Fifty-nine per cent of British people describe themselves as Christians, so the census informed us a couple of weeks ago; twelve per cent down from ten years ago. There was, of course, great delight from a couple of secularist organisations. But if I were a member of the British Humanist Association, I might want to pause before I became too excited. It remains true that three quarters of the public still want to identify themselves as having a religious faith of some kind. And what the census doesn’t and probably can’t measure is exactly how those who don’t identify as religious think about religion. Do they never give it a thought? Do they wish they could believe something? Do they see it as a problem or as a resource in society? In the deeply painful aftermath of the Synod’s vote last month, what was startling was how many people who certainly wouldn’t have said yes to the census question turned out to have a sort of investment in the Church, a desire to see the Church looking credible and a real sense of loss when—as they saw it—the Church failed to sort its business out.
BBC Radio broadcast, 22nd December 2012
Archbishop's Thought for the Day: Archbishop Rowan Williams gave his Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. Reflecting on the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the Archbishop said "the good news of Christmas is that an atmosphere of fear and hostility isn’t the natural climate for human beings, and it can be changed."
The full text of the Archbishop's message follows...
The execution of Charles I. 'The Church of England found its purpose in life following the English civil war as a project of national togetherness'. Photograph: Hulton Getty
Giles Fraser, The Guardian, Friday 7th December
The difference between the politics of the church and the real world of party politics is that in the church people are nice to each other in public and nasty to each other in private, whereas in real politics it's often the other way round. But the church is so dysfunctional that it prefers the rhetoric of unity to its reality. Thus those debating female bishops in General Synod fell over backwards to couch their speeches in terms of generosity. But outside observers saw something very different – a snake pit of seething animosities. And outside observers were basically right.