In my last post, I wrote that:

“It is possible…that the comments made by the Archbishop yesterday were a rallying cry to those same people of faith to stand up for their rights and stake a claim within the British legal system using Muslims as his shield to deflect the (limited?) criticism that his words would no doubt attract at the same time as bringing this vociferous community ‘on side’. Unfortunately for him, neither of these strategies have worked and in the main, the Archbishop has left himself looking like a dead man walking.”

Well maybe I had a point because it seems, towards the end of the Archbishop’s address to the General Synod today that he was himself, suggesting with some ‘unclarity’ (is that a real word?) something quite similar. As he put it:

“[things] cannot necessarily be taken quite so easily for granted as the assumptions of our society become more secular.

I think we ought to keep an eye on this trend, and if we do we shall have to do more thinking about the models of society and law we work with.

It’s an area where Christians and people of other faiths ought to be doing some reflecting together.”

More pertinently though he goes on:

“Well, much more could be said, but I wanted simply to offer a bit more of a framework for thinking about this controversy.

As I implied earlier, part of both the burden and the privilege of being the Church we are in the nation we’re in is that we are often looked to for some coherent voice on behalf of all the faith communities living here.

And that is a considerable privilege, and I hope we can use it well – however clumsily it may have been deployed in this instance.

If we can attempt to speak for the liberties and consciences of others in this country as well as our own, we shall I believe be doing something we as a Church are called to do in Christ’s name, witnessing to his Lordship and not compromising it”

It is the recognition by Williams that “we are often looked to for some coherent voice on behalf of all the faith communities” that confirms my suspicions from the previous post. As with that other master of ‘unclarity’ Prince Charles, it seems that the Archbishop is inferring that he wishes to be a voice or figurehead for faiths (rather than solely the Anglican Christian faith) in a similar way that Prince Charles’ proposed his being a ‘defender of faiths’ rather than ‘faith’ (or the Anglican Christian faith again).

Possibly something else that was overlooked in his address was how he described his actions and comments as part of his “witnessing”. ‘Witness’ and ‘witnessing’ in Christian discourse are somewhat specific and can – from an external perspective at least – be quite loaded in terms of understanding and interpretation. Without wishing to speculate what the Archbishop meant when he spoke of ‘witnessing, some insight may be gleaned from the worldwide Anglican Communion’s website. There the Communion note how:

“Mission is the creating, reconciling and transforming action of God, flowing from the community of love found in the Trinity, made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus, and entrusted to the faithful action and witness of the people of God who, in the power of the Spirit, are a sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God”

Without opening a whole new can of worms or indeed suggesting even more ‘unclarity’, but is the Archbishop now suggesting that his attempts to reach out and be a “coherent voice” for other faith communities has a missonary purpose underpinning it?

Maybe it is about time that Dr Williams took a leaf out of Alistair Campbell’s book and heeded the advice that he once gave the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair: “We don’t do God”.

Unfortunately for the Archbishop, it’s all part of the job description.


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