Archbishop battles ‘Big Society’

The Archbishop of Canterbury is at odds with PM David Cameron’s vision for Britain

Archbishop battles ‘Big Society’

Ho New/Reuters

Touching off a decidedly old-school debate, the head of the Church of England took Britain’s coalition government to task last week, accusing it of imposing “radical policies for which no one voted” on its electorate. In an article titled “The government needs to know how afraid people are” in last week’s issue of the New Statesman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, criticized reforms to health, education and welfare being implemented by the government led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The PM shot back in a news conference: “The Archbishop of Canterbury is entirely free to express political views,” but “I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed.”

Williams was particularly critical of Cameron’s “Big Society” policy—a plan to have volunteer and charity groups play a crucial role in delivering social services—insisting that key questions about how it would work remain unanswered and calling the slogan itself “painfully stale.” Cameron was unmoved: “I’m absolutely convinced that our policies are about actually giving people greater responsibility and greater chances in their life, and I will defend those very vigorously.”


Archbishop battles ‘Big Society’

  1. Why is anybody even listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury? It’s because Britain has a state church, the Church of England, while other countries have managed to achieve some kind of separation of church and state. I think part of Britain’s problem is that they have many antiquated institutions, of which the monarchy and the Church of England are only part. Why do we in Canada have a governor general to represent the Queen of England? Nothing against David Johnston, but if we have to have somebody to christen ships, maybe he or she should be a President of Canada. 

    • “Why is anybody even listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury?” and “Why do we in Canada have a governor general to represent the Queen of England?” are worthy questions.  But why does your quest for modernity preclude continuation of all traditions?  Must we cut ourselves off from our predecessors to establish our own identity?

      • I’m not against all traditions. One tradition I like is the carriage ride that newleds in Quebec City take around the Basse-Ville. But that’s something that the French do, not the English. Canada may have no choice but to elect a President to perform the ceremonial functions, if Brits come to loathe Prince William the way they seem to loathe Prince Charles and abolish the monarchy. 

        • Your forecast may be right, and that the monarchy is barely hanging on by the Anglican church prayer/anthem “God save the Queen.”

          I perceive that the French appreciate the divine through beauty in nature through their traditions in food, music, art… the aesthetic senses.  But when traditions lose sight of what they are meant to pass on, why punish the tradition instead of those who fail to perform it for its true purpose?

          I prefer a democracy where those elected into power minister to the country rather than presiding over it.

          • Sophia,

            My ideal of a presidency is not what they have in the U.S., and certainly not what they have in France, where the President is practically an emperor! I prefer the German model, where the President’s functions are largely ceremonial, limited to opening parliament and asking the leader of the majority party to form a government. Or the Indian model, which is the same as the German. 

            I believe that the head of government in Canada should remain the Prime Minister, whether Canada had a president or a governor-general. Bear in mind, even if Canada became a republic instead of a dominion, it could still remain in the Commonwealth of Nations, of which India is also a member.

            I am not against tradition per se. For example, I would never say that a woman should not wear the virginal white gown of the bride on her wedding just because she had slept with her fiancé before their wedding night, even though the white gown symbolized “purity” at one time.  

            However, I believe that the monarchy in Britain is a useless institution, and the members of the Royal Family should just get jobs rather than live on the dole at the public’s expense. I believe that one day Brits will see things as I do. 

          • I’m not sure how an elected president could embody the kind of moral authority that the monarchy bestows upon the government, because the president’s authority is given by the government.

            The monarchy consists of imperfect people, but at least for the current monarch, it is trying to represent the aspirations for an ideal in which it believes the grace of God to be for all people — for that to be possible, the monarch does not have supreme rule. All are equal before God the supreme ruler. Yet, church and state are still separate with democracy — democracy comes into play with the realization that no one individual can dictate what God’s will is for another individual.

            I think the current system we have is the more honest representation of reality (perhaps because of the time that it has had to mature).  I do hope the monarchy is valued and supported appropriately for its services for those who wish to be in the dominion of such a God.

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