Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Disappointed in Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams has always seemed like he has the potential to be a great Christian leader. There's a lot of great things about him. But he has disappointed me.

He spoke recently about whether he had let down GLBT people in his time as Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. But it actually wasn't this issue that has disappointed me. It was only reading about this talk in an article recently that I realised something that happened several months ago: he has become a member of the House of Lords.

I'm quite disappointed in that. A few years he spoke at the University of Manchester and his talk was, of course, excellent. He spoke about the place of the Christian community as offering a radical alternative to the mainstream society - witnessing to a different set of values than the materialism, hierarchy etc of society (this is from memory so I'm just recalling a rough impression of what he said).

I got up at the end of the talk and asked a question. I said that I totally agreed with everything he said - it's just that I didn't see the leadership of the Church of England living it out. It seemed to me, I said, that unelected bishops sitting in the House of Lords "lording it over" the country was in direct contradiction to everything he had just talked about for the last hour.

His answer was equivocal. He just sort of shrugged and said, "well this is the system we've inherited and we've got to work within it." It seemed bishops in the House of Lords was something he didn't want to defend.

But to find out he has accepted his own seat in the House of Lords, again seems like a betrayal of the values he can and does articulate so well. As Archbishop of Canterbury of course he had a seat, which you could argue just comes with the job; but to accept a personal seat to this unelected illegitimate chamber seems like another betrayal of those Christian values.

All political parties agreed in principle to reform the House of Lords and this government has not only failed to do so, but stuffed the house with more and more and more peers. Rowan Williams has come in as part of a wave of unelected peers that is making the House of Lords even more laughable in a modern democracy. There are currently about 750 peers with a chance under the current system of this going up to 2000. This is not only clearly impractical as a way to run a Parliament, it is also a system based on party patronage, privilege, and unaccountable power.

How I wish someone as respected and well known as Rowan Williams could have witnessed to Christian values by refusing to be a part of such a system.