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Simon Mayo Interview on BBC Radio 5 live

Tuesday 6th December 2005

The Archbishop was interviewed live on the Simon Mayo show on BBC Radio 5 live on December 6th, about his work, Christianity in public life, the Anglican Communion and Narnia (amongst other things).

SM : Were you a CS Lewis fan?

ABC: I was Yes I'm looking forward hugely to it and it's quite a challenge to see how it will come on the big screen and I suppose I associate it a bit with those BBC adaptations that were put on some years ago which we've got all of on video. This is quite a new thing, it's a step into a new level of exposure for the story.

SM: Were you a fan of CS Lewis as a boy?

ABC: Very much so, and in my teens as well when I read some of the books about religion and on prayer and so on.

SM: Did you have them read to you? Did you read them to your children? CS Lewis is taken by some Christian groups as almost a mythical, iconic figure that you can't really argue, where do you see him?

ABC: That's rather a pity because I think any real author with a real imagination, you can't make a myth out of them, you've got to read them in their own terms and I certainly do read them aloud and I think they wear amazingly well. I don't think Lewis is infallible but I think he was one of the great Christian imaginations of the 20th Century.

SM: How many of the young people do you think that go and see this film will be aware that (I know Douglas Gresham has said it's not a Christian allegory) but if we just use that phrase for a moment, how many of the children and the parents will be aware of that do you think?

ABC I'd guess rather a small number, but the whole point of doing a Christian story in heavy disguise, is that you do get some of the message across so that if anybody comes across it later in life, maybe they'll think 'oh yes', click 'I see now'. They'll make a connection.

SM: The Bishop of Oxford was writing an article over the weekend, he said you don't' have to be a Christian to enjoy the CS Lewis Narnia stories, but they do contain a profound message. What is that message?

ABC: RW I don't think there's just one message because really the Narnia stories are a set of fantasy stories based on the idea that the Christian picture of the world is true. So there's a lot about sin and forgiveness. There's a lot about acknowledging your failures honestly, there's a terrific amount about honesty in those books if you look hard. The thing that really gets Aslan annoyed in the books is if you don't own up to your failures, when you try and lie about yourself or to yourself and that's a big message. Then of course in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe there's this great central theme of sacrifice that somehow everything is made all right by this massive act of self-sacrifice.

SM: I believe CS Lewis was slightly worried about it ever becoming a movie because he was specifically afraid of Disneyfication and of course Disney are involved. It must be very difficult to get that Aslan character right because he has to be loveable on the one hand, but also terrifying.

ABC: That's right and it's one of the most interesting things about the picture of God that's given through the picture of Aslan. Yes this is somebody who is more warm, more welcoming than anything you could imagine. At the same time really terrifying because completely incapable of being bribed or talked out of his views, there is just absolute integrity in him and that's a frightening thing.

SM: Do you think as Father Christmas actually appears in the story and it's being released in December, is it an opportunity for the Church to renew it's Christmas message, can it use that?

ABC: Oh I think so yes people write a bit cynically about the Church exploiting this but well the truth is rather the other way around, this is a story, this is a film which trades on the Christian message, it wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't for the Christian story.

SM: In America they have marketed it specifically to some Christian groups, I think they've learnt from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ which played very well. That sort of tactic worked less well here, do you have any reservations about the way it can be marketed, to almost exploit religious interest in it?

ABC: I don't think that's the way it's likely to go here frankly and Lewis doesn't really need that sort of exploitation, he's already built into most people's mental world, or a lot of people's mental world, people who know about the books or have seen something of them.

SM: Do you see much as people go and see this film start thinking about Christmas and a winter which starts to include Christmas as the film suggests, do you see much of the true spirit of Christmas around this year Archbishop?

RW: Yes I do, I was down in Canterbury this weekend doing the annual St Nicholas parade through the streets of Canterbury. You always get on that occasion a big collection for local charities. Last weekend it was for young carers in Kent, young people who have to look after disabled relatives. Huge outpouring of generosity, I don't think that sort of thing gets any less year by year.

