Of all the articles written since the British Gazette was resurrected in October 2009, there will be many who would suggest that this is one that is by a country mile is the most presumptuous yet and probably upon the subject the Editor is most ignorant of and least qualified to comment upon!
It therefore is with some consideration that the British Gazette gives some instruction to Doctor Rowan Williams about producing and preaching his sermons!
Doctor Williams has come into controversy – again – by reports in the tabloid press that he equated the behaviour of rioters with the behaviour of bankers. The British Gazette therefore takes the cleric to task, not about the precise details of the comments he made (as these can often be taken out of context by the tabloid press) but in the manner, the time and the place in which he expressed them.
Let us face it, the Archbishop of Canterbury is much more than a priest. He is the leader of the Anglican communion and therefore is involved in the overall running of the organisation and in the course of his work he will have contacts with ministers in the governments of more than one country. The British Gazette would suggest to the Archbishop that the pulpit is not the place for politics – non party and otherwise.
Of course there will be those who would respond that religion is politics and that Christ was political. The first of these statements is sadly true in many cases but that is not what the Almighty intended. The second of these statements is to misunderstand what Christ was about. In any event, these statements are often made by those who do not set foot inside a church from one year to the next and often by such as avowed atheists.
It is also commonly stated – this often by regular churchgoers – that a sermon has to touch on politics quite often. The British Gazette would disagree. I can speak from received experience. My mother was a Methodist lay preacher for 50 years and I was often in the congregation and had to listen to those sermons. As such, I know a little bit about sermons – the preparing and the writing of them – not that I have ever done it and I never intend to do so. The basic object of a sermon is to relate the word of God in the form of scripture and to make it topical and relevant to the present day and present circumstances. If mother was taking 1 Corinthians as a source she would not simply read the text out. That is not a sermon, it is a reading. What she would often do is to have someone read part of such out – not the whole epistle! – and then take this as subject of the sermon. It is perfectly possible to do this properly, making it topical and relevant to the congregation without making “political” statements. It also makes it more interseting! Or as I remember from my teenage years, less boring! I know this can be done because I witnessed mother doing just this of many occasions – and the sermons were all (in retrospect) very good – but then I am biased.
Doctor Williams can also clearly do this – he’d never have got to where he is otherwise. The British Gazette’s advice to him is simple: get on with it and do the job properly. Save your political comments for other occasions.