Archbishop of Canterbury: "My successor needs a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other"

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said today that his successor was going to have to map the Biblical vision of humanity and community onto the worst situations in society.

Canadian ACC-15 delegates with Archbishop of Canterbury: L-R Dean Peter Elliott, Bishop Sue Moxley, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Suzanne Lawson. ACNS
Canadian ACC-15 delegates with Archbishop of Canterbury: L-R Dean Peter Elliott, Bishop Sue Moxley, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Suzanne Lawson. ACNS

Speaking at the final media conference after the end of the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand, Archbishop Williams said the issues discussed at the meeting–including environmental change and ending domestic violence–were “actually questions about what kind of humanity we’re seeking to promote and serve, which is a deeply Christian question.”

He said he thought that when people were probing the church on certain issues, they were actually asking how the church could help them “be really human”.

“We believe as a church we have unparalleled resources for enriching humanity that way.”

In response to a question about what qualities the next Archbishop of Canterbury needs to have, he quoted Karl Barth who he described as “the greatest theologian of the 20th century.”

“I think it was put very well by a theologian of the last century who said, ‘You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other’.

“You have to be cross-referencing all the time and saying ‘How does the vision of humanity and community that’s put before us in the Bible map onto these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?’ And you have to use what you read in the newspaper to prompt and direct the questions that you put to the Bible: ‘Where is this going to help me?’

“So [regarding the qualities of his successor] I think somebody who likes reading the Bible and likes reading newspapers would be a good start!”

In this last ever press conference as the President of the ACC, The Archbishop of Canterbury also told the gathered media that the members of the ACC had had “a really quite remarkably constructive couple of weeks together.”

In answer to questions from the media about the progress that ACC made over their time at Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, Abp Williams mentioned, among other topics, the resolution regarding the protocols for Christian witness in a plural world. The resolution had been endorsed by the ACC that morning.

“We don’t manipulate, we don’t bully, we don’t undermine; we try to engage in dialogue, and it would have been good to have bit more time to anchor that in specific situations…but everybody knows the difficulties in certain situations, in Nigeria, in Sri Lanka where the church is up against very violent opposition sometimes. But even so we wanted affirm those principles.”

He said that the pattern of the ACC meeting, held between 27 October and today (7 November) had been about drawing up a “policy picture for the Communion as well as some quite intensive work on where it’s going to be practical in regions and nations.”

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