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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 17:53 GMT
Dr Rowan Williams: In his own words
Rowan Williams
Rowan Williams has warned the Church could split over gay bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is embroiled in a fresh controversy over his call for the adoption of some aspects of Sharia law in the UK. But it is not the first time he's walked into a political storm.

Here are a sample of Dr Williams' views, in his own words, from speeches, sermons and interviews, on the Iraq war, gay clergy, women priests and other hotly debated issues.


These are difficult days, because the Communion in recent years has had to face the fact that the division on certain subjects, especially sexuality, has been getting much more deep and bitter and threatening to divide us.

My aim is to try and keep people around the table for as long as possible on this.

It's not just about 'nice people' who want to include gay and lesbian Christians and 'nasty people' who want not to include them.

It's about the question, 'What are the forms of behaviour that the Church has the freedom to bless if it wants to be faithful to scripture?'

That's the question that is tearing us apart at the moment because there are real differences of conviction.

16 April 2007 News conference in Toronto shortly before the archbishop addressed the Canadian House of Bishops.


In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop.

If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy.

16 October 2003 Statement following a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion at Lambeth Palace


It is an appointment I have sought neither to promote nor to obstruct.

I was informed that Cannon Jeffrey John was regarded as a highly gifted candidate, was acceptable to the diocese, that he had given explicit assurances on various matters, including his personal circumstances, and his willingness to work loyally in the framework of doctrine and discipline as expressed in issues of human sexuality.

23 June 2003 Letter from the Archbishop to all diocesan and suffragan bishops in England

We have to grasp that Canon John's appointment has brought to light a good deal of unhappiness among people who could by no means be described as extremists, many of whom have willingly testified to their personal respect for Canon John.

6 July 2003 Statement at Lambeth Palace


From the very beginning of this issue I have been a supporter of the ordination of women and have not doubted the rightness of that decision or the blessings it has brought.

It has been a difficult road for the Church and the cost of that decision has been a heavy one and that has been a test.

My convictions mean that I feel nothing less than full support for the decision the Church of England made in 1992.

16 November 2006 Statement by the archbishop in Manchester following reports suggesting he might be having second thoughts on female ordination


We should pray too for those who have to keep on at the task of rebuilding when the dramas of conflict have faded - for our leaders, here and in the US, whose commitment to remaking a deeply traumatised nation has been clearly and repeatedly expressed.

Today is an opportunity for leaders and people alike to renew their promises about this; we have made ourselves accountable for peace and justice in Iraq, and leaders and people alike will indeed be called to account for it.

10 October 2003 Address at the St Paul's Cathedral service of remembrance for those who died in the Iraq war in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair

I said before the war began that I had grave reservations about the morality of it; and as I've said recently, I haven't really been convinced that that case was fully made.

I'm wholly prepared to believe that those who made the decisions made them in good faith - but I think those decisions were flawed and I think the moral and the practical flaws have emerged as time's gone on.

29 December 2006 Interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme

I was never in favour of the invasion of Iraq. I, like others, feared consequences exactly like those that have come to pass.

And whatever one says now about that, it's quite clear that our governments have a very heavy responsibility to see what can be done for these people.

I do think that two things are clear: that the effect on Christian communities in the region was gravely underestimated, and that the scale of the refugee problem was gravely underestimated.

Now what we have at the moment is a refugee problem in the Middle East of almost unprecedented scale.

5 October 2007 Interview with the BBC's Religious Affairs Correspondent Robert Pigott on Radio 4


We are here, where we are and who we are partly because of terrible things that our forbears did.

Face it. Get used to it, and, you know, make that history your history.

While it sounds simple to say, 'All right, so we should pass on the reparation that was received' - exactly to whom? Exactly where does it go? And exactly how does it differ from the various ways in which we try to interact now with the effects of that, in terms of aid and development and so forth?

So I haven't got a quick solution to that. I think we need to be asking the question and working at it. That, I think we're beginning to do.

26 March 2007 Interview with the BBC's Michael Buerk for the Radio 4 programme 'Trade Roots' marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the UK


It's quite clear from all the research figures that gambling is a more and more popular form of addiction in this country; and we must not underrate the seriousness of that.

I'm concerned that although, indeed, this development has been greeted in Manchester as a contribution to regeneration... we can't think of better ways of regenerating deprived areas than by developing within them institutions which may well contribute to the material and spiritual deprivation of the area in the long term.

30 January 2007 News conference


Despite constant talk about recycling and thinking 'green', we're still a society that produces fantastic quantities of waste.

God doesn't do waste.

A culture of vast material waste and emotional short-termism is a culture that is a lot more fragile than it knows. How much investment are we going to put in towards a safer and more balanced future?

A big question. But too big to avoid.

31 January 2007 Archbishop's New Year message


Matthew's gospel doesn't tell us that there were three of them, doesn't tell us they were kings, doesn't tell us where they came from, it says they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire.

That's all we're really told so, yes, 'the three kings with the one from Africa' - that's legend; it works quite well as legend.

You're dealing there with a world in which people watched the stars in order to get a sort of heads up on significant matters and astrologers were quite a growth industry; people who were respected and had a kind of professional technical skill and were respected as such.

The thing here of course is what's the skill about? Well it's all bringing them to Jesus.

19 December 2007 Interview with Simon Mayo, BBC Radio 5 Live

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