SM: There is a vicar called Reverend Robin Harvey who carried out a survey of shops and that he found that out of 2140 packets of cards only 23 packs, 1%, were of a religious nature, and his church is fighting what it described in a statement as 'the manufacturers of political correctness taking Jesus out of Christmas'. He's got a point hasn't he?

ABC: I don't know that it's political correctness though, I think ever since they've been Christmas cards, they've been non-religious Christmas cards. When I was a boy I can remember asking myself what on earth have stagecoaches got to do Christmas because half the cards we had seemed to have stagecoaches on them, or robins for that matter, it's really just a question of the fact that all through the history of Christmas cards people have shied a bit away form religious scenes quite often.

SM: I'm just trying to think if there is any spiritual significance in a stagecoach

ABC: Well it's on a journey from somewhere to somewhere, I suppose you can make something out of that if you are really desperate.

SM: Yes I suppose you could. You switched on the Christmas lights in Lambeth didn't you.

ABC: I did yes.

SM: Lambeth is often one of those areas of London where you get 'Christmas isn't happening this year' what's the truth of the matter?

ABC: Well the truth of the matter is that I was asked to switch on the lights and say something about the meaning of Christmas and I talked about the Christian meaning of Christmas as I'm bound to do I think. So I think we can a bit over-anxious about some of these stories. There's certainly a trend in some quarters to be over-anxious about the public visibility of Christian things.

SM: Which in a way ties back to the Narnia story about having winter without Christmas and you do hear stories about having 'winter lights'

ABC: Yes it's the old pagan thing really, this is the mid-winter festival and the Church very early on latched onto the idea that it was a good idea to have a festival in mid-winter, but that they had a better story to tell. I think it's still true.

SM: We're going to be talking about leadership later on because as you know there's a new conservative leader about to be announced. If you were to describe your job to someone who didn't really know anything about the Anglican Communion, how would you go about writing a job spec?

ABC: How long have I got?

SM: Well as long as you like, you're the Archbishop.

ABC: I think what I'd say, the very first thing in the job is to try and set a tone. That sounds a bit pompous, but what I mean is you try and talk about a model, ways of getting on with other people, that aren't just about bullying or manipulation, you try and encourage an atmosphere in the Church of people listening to each other and being grateful for each other. That's at the top of my list and second I think, is can you help make sense of people to one another. Imagine you've got a room with two people shouting at each other, how do you then set about getting each of them to listen to the other and begin to learn their language a little bit. So a lot of, not shuttle diplomacy in the literal sense, but sort of shuttling backwards and forwards between groups of people saying look, listen, this is what they are really trying to say. Don't jump to conclusions.

SM: And how's the tone setting going?

ABC: Patchy is probably the answer, but it's bound to be, that's what human beings are. Some people get a terrific adrenaline rush from conflict and public dramas, some people don't and I think you've just got to work at that and keep working at the idea that it is worth while understanding each other and that it is one of the things that the New Testament suggests Christians might do with each other.

SM: The political comparison is interesting, Charles Kennedy's style of leadership was questioned by one of his former speech writers who said that the party wants to be led rather than necessarily being chaired. What does the Church of England want? Does it want to be led? Or does it want to be chaired?

ABC: Very interesting question. Somebody said yesterday in a discussion I was part of that people often talk about wanting leadership but they don't know what 'followership' means and often when people say 'give us firm leadership' they mean just play back to us what we want to hear and we'll feel better about it. But the notion that leadership might be trying to find perhaps a rather fragile common view that can pull enough people together to make a difference. I'm not sure that's quite so popular.

SM: Who needs to learn about followership then?

ABC: All of us do and Christians generally.

SM: You have to lead and we have to follow? That would be suggested from that wouldn't it?

