The Thick of It

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury really matter?

There has been a lot of brouhaha about the Archbishop of Canterbury's political comments today. It has been the leading story on most news sites. Does this mean anything and does it show that the Church of England is still important socially and politically?

I don't think it does. I think the level of news space given to Rowan Williams' comments owes everything to the media desire to open up a political debate rather than the status of the church. Clearly the church has some status, otherwise Williams' comments would have passed us all by and they didn't.
Williams' comments have held the government to account to some extent. First Vince Cable and now David Cameron have defended their government's record.

I remember the then Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie criticising Margaret Thatcher’s (lack of ) social policy in the late 1980s. Then as now it will do nothing unless the attack resonates with enough ordinary people to create political change. If the church really had status it could do that. As much as I agree with Williams, I don't expect that to happen.

The church getting involved in politics reminds me of Prince Charles commenting on modern architecture. It triggers a debate but a few days later everyone settles down again and forgets all about it.

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