Rowan williams

Too many tales of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle

A book about hedgehogs is not the obvious next step for Sarah Sands, the former editor of Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today, and before that editor of the Evening Standard. But then Sands has had a rough time of it lately. In The Hedgehog Diaries, she recounts the death of her father, Noel, the news broken to her by her brother, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, who had to climb through a window of her Norfolk house to do so since she wasn’t answering her phone. Hesketh-Harvey, who was a writer and performer and a great favourite of the King, died not long afterwards of heart failure. Julian Sands, the actor made

The art of changing your mind

Some years ago there was a study at Harvard that tried to find out what people did when they held an incorrect opinion. Not an opinion of the kind that the era happens to deem incorrect, but one that is actually, provably not the case. The study looked at what happened when that factually incorrect view was introduced to the evidence that it was wrong. We might hope that the results would be clear: man holding wrong view meets the right view, immediately throws up his hands and asks himself how he could have been such a dolt. Alas, as anyone who has ever been married will know, people do

Will grandees return their Russian honours?

It’s five days since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and there’s no sign of the pressure letting up. Arms continue to be exported across Europe to aid Kiev’s war effort while financial penalties continue to be applied. The latest sanctions levied against Russian banks include cutting them off from Visa and Mastercard, and consequently Apple Pay and Google Pay.   But it’s not just in the military, diplomatic and economic spheres that Moscow is being targeted. Cultural boycotts threaten to wreck Russia’s aspirations of World Cup glory in Qatar this summer while Eurovision has also announced the country will not be welcome. One act of individual defiance is the return of honours given by Putin’s state to notable

Interview: Rowan Williams on Wales, independence and the King Lear of Westminster

Rowan Williams is no stranger to politics. As Archbishop of Canterbury he was as comfortable criticising Tony Blair over Iraq as passing stern judgment on David Cameron’s austerity measures. Even in these pages, at the height of the global crisis in 2008, Williams was arguing that Marx could teach us a thing or two about financial markets. Still, in recent weeks it just might be that he has embarked one of his most controversial projects yet: a commission to help define Wales’ constitutional future in the UK. As the spectre of Scottish independence haunts Westminster and Welsh nationalism gains momentum, it is a timely mission. In October, Williams was unveiled as head

A new low: Charlie Hebdo’s murdered staff receive an ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ award

I have always treated the ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ event with the scorn it deserves. Not least because each year this fantasy prize for a fantasy concept is run by a British Khomeinist organisation laughably named the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission.’  The nominees include anybody opposed to the agenda of Islamic extremists, including Muslims.  Of course each year, whilst laughing at it, those of us who are regular nominees also regard it as being to our great good fortune that the IHRC is a British charity operating in the United Kingdom rather than an Islamic charity operating in an Islamic country.  If the latter were the case then rather than laughing

Justin Welby defends Rowan Williams against Spectator’s criticism

We at 22 Old Queen Street have never been great fans of Rowan Williams. At a time when strong ecclesiastical leadership was needs he served up abstract, pew-emptying waffle. But as this week’s leading article in the magazine argues, his successor Justin Welby has taken a more subtle, serious and successful approach — which bears fruit, as we saw last week with the government’s crackdown on the most sharkish of the payday lenders. ‘Welby’s intelligence on financial matters stands in direct contrast with that of his predecessor, Rowan Williams, whose pronouncements on current affairs so often came across as those of a lofty professor who had found himself in the wrong lecture hall. Straying

At last! An Archbishop of Canterbury recognises that Islamists slaughter Christians

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has just issued a statement about the slaughter of Christians in Iraq that is both brave and perfectly judged. What an outstanding representative of English Christianity he is turning out to be – in sorry contrast to his predecessor. Here is the section of Archbishop Welby’s statement that illustrates his keen judgment. It makes clear that he does not think that Christian lives are worth more than those of Yazidis or Muslims. (The ordained Anglican priest Chris Bryant MP accused me of believing this when I asked him on Twitter today why, in common with many liberal Christians, he had remained silent on the

The life of a former ABC

Steerpike is back in this week’s magazine. As ever, here is your preview: ‘”A Cambridge student reports this snippet from a Sainsbury’s checkout. ‘Is that a Lord of the Rings pendant?’ asked a white-haired shopper, pointing to an ornament dangling from the student’s neck. ‘Yes, it’s a replica of the One Ring,’ replied the student. ‘Ah’ said his inquisitor. ‘I thought so. I’m more of a Game of Thrones man myself.’ The white-haired shopper? Rowan Williams.” Subscribers, you can read the rest of the column here. Non-subscribers, you can join us today for as little as £1 an issue.

Debating Richard Dawkins

I spent Thursday evening at the Cambridge Union debating the motion ‘This House believes religion has no place in the 21st century.’ I spoke against the motion. My opponents on the opposite side included Richard Dawkins. My opponents on my own side were Rowan Williams and Tariq Ramadan. Anyhow – there has been a certain amount of press coverage and a number of readers have got in touch. This is just to say that I hope to post the video of the debate here as soon as it becomes available. UPDATE: Video of the debate is available here.

Fraser Nelson

Sentamu for Canterbury!