ABC: I'm not sure I'd buy into that completely. I've got to as I see it, witness, I've got to stand up and say that certain things are true, that certain things matter, that certain things are priorities. I think that's leadership of a kind. What I hope is that people can see not that it's worth following me, but that it's worth putting some energy and investment and even making some sacrifices for those values, those priorities.

SM: What are those central values and priorities?

ABC: The central things for me and what I want to witness to that the Church doesn't exist because we've decided it will, because we like the idea, because we get on with each other, it exists because of God. So everything in the Church has to begin and end in the worship and praise of God. Absolutely nothing is more important than that and the most important form that takes for a Christian is gratitude, something extraordinary has happened to us, something has overtaken us, something we could never have expected. Back to Narnia again really, what happens is a surprise, the winter breaks, the weather changes. So that's at the very heart of everything and that I think ought to put a little bit into perspective our absolute passion for trying to get everything right at every point. We have to try, we make mistakes, and there's always a God great enough to pick up the pieces and give us a fresh start.

SM: My guest is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. A question from Phil in London on the email; 'Speaking of Children's books and films, I saw the Archbishop having a debate at the national Theatre with Philip Pullman; I wonder whether he would echo the Vatican's views that books like His Dark Materials are divisive, or whether he would see them as positive by getting children involved with deeper questions of life, spirituality and morality and would you let your children read them?'

ABC: The answer is, yes, I would and yes I do. Because I think they are important in getting children involved with these deeper questions. I don't agree with his world picture in all kinds of ways, and we had that debate in public. But I think the questions raised are extraordinarily deep and I think I said at the time, when I went to see it at the National theatre, in the interval a crowd of schoolchildren came to talk to me and asked was I shocked by it all, and what did I find difficult and we had a very searching conversation about it of the kind which I think which I think is just the kind of conversation that ought to emerge from those plays; what sort of God is being portrayed in those books, the real God or a particular kind of fiction? What are the real values here? What matters most in this world? What do people give their lives for?

SM: Philip Pullman of course detests C S Lewis...

ABC: ...Can't stand him, absolutely can't stand him ...

SM: ... did you manage to change his mind at all

ABC: No, not yet, I'm afraid

SM: Did he change your mind at all?

ABC: No.

SM: So there wasn't a meeting of minds there at all. I think he respected you, judging from some of the comments that he made afterwards.

ABC: We had a very, very engaged discussion and I think the real ... to me the real nub of the discussion was when we got round to asking why isn't there a Jesus figure in his books. His God is almost entirely a kind of remote authority figure; there isn't a Jesus, there isn't a saviour figure. So why not; what's going on there? And that opened up some new things. When I say neither of us changed our minds, I don't think that happens at these debates, but did either of us enlarge the other's mind? Well, I hope so; he certainly did mine.

SM: We were talking about what your job involved and there are some grand themes which are interesting to discuss; there's also the nuts and bolts of being the Archbishop; the Church of England, well this is the 'parish notices' time really, but they are very important issues and most of the headlines recently about the worldwide Anglican Community [sic] feature worlds like rebels, shism and row; is there anything wrong, in your opinion, with schism? Is it always a bad thing?

ABC: I think is schism were always a bad thing, we wouldn't have had a Reformation and the Church of England wouldn't be here. There are life and death issues I think where some people where some people in the Church have to say 'This is a real major conscience question; we can't stick together'. This is what happened at the reformation, it's what happened in the German churches in the 1930s and I think it's important that we remember those cases are there in our history. I think we've also got to be aware of the danger of – same thing again, really – romanticising over-egging our present situation and thinking perhaps that we've got to those situations when we haven't, we're just dramatising.

SM: So in your opinion, can this divide between, to simplify it, the African Churches on one side and the liberal churches of Canada and America and to an extent this country; can that be bridged?

ABC: I don't know yet. I think we've got a lot of work to do. I think it means that everybody has to make some sacrifices in this and it's easy to say that but it has to be true; if we behave as a church that is, as a body, trying to find a mind together rather than just a group of pressure groups, interest groups, maybe we can, but that does require quite a change of heart.

