Statesman.”
Here’s a taste of the Archbishop’s essay in the New Statesman:
Government badly needs to hear just how much plain fear there is around such questions at present. It isn’t enough to respond with what sounds like a mixture of, “This is the last government’s legacy,” and, “We’d like to do more, but just wait until the economy recovers a bit.” To acknowledge the reality of fear is not necessarily to collude with it. But not to recognise how pervasive it is risks making it worse. Equally, the task of opposition is not to collude in it, either, but to define some achievable alternatives. And, for that to happen, we need sharp-edged statements of where the disagreements lie.
The uncomfortable truth is that, while grass-roots initiatives and local mutualism are to be found flourishing in a great many places, they have been weakened by several decades of cultural fragmentation. The old syndicalist and co-operative traditions cannot be reinvented overnight and, in some areas, they have to be invented for the first time.
Reaction is to his criticism is divided. Many of the right, and members of the coalition government, are questioning what right he has to voice this criticism. He has his defenders, but there’s sense on the left of exasperation that his lack of action on other justice issues raises the question of why it’s this particular issue that’s he’s chosen to speak out upon. (The BBC has coverage of the divided reactions here, as well a discussion of other recent criticisms of the government by the Church of England.)
Google collects all the articles into one meta-page thusly.
The Church Mouse has a piece defending Williams arguing that he doesn’t say the things he’s been accused of saying.
There is a certain irony in all of this given the Archbishop’s clear push for the adoption of an Anglican Covenant; the process of which has been criticized for not spending enough time listening to the local voices, hearing of the local contexts and giving more people a chance to voice their concerns. Perhaps like Her Majesty’s government, the leaders of the Anglican Communion need to hear “just how much plain fear there is around such questions at present.”