frgavin on March 5th, 2012

By Julian Mann
Special to Virtueonline

George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, has come out all guns blazing in the battle against same-sex marriage in the UK. In this, he bears some resemblance to the Robert Vaughan character in The Magnificent Seven. VOL readers may recall the demoralised gunslinger cowering behind a wall in the heat of the battle for the oppressed Mexican village but then finding his courage and gunning down a group of bandits, before expiring heroically.

God willing, Lord Carey will be totting his spiritual and moral six-gun for a while yet from his mount in the House of Lords and the Daily Mail. UK Christianity certainly needs his new-found outspokenness. He is the most prominent public figure behind the new Coalition for Marriage, backed by evangelical groups such as the Christian Institute, Christian Concern and the Evangelical Alliance.

C4M has been formed to defend the current UK legal definition of marriage as ‘the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others’ against Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to redefine this wonderful God-created institution.

Lord Carey was the classic product of the post-1960s Anglican evangelical inside strategy. Back in the glam rock days of the 1970s, younger Anglican evangelicals were being encouraged by their leaders to engage with the denominational structures of the Church of England and gain positions of influence in the hierarchy. George Carey was one of them, becoming Bishop of Bath and Wells in the 1980s before being the surprise choice as Archbishop of Canterbury by the then Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher in 1990.

It may be an over-statement to describe him as cowering behind a wall but his time as Archbishop was not especially marked by bold outspokenness for orthodox Anglican truth against liberal revisionism. The issue he spoke most passionately in favour of at the beginning of his tenure was the ordination of women, a liberal preoccupation.

The Anglican grouping that seemed to irk him most was Reform, whom he accused of bully-boy tactics over quota-capping (that is the witholding of the parish share paid by local churches to dioceses).

He was supportive of the orthodox Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 over the passing of Resolution 1.10, so was arguably beginning to find his form towards the end of his time as Archbishop of Canterbury.

But no conservative evangelical diocesan bishop was appointed during his time whilst some most unfortunate liberal appointments were made. He refused to provide conservative evangelical opponents of women priests with their own flying bishops but was happy to allow Anglo-Catholics theirs.

Far from transforming the institutional Church of England as an evangelical, George Carey seemed to have been transformed by the institution.

He seemed to be the personification of the failure of the Anglican evangelical inside strategy.

But then he retired as Archbishop just as New Labour was enacting a slew of politically correct legislation in the Noughties. Freed from the burden of office in a theologically mixed denomination, Lord Carey has spoken up boldly both in Parliament and in the popular press in favour of traditional marriage and family life and, most effectively, for Christian freedom of expression in the UK.

It is not an over-statement to say that without Lord Carey’s bold parliamentary advocacy a ‘religious hatred’ law could well have been passed under New Labour in 2006 severely impeding Christians from proclaiming the supremacy and uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ against other worldviews, particularly Islam.

Whilst the institution Lord Carey once led has been less than prophetic against political correctness, he has been.

And therein lies the rub – it is the former Archbishop of Canterbury who is standing up for Christianity in the UK against political correctness. However, if he had not pursued the inside strategy and become Archbishop of Canterbury, then he would not have the platform he currently has to speak up for Christian truth on the national stage.

Isn’t that illustrative of the dilemma around the inside strategy for Anglican evangelicals in the Church of England?


Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK. His weblog is Cranmer’s Curate.

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