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is our cover boy this week. It’s the Church of England Synod next week, word is that Rowan Williams will be standing down soon, and Rod Liddle is backing Sentamu as his successor. When planning the headline, I thought about calling him the ‘British Obama’. We didn’t use this, as it’s not a compliment — but if Britain is to have a figure who epitomises our country’s inherent tolerance and open-mindedness I’d pick Sentamu above anyone else in public life. If he was made Archbishop, I really don’t think there would be an uproar about the fact that he’s black, or even that he

Christians persecuted this Christmas

I hope all readers had a happy and peaceful Christmas. As this is the first day back at the office for most of us, I thought I would cheer everyone up with how Christians around the world experienced the period. Here is what Christians in Indonesia had to put up with. In Egypt a prominent cleric issued genocidal threats against the country’s Christians, and taunted them: ‘What do you think — that America will protect you? Let’s be very clear, America will not protect you. If so, it would have protected the Christians of Iraq when they were being butchered!’ Meanwhile, in post-Arab Spring Tunisia, the locals were warned by

From the archives: Rowan Williams on capitalism and idolatry

To mark today’s news that Rowan Williams will be stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury, here’s a piece he wrote for The Spectator during the financial crash of 2008: Rowan Williams, Face it: Marx was partly right about capitalism, 24 September 2008 Readers of Anthony Trollope will remember how thoughtless and greedy young men in the Victorian professions can be lured into ruin by accepting ‘accommodation bills’ from their shifty acquaintances. They make themselves liable for the debts of others; and only too late do they discover that they are trapped in a web of financial mechanics that forces them to pay hugely inflated sums for obligations or services they

Where Rowan went wrong

Rowan Williams will step down at the end of 2012, having been Primate of All England for a decade. It is already clear that his term of office has been disastrous. Church people have affection for him, respect even. He is not blamed for the disaster, since he is only doing a job he was asked to do — not one he sought. He was a bishop of the Church in Wales almost by accident, because of his academic fame, not because he had ever wanted to be a career bishop. Nobody has accused him of ambition, though there is perhaps a little vanity there — about his poetry and

Rod Liddle

Sentamu’s the right man for the job

A few weeks ago, in a cover piece for the magazine, Rod Liddle backed John Sentamu as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Given that Rowan Williams announced his resignation today, here’s that article again: Who shall be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, do you suppose? They are jockeying for position at the moment, suffused with godliness and the distinct suspicion that old beardie has had more than enough and may wish to shuffle off to a warm university sinecure some time soon. The more cynical among you might not give a monkey’s and, indeed, suggest that jockeying for position to inherit Rowan’s mantle is akin to jockeying within the Romanov

Freddy Gray

A kind man stands down

So goodbye, Rowan. The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that he will stand down at the end of the year (leaving Britain bereft of bearded authority figures). Inevitably, people will say he failed. The Anglican Communion is at war with itself over gays and women bishops and the place of religion in a secular multi-cultural society, and he has been unable to broker any kind of peace.   But it is important to acknowledge that — even if, for all his intelligence, he often struggled to express himself clearly — Dr Williams is widely respected as a good and graceful man. I interviewed him a few years ago, and he was

Cameron: a leader in need of ‘a people’

One of the odd things about David Cameron is that he wants to be a consensual radical. Unlike Margaret Thatcher he doesn’t want to have ‘a people’, a section of the electorate that is loyal to him personally. Rather he wants to be seen as a unifying national figure. He is, to borrow a phrase from The Economist, a ‘one nation radical’ But Cameron’s persona doesn’t mean that the left aren’t going to fight him with everything they’ve got. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s assault on the coalition today in the New Statesman is a classic example of the kind of opposition he is going to face. (If you read the

Softly, softly

As I argued this morning, the Rowan Williams furore will be sustained if the government over-reacts. So far, so softly from Downing Street: ministers and prominent MPs have been across the airwaves this morning and no one has taken the so-called nuclear option. As you can see below, the responses have been mild. Paul Goodman observes that this is because the PM ‘doesn’t get too worked up’ about this sort of media conflagration. Here’s a brief selection of what Cameron’s lieutenants have said to counter Dr. Williams’ incandescence: Matthew Hancock: “It’s just slightly odd that he’s made these arguments which, in some cases, are simply incorrect, when it comes to

The turbulent priest

“Nowadays politicians want to talk about moral issues, and bishops want to talk politics,” said Sir Humphrey. This week’s New Statesman has been guest edited by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In his lead editorial, Dr Rowan Williams has launched a brutally eloquent assault on the coalition for embarking on a programme of radical reform for which, he claims, there is no mandate. With particular reference to the health and education reforms, Williams says: “With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted. At the very least, there is an understandable anxiety about what democracy means in such a context.” Not for the first

The Archbishop’s attack

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention in the welfare debate isn’t going to change anyone views of the politics of the Church of England’s hierarchy. But what struck me was how even Archbishop is now using fair as shorthand for moral and right. IDS’ proposals do strike me as fair. They both offer long-term claimants a way to return to the routines and disciplines of a job while also creating an appropriate level of pressure to find work. One fascinating thing to watch is how often the Archbishop will speak out explicitly against government policies. Are we heading for a re-run of the 80s and all the controversies caused by Faith