The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, argued in his recent Magna Carta lecture against the idea of a fully elected second chamber at Westminster. As the debate about Lords reform continues, political theologian Graeme Smith seeks to show why the Archbishop is wrong to put his faith in an oligarchic form of democracy rather than one based on full electoral accountability.
What seems to have crystallised as the key to Archbishop Rowan Williams’ recent (somewhat early) resignation from his job, and as head of the global Anglican Communion, is the issue of sexuality. But, Alison Jasper suggests, this is part of a wider matrix of power and position connected to the deployment of the discursive category ‘religion’ and to the secular state acquiring a normative status.
Rowan Williams' archbishopric was and is far from perfect, says Simon Barrow. Of course. But if we too readily dismiss the attempts of humane, spiritual and thoughtful people like Dr Williams to point out that our difficulties are not just about someone else’s blockheadedness, we may be nearer the idiocratic realm and further from the hoped-for realm of God and of reason than we think.
Time and again in the midst of "events, dear boy, events" (Harold Macmillan's famous response to an interrogation about what is the biggest difficulty in being Prime Minister), I keep coming back to Dutch theologian Harry Kuitert's observation that while "everything is politics, politics is not everything".
The next Archbishop will be chosen by the great and the good, sprinkled with some local diocesan worthies, observes Graeme Smith. They will weigh up the diverse and competing needs of the Church of England, the Anglican Communion, the British State, and the diocese of Canterbury. They will receive submissions, take soundings and consult widely before reaching their considered opinion. But is not a less oligarchical and hierarchical way forward possible?