SM: Do you see any evidence of people changing their minds, changing their hearts, because to an outsider it might appear that schism has already happened.

ABC: Absolutely; it looks like a standoff, doesn't it. The fact is, though that both the United States and Africa, to use your two polar opposites are much more varied than any view from mars might suggest and the trouble is a lot of public discussion is the view from mars, it's the long-distance picture where the extreme opposites seem to stand out more clearly. Now I have to spend a fair amount to time travelling around bits of the Communion outside the North Atlantic world - Burundi this summer, visit to the Sudan coming up next year some time; and on the ground what matters most often is the kind of support that's given informally by Christians in one bit of the world to Christians in another bit, the links that exist through the Mother's union, through informal networks of friendships and partnership.

SM: On that subject; in the current issue of the Church Times, there's a story about 800 lesbian and gay Anglicans from all over Nigeria who met together; I don't know if you've seen this story; they met for the first time, their organisation being Changing Attitudes Nigeria. Their director has said that the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Reverend Peter Akinola, has been telling the other primates and provinces an untruth when he says that gays and lesbians did not exist in Nigeria and that the Church should stop colluding with cultural repression and discrimination against gay and lesbian and bi-sexual people. It's the first time gay and lesbian Anglicans in Nigeria have met together; I think judging from this account, they were quite scared, actually as to what the implications might be; what would be your message to them?

ABC: I think my message into the whole situation would be, actually what I tried to say this time last year in an Advent Letter, that there are all sorts of complicated questions about the ethics of same sex behaviour. What I think there is no question about is the right of homosexual people to tolerance, civil rights and public respect from Christians as from everybody else, and it's very difficult when these complex questions of ethics get tangled in with a whole set of cultural prejudices and I hope we can pull those apart a bit.

SM: And we can look at the situation in this country in just a moment. So your message to these gay Anglicans in Nigeria would be 'hang on, keep talking'? because it doesn't sound as though Archbishop Akinola is even prepared to accept that they exist?

ABC: My message I think would be that they have a right to be listened to, to be respected as human beings as in any culture.

SM: Do you think they're going to get that?

ABC: We'll see. We'll wait and see.

SM: But they should have it?

ABC: Yes

SM: It's an issue in this country; as well of course and as from yesterday Civil Partnerships are legal – legislation came into force permitting civil ceremonies. Is this a welcome development?

ABC: I think insofar as it gives people certain rights in the public sphere, certain economic and property rights which wouldn't otherwise exist, yes, I think the difficulty is that there's a sort of muddle about this, both in some of the government language about it, some of the media language about it. It's instantly been dubbed 'gay marriage', as if that were the only thing it were about, but, as several of the papers have remarked, - the Guardian, the Telegraph and elsewhere – it's a legal arrangement between two people. It's about certain commitments that allow certain legal dispositions and economic dispositions to be made. It doesn't presuppose that there's a sexual relationship, it doesn't presuppose that there's anything - there's anything exactly what we would call as Christians, 'a marriage', but it's very hard to keep that, those two things apart in the public eye.

SM: So this is a limited welcome?

ABC: A limited welcome, a welcome insofar as it rectifies injustices or inequities that there may have been before.

SM: And if one of your priests wanted to become involved in a civil partnership?

ABC: Well the guidelines issued by the House of Bishops are quite clear; if a priest wants to enter into a civil partnership then he or she has to give an undertaking that this is not an active sexual relationship, because I don't think it's proper that the Church should have its doctrine and discipline changed by the decision of the State, that's the bottom line there.

SM: Do you think that these couples who are going to have a civil partnership shortly, and have some kind of ceremony; do you think that they should be able to have it blessed in church, or that there should be some kind of ceremony which would give blessing?

ABC: Well again, the Bishops of the Church of England have said no, they don't think that's appropriate. It's partly because I don't think any of us would know quite what we were blessing in any particular instance. The danger ...

