Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bishop of Lincoln says don't bash the Archbish...

The Bishop of Lincoln is the latest senior clergyman to publicly disagree with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s calls for aspects of Islamic Law to be incorporated into the British legal system.

The ill-judged comments by the Archbishop (pictured, right) have plunged the Church of England into deep crisis and over the weekend he has faced growing demands to quit his post.

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend John Saxbee questions the Archbishop’s fundamental premise and agrees he may have been naïve in his thinking: but he says we should be thankful we have him.

I’ve not seen the Bishop of Lincoln’s comments published elsewhere, so I post them in full below.

Many church leaders have attempted to blame the tabloids for sensational or inaccurate reporting of the Archbishop's views on Islam. Certainly, no-one could accuse The Sun of balanced reporting of the issue...

They showed their outrage and lack of reverence for the Archbishop's views with a screaming headline What a Burkha. And they’ve followed up with an online game inviting readers to Bash the Bishop.

But any serious attempt to scapegoat the media for the deep mess the Archbishop finds himself in was blown out of the water today by his predecessor.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Lord George Carey delivers the most damaging blow yet to Dr Williams’ chances of survival.

Lord Carey bluntly says of his successor:

His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation. He has overstated the case for accommodating Islamic legal codes.

His conclusion that Britain will eventually have to concede some place in law for aspects of sharia is a view I cannot share.

There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights.
I’m grateful to Vicar of Deeping St James, the Rev. Mark Warrick for placing the words of the Bishop of Lincoln on the Deepings Exchange.

Bishop John writes:
Dear Friends,

The last few days have been difficult for Christians in this country and for the Church of England in particular. Some members of our Churches have been angered by the Archbishop's views, some welcome them as a thoughtful contribution to debate, whilst I imagine the majority are bewildered both by his lecture and the storm of controversy it has engendered.

What is to be done?

First of all, we need to celebrate the fact that we have an Archbishop who is still prepared to treat people in this country as adults. The issues he was discussing in his lecture are complex and vitally important. They could be presented in a simplistic way, and often are. But the tabloids must not intimidate us into trivialising matters which deserve more studied attention.

Of course, there are those who are themselves intimidated by the Archbishop's intellect and their default position is to lampoon him rather than actually engage with his argument and respond appropriately and intelligently.

Was he naïve not to realise that this would be the case? Perhaps, but let us be proud and grateful that the leader of our Church at this time is a good, Godly and gifted man who can see further and delve deeper than most leaders in our society seem able to do.

As for my own position, I want to question his fundamental premise that because our legal system currently accommodates the consciences of Christians and Jews it must automatically accommodate aspects of Sharia Law and, by implication, a myriad of other faith-based codes as well.

The Judeao-Christian tradition has legitimated and helped to fashion the fundamentals of our legal system, and accommodating itself to a range of Jewish and Christian conscientiously held principles is not likely to destabilise it. But I remain to be convinced that this would be so if elements of Sharia Law were to be accommodated into the framework of the British legal system.

However, I have to admit that this is the first time I have really felt the need to think hard about this issue and I am grateful to the Archbishop for that. The way he has done it may have stirred up a hornet's nest but the outcry suggests that it was not a nest which could be left undisturbed for much longer.

Meanwhile, we continue to reach out to people of all faiths and none as we wrestle with issues of inclusiveness and social cohesion. For me, multi- culturalism has little to commend it, and I favour a more cosmopolitan approach to cultural diversity. This can enable different cultural characteristics and lifestyles to mutually enrich one another, whilst people of different backgrounds remains committed to the fundamental legal and constitutional frameworks which bind us together in a free and fair democracy.

This approach sits well with a theology of interdependence which should characterise relationships between human beings all made in the image of God. It is a complicated vision to pursue at a time when so many seek for single and straightforward solutions which can be captured in a screaming headline. Thank God we have an Archbishop who calls us to reason together rather than rant at each other - and to love God with all our mind as well as with all our heart, soul and strength.

John Lincoln
Meanwhile, the Lincolnshire Echo reports that a Lincolnshire artist has portrayed Lincoln Cathedral as a mosque in protest at the Archbishop’s comments

For anyone interested in what the Archbishop actually said to kick off such a firestorm, here's the BBC interview with Dr Williams, which he gave in advance of his controversial speech.

For those unsure about what the Archbishop was talking about, The Daily Telegraph explains Sharia Law.

And here’s a thoughtful reflection on the controversy in today’s Observer.


Anonymous said...

This is another example of the Church of England becioming more and more Liberal by the day.

Rowan Williams looks like a geek, sounds like a geek and therefore must be a geek so lets kick him out!

fairdealphil said...

Thanks for Tory policy on geeks Geoffrey.

fairdealphil said...

do you think he should be stoned or have his hands removed...?

No. Don't even think about it...