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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Church must 'capture the imagination'
Dr Williams and his wife Jane at Church House, London
Dr Williams and his wife Jane at Church House, London
This is the full text of the address given by Dr Rowan Williams on the announcement that he is to be the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Recent months and recent weeks have been a very strange time.

It's a curious experience to have your future discussed, your personality, childhood influences and facial hair solemnly examined in the media and opinions you didn't know you held expounded on your behalf.

But in spite of the haze of speculation, it's still something of a shock to find myself here coming to terms with an enormous trust placed in my hands and with the inevitable sense of inadequacy that goes with it.

But the primary job for me remains what it has always been:

'Challenge and comfort'

I have to go on being a priest and a bishop. That is to celebrate God and what God has done in Jesus and to offer in God's name whatever I can discern of God's perspective on the world around, something which involves both challenge and comfort.

I've loved being a diocesan bishop and I look forward enormously to working with the clergy and people of the dioceses of Canterbury.

Because even with the responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury it is important, I believe, to be grounded in the hopes and concerns of ordinary local Christians.

But I now have to learn a good many new things as well.


I don't come to this task with a fixed programme or agenda

How to speak of God in this very public position in the middle of a culture which, while it may show a great deal of nostalgia, fascination and even hunger for the spiritual, is generally sceptical of Christianity and the Church.

And also how to speak for and with the worldwide Christian family, an Anglican communion that currently faces its share of challenges.

But I have happy recollections of working with other members of the Primates Meeting and I will be writing to all the Primates in the next 24 hours to greet them and to ask for their prayers.

Now I don't come to this task with a fixed programme or agenda.

Gift of God

I'm a theologian by training and I've been a teacher of theology for a lot of my ministry and teachers of theology tend to have views on all sorts of things and they have to engage with colleagues and students who hold very varied opinions.

But no pastor or bishop holds a post in which their first task is to fight for the victory of their personal judgements as if those were final or infallible.

My first task is that of any ordained teacher which is to point to the source without which none of our activity would make sense - the gift of God as it is set before us in the Bible and Christian belief.


The present Archbishop of Canterbury has provided a fine model

And within the boundaries set by that, to try and help members of the Anglican family make sense to each other and to work together for the honest and faithful sharing of our belief.

I hope though, that some of my experience as a theologian might be helpful and I've also greatly valued conversations over the years with those rather on the edges of the church.

Ministry of reconciliation

People in the worlds of the arts, medicines, psychology and so on, who are eager to explore what Christian faith means.

There can be all sorts of gifts and surprises in such meetings and I hope they will continue.

The present Archbishop of Canterbury has provided a fine model of such listening and interpreting, though he has also shown how deeply demanding this vocation can be if it is followed consistently.

I'm genuinely grateful for all he has done in shaping the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a ministry of reconciliation and mission.


I long to see Christianity in this country able to capture the imagination of our culture

And I hope to follow him in this as best I can.

It's also, I think, a calling to nourish a sense of proper confidence in the church and more widely.

This could be an unhelpful confidence that suggests the church has all the answers and that refuses to pay real attention to other faiths and other convictions.

But there is also a confidence that arises from being utterly convinced that the Christian creed, the Christian vision, have in them a life and a richness that can embrace and transfigure all the complexities of human life.

This confidence can rightly sit alongside a patient willingness to learn from others in the ordinary encounters of life together in our varied society.

And it's this kind of confidence that saves us from being led by fashion, by the issues of the day.

The truth for and about human beings isn't something that can be decided by the majority vote of our culture - whether on war, or sex, or economics, or ecology or anything else.

And if there is one thing I long for above all else is that the years to come will see Christianity in this country able to capture the imagination of our culture, to draw the strongest energies of our thinking and feeling into the exploration of what our creeds put before us.

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10 Jun 02 | Wales
08 Jan 02 | UK
06 Jan 02 | UK
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