Rowan Williams and sharia

Now that the dust has settled a little, I thought it worthwhile to gather together some of the more interesting contributions to a debate generally characterised by hysteria and a steadfast refusal to engage with detail. Any other contributions to this compendium gratefully received.

The lecture itself
I happened to be in the audience for Dr Williams’ lecture, the text of which may be found on his own site, along with his subsequent address to the General Synod. It was (unfortunately) trailed by an interview on the BBC earlier that day. At the time I thought the lecture to be carefully argued and, whilst dense, only so far as is necessary to deal with a complex matter.

The Archbishop and the media
Much has been made of Williams’ supposed naivety, and the quality or otherwise of his press officers’ advice. I agree with Madeleine Bunting (Guardian 9th Feb) and Giles Fraser (Guardian 12th Feb) that, whilst he and his staff were reported as being taken aback at the ferocity of the reaction, he was well aware (as he hinted in the questions after the lecture) of the possible reactions, but that he is (rightly in my view) unprepared to succumb entirely to what a Guardian editorial described as the ‘simplicity complex’ in our media (9/2/08): difficult issues need to be addressed, and it will take time and patience to do so properly. Not everything can be boiled down into simple slogans.

Church and state
On the issue itself, I note a number of commentators who detected a manoeuvre on behalf of all faiths in a lecture ostensibly about Islam, which led all three in various ways to call for an equalisation downwards before the law – by means, explictly or implicitly, of the completion of the disestablishment of the Church of England: [Andrew Anthony, Guardian 12/2/08; Matthew Parris, Times 9/2/08; Janet Daley, Telegraph 11/2/08.]
One of the more interesting engagements with the detail of what was proposed came from Thom Dyke on the Prospect website.

The Archbishop and the church
Much was made of the calls for Williams to resign, but it is clear that these came mostly from those who have been unhappy about him from the beginning. On the response from his predecessor: George Carey’s article for the News of the World is actually more supportive than was widely reported, but the key word he used was ‘disastrous’, and was the News of the World really the place for his intervention ? (now on the website under the strapline ‘Hapless prelate’s Sharia views condemned by Lord Carey’)
There have however been some more favourable evangelical responses: see Jonathan Chaplin and more tangentially Andrew Goddard on the ‘open evangelical’ Fulcrum site.

[7 Sep 2015: some of the links in this post have been updated to refer to the Internet Archive where content has disappeared from the live web.]

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