SM: Presumably you'd be blessing two people who are saying publicly that they want to commit themselves to each other for the foreseeable future, same as in a wedding?

ABC: A wedding includes rather more than that. A wedding is between a man and a woman; it has the possibility, normally, of family. It's a social fact; it's got two thousand years or more of theology behind it, and I think what the Archbishops of the Anglican church said a couple of years ago when they met was 'you need to be clearer about having a theology before you have a service', something like that. So I think it's right to hold back on that; we don't want this confused with marriage at the moment; we don't want orders of service which if you like run up to the frontiers of marriage and then just pull back a little bit. It's a very complicated issue and I think how people deal with it pastorally in individual cases is going to be difficult.

SM: But in the fullness of time, maybe once people have thought about it and the theology has caught up; might it be something that happens?

ABC: We'd need to change quite a lot, I think before ... I won't speculate about that.

SM: Here's a sort of broader question, Archbishop, I think you could probably fill hours with this one as well: Could you explain why religion in general seems to have such a huge issue with what people do in bed?

ABC: You're quite right, you could talk about this one for hours.

SM: There's a couple of minutes to the news; it does seem to be that wherever you look in the world, wherever organised faith is, there are restrictions on sexual behaviour, or they like to lay down some rules. Why do you think that might be?

ABC: I'll give you a good reason and a bad reason. The good reason is that religious people think that every aspect of your life ought to manifest something about what you believe about God, the sacred, and that includes sex, and therefore it's as important to get that right as it is to get everything else right. That's a good reason. The bad reason is that religion is often about control, anxiety and sex is an area where control and anxiety can run riot; you're afraid of being out of control and you want to control other people's behaviour and religion can sometimes be a good tool for that.

SM: And are those things constantly in some kind of balance, and it would be unhealthy if we tipped towards your second reason and ...

ABC: I think the second reason is very questionable, very unhealthy, I think we've got to keep our eyes very firmly on the idea that if sex matters in religious terms, it's because God wants it to show something about the kind of God he is.

SM: As you move around the Anglican Communion, do you see too many people or just some people more interested in your second reason there rather than the first?

ABC: There are some; there always have been and there are people here in England, there are people in the States, and it's not only supposed conservatives who have these hang-ups, it's often people who call themselves liberals as well frankly.

SM: You might well have seen comments today from a former senior judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Schloss, saying that the Government isn't doing enough to encourage couples to get married and to stay married. Is she right?

ABC: I think she's got a very serious point; I think she's underlined some of the ways in which certain privileges, certain extras have been taken away from marriage and I think she's identified the fact that we're just deeply confused about what we mean by marriage as a society; the notion that this is a lifelong partnership which is somehow fundamental, central in the bringing up of children: even if you grant that there are other forms of family of life, other forms of nurture; this remains the heart of the matter. I think we're losing that sense rather rapidly and rather worryingly.

SM: I suppose the squaring of the circle here is to promote marriage, to encourage marriage, to believe in marriage; and yet also to include people for whom that is not an option.

ABC: It's the biggest pastoral challenge, I think, and I guess the church has some experience of this in how it's dealt at times with marital breakdown and divorce. People would say 'this is not how it ought to be, but this is how it is – how do you deal what is without betraying our commitment to what we believe is central and what really matters.

SM: Do you think the church, then does enough to promote marriage? Can it do more, could you do more?

ABC: I don't know. I think we probably need to have a more robust and positive view of marriage which we get across.

SM: What do you mean by that?

ABC: I mean quite often religious people tend to talk as though marriage were the kind of default position; it's what you ought to do; in the absence of anything better to do, you get married. And you ought to get married. Now set that aside and put instead the idea that marriage is a calling; that actually God wants most of the human race to take this amazing enterprise, this rather exciting, risky enterprise of committing yourself to one person which is a colossal risk, because somehow by taking that risk, you become more yourself and they become more themselves and thereby you make a really, really nourishing atmosphere for other human beings to grow up in. It's that kind of positive feel, that calling sense, that sense of an exciting risk, an adventure, that I don't think we're communicating, really.

