Archbishop Of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams Defends 'Outspoken' Stance On Sharia Law, Iraq War

"I Sometimes Do Think, I Shouldn't Have Said That'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has defended his outspoken record on issues such as the Iraq war and sharia law, insisting that his role is not to be "too cautious".

Dr Rowan Williams admitted that his decision to speak out over a range of issues including coalition economic policy was at times "risky" but he said this was part of his role as leader of the Church of England.

In a question and answer session following a lecture hosted by the Theos think tank in central London, he admitted: "I do regrets all right."

But he said: "I just don't think that it will do to be too cautious in a job like this, you are here, as is true for any archbishop, you are here to try and say what you believe you have been given to say - by which I don't mean by divine inspiration.

"To try and share a particular picture of what the world is like, what God is like, which of course leads you into sometimes risky and anything but infallible judgments about particular issues of the day."

Dr Williams added that he did not believe that there had been a "golden age" in the history of the Church when it had been free of difficulties.

"There is no golden age in the Church's history, we may think 'oh, it was relatively problem-free then' - one of the advantages in this job of being a Church historian is that you know that is not true," he said.

"When I think I have got problems, I think well at least it is not the fourth century, at least it is not the 17th Century."

Dr Williams, who leaves his post as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of this year, was speaking in central London after giving the Theos annual lecture on human dignity, human relationships and human limits.

Dr Williams' appearance at the lecture comes amidst speculation that the body tasked with appointing his successor, the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), has been unable to reach agreement.

The Church of England issued a statement on Friday saying that its work was continuing in spite of having met three times and interviewing several candidates.

Dr Williams was asked whether he would be disappointed if his successor took a more "guarded" approach to public interventions.

Dr Williams replied: "Looking at the names that have been mentioned as my successor I don't think any of them is going to have that problem frankly."

His remarks and lecture and responses to questions ranged over a series of issues from the Church's attitude to gay people, to abortion and the Occupy anti-capitalist protest outside St Paul's Cathedral.

During his lecture, Dr Williams paid tribute to the Evening Standard newspaper's "outstanding" campaign on youth unemployment in London and its emphasis on promoting apprenticeships.

"I am genuinely delighted that the Evening Standard in its outstanding campaign in the last couple of weeks about youth unemployment in this city has so foregrounded apprenticeships as a simple, practical means forward in addressing what is increasingly a toxic, corrosive problem," he said.


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