' in a If the Head of Our Church Can't Uphold the Standards That Shaped Us, What Hope Is There? 'In a Muddle': Dr Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

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Byline: Lord Tebbit

WHO am I to criticise the Archbishop of Canterbury on the matters of theology, doctrine or what the scriptures mean? After all, I am not a fully paid-up member of the Church of England.

I am, however, a 'fellow traveller' and it is fellow travellers, whether of political parties or churches, whose opinions should be listened to most carefully by the powers that be. If the politicians or bishops offer confident, reasonable leadership, we follow them.

If they look lost, confused and out of touch, we leave in droves.

Dr Rowan Williams is a decent, likeable and intelligent man. But over homosexuality, he seems to be in a terrible muddle, saying different things to different people. Just days after the Anglican Church agreed to call a halt to ordaining gay bishops, a debate in which he sided with the conservative majority, earlier private letters have emerged in which he equates gay sexual relationships to heterosexual marriage.

These letters show that his private views may be rather different and considerably more liberal. And as a result, many of his fellow travellers, I'd assume, are confused as to what their spiritual leader really believes.

There is, of course, nothing new about homosexuality or homosexual priests and I suspect that most people these days will say 'so what?' But the Church of England still has a role to play in upholding the standards and beliefs which have shaped the society in which we live. And for the leader of that institution to appear confused by his moral standpoint is surely disastrous.

The Archbishop might reflect that over the thousands of years since the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus set out the code of ethics on which Christianity was founded, our Western society has been built on the basic, but vital, institution of family.

Not just any old group of people shacked up together for a while, but the exclusive partnership of one man and one woman bearing and bringing up children. That way, the traditions, rules and customs of society have been passed from one generation to the next and children have been cared for in a safe, nurturing and responsible environment.

The Christian West is not alone in following this format. Every lasting civilisation has done so and, for that matter, so have most of the birds and mammals around us. It is, in short, a formula that works.

So why meddle with it? In recent years, the family formula has begun to disintegrate - and with disastrous results. The downgrad- ing of marriage and the shattering of the family unit that has inevitably followed the granting of equivalent status to other forms of partnership are already having an effect on the levels of crime, unhappiness and deprivation among children. …