Among the politicians who have come to know him over the past few months, there was celebration yesterday, and from all benches. He was invited to join the banking commission with cross-party support, as he was a capitalist who was tough on the City. “In a dark sea of thick and wholly unworldly bishops, he sparks a little,” says one MP. “Talking to the bishops in Parliament seldom leaves you with the impression that they believe in God. I think this one actually might.” The only concern was that he might be too religious for the job.
No one would question the strength of Rowan Williams’s faith. But when he joined fights, they tended to be secular ones: criticising the Government over its cuts, or giving his blessing to environmentalist campaigns. The logic of this is undeniable: that to keep its relevance in the modern world, the Church needs to insert itself into popular debates. But decline continued, each Sunday brings a new closure and the British Social Attitudes survey found that 64 per cent of people never set foot in any place of worship. Dr Williams has had to keep the Church alive in one of the least religious countries on earth.