Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, was lecturing politicians in his Wilberforce lecture in Hull last night on the importance of rediscovering their moral energy. He also stressed the necessity of C of E bishops retaining their position in the House of Lords to continue offering "independent moral comment". Meanwhile, central Africa's Anglican bishops have taken a different moral line by saying the west ought to give Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, a break and lift sanctions. Their number includes the Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, a Mugabe crony accused by parishioners of inciting murder and seizing land, in contrast to the call by the country's Catholic bishops for Mugabe to stand down. No sign yet that our archbishop plans to disinvite them from next year's Lambeth conference.James Graham captures my thoughts to a T:
Rowan Williams, like so many other public figures over the past couple of months, sought to co-opt William Wilberforce in a speech yesterday. In an act of stupendous logical contortion, he uses Wilberforce, an elected politician (albeit in an era of rotten boroughs) as a tool for his argument against reforming the House of Lords:Well, I'm not sure I'd go so far as that last phrase. But the ABC eviscerates his own argument when his policy recommendation is to leave seats for C of E Bishops in the House of Lords. If there is a place for the voice of religion in government why should it only be the voice of the Church of England? Let's have a competition of voices.“It is important in our current debates about the Upper House of Parliament we take seriously the role of such a House in offering channels of independent moral comment”I wouldn’t dream of claiming that Wilberforce was a secularist, but it has to be pointed out that it wasn’t the Bishops in the Lords that lead the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade. And they aren’t providing moral leadership in the House of Lords today - indeed, they barely deign to show up at all. There may well be a decline of moral leadership in modern politics today, but that is helped, not hindered, by a church which desperately clings to unelected and unaccountable power and evangelises about the desirability for us to adopt an Anglican version of the caliphate.