There are still ten days to go but it is probably already safe to name as The Understatement Of The Year the following observation made yesterday by Ruth Lea of the Institute of Directors about Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury: “I have the feeling he is going to turn out to be a highly controversial person.” In spades, one might add. Although he has not yet taken possession of his Archbishopric, Dr Williams has already declared his opposition to war against Iraq and alienated some conservative sections of his Church with his views on homosexuals and women priests. In his BBC Dimbleby Lecture on Wednesday he took on Mammon and asked whether big business and the Church could ever co-exist; he argued that religion needed to be present at the heart of the State, giving moral guidance on economics and politics which, he believes, are in need of just such a compass. But Masden Pirie, the president of the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think-tank, said of these ideas: “If we attempt to use religion to guide economic or political choices then we are no better than a Muslim state. The Archbishop is going to get us into very serious problems.” One thing seems clear. The new Archbishop is going to stir up debate about the place of religion in the modern state and the global community and he will not mind upsetting some people in the course of doing so. This is to be welcomed. Things are going to be much more lively and interesting with him around.

MONITOR

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