The astonishing misrepresentation of Archbishop Rowan in virtually all newspapers over the last few days, and the scorn and anger which this has fueled, have caused many people within the church to ask what on earth is going on. The issues are complex, but let me try to highlight the key points.
Obviously it would be good for people to read the whole lecture, which is available on line at his website together with further clarification. There is an excellent summary and discussion of the whole issue by Andrew Goddard available on the Fulcrum website.
First, the lecture which Rowan gave was the start of a series organized by and for the legal profession, about the nature of law. He was not making a public statement about his belief in Jesus (people have asked me ”˜why doesn’t he speak about Jesus?’ and the answer is ”˜he does, a great deal of the time, but this wasn’t that sort of occasion’). He was addressing some of the most serious and far-reaching questions which face us both in Britain and throughout western culture, and was doing so with the sensitivity and intellectual rigor which the occasion, and his audience, rightly demanded. We should be grateful that we have an Archbishop capable of such work, not demand that his every word be instantly comprehensible by the casual uninformed onlooker. If I ask someone to fix my car, or my computer, I don’t expect to understand everything they say about the technicalities; rather, I’m glad someone out there knows what’s going on and can do what’s necessary.
Second, the fundamental issue he was addressing is the relation between the law of the land and the religious conscience of the citizen…