SM: We'll talk more with the Archbishop later .....


SM: You'll have been struck I'm sure Dr Williams as many people were by the comments made by Gee Walker, the mother of Anthony Walker, forgiving the two young men convicted of his murder.

ABC: Extraordinary, I had the privilege of meeting Gee Walker a couple of weeks ago and listening to her on the subject and I think what is in impressive, what is more than just impressive in some ways just staggering is that she is not pretending It's easy, she's saying that her life has been ruined and yet that there's no other thing that she can think of doing but working to forgive, and that in it's honesty about the cost and the clarity about what's demanded is just so exceptional.

SM: And given the hideous brutality of her son's murder, many are being full of admiration for her, I winder if they would be able to respond so generously.

ABC: I guess we all wonder that when these cases come up. What is striking I think is that in at least some cases where it looks the worst, the Omagh bombings, this particular horrendous murder, it seems to be the people who suffer the most who sometimes have the freedom to say these things. And the very fact that that happens I just think is something of a miracle. I look at it and think 'ok, if it's possible for them it's possible for me'.

SM: Is forgiveness a concept you would always advocate in all circumstances, I just wander if anger and retaliation ever have their place.

ABC: Anger is a very slippery, a very dangerous thing to get involved in because what does it serve? Who does it serve? Does it just make me feel better or does it change things? Very often people get caught up in anger which gives them a feeling of energy but doesn't actually change them or anything else. That's what's got to be looked at and it's because of that that I think forgiveness is always put before us as what we've got to work towards. But the trouble is that in a rather sentimental society people sometimes think that forgiveness is just shrugging your shoulders and saying 'well that's alright then'. And it's not that, it can't be that, and there are times I think when I have to say I can't forgive Anthony Walker's murderers, it's for Gee to do that. I don't know, I stand back. The work of forgiveness has to be between the people most hurt and the people who've been doing the most hurting.

SM: You visited Pakistan recently, can you describe some of the scenes of the earthquake devastation that you saw there?

ABC: Well the scenes that we saw most closely were in refugee camps in Islamabad, where we saw a couple of very very impressive projects going forward. The most striking I think was children from the Kashmir region where of course the devastation ha been about the worst. Children being taught by teachers from their own area in the syllabus they would have used back home, if they were still in Kashmir. Teachers from the areas who had been displaced being trained and having their skills enlarged. It was as if the disaster had been seen by some people as a real opportunity to do something creative and what struck me most in case after case in those camps was people were not just left to be victims, they were involved in making decisions about the running of the camp, every sub-division of this big camp had a council making decisions about its workings, in which people who had been affected were involved. And the teaching drew on the skills of the people who had been affected by the earthquake so people were being given something to build on.

SM: Do you understand people's reaction which occurs after the Tsunami, or whatever particular disaster we are talking about, when they say that they really want to have nothing to do with any religion or any God that allows this sort of heartbreaking activity to take place.

ABC: It's not a surprising reaction because we want the world to make sense and it seems to fly in the face of the notion of a loving God in Charge of things. Yet once again, so often the people on the front line, the people most affected, are the people for whom that's least of an issue. They say 'this has happened, I don't know what it means, I know what I've got to do in order to honour God in this situation and that's to help, that's to love and that's to rebuild'. And there are often cases I think where, just as with Gee walker, I can say 'well if she can do it then maybe it's possible for me'. So when I see somebody in the front line of relief work in Pakistan or Sri Lanka in these circumstances I can say 'well if they can do it, it can be done'. And the explanations, well put that on hold, no explanation is going to do the work, it's not going to make you feel 'oh it's alright then'. But God is still visible somehow in the compassion that people offer.

SM: You used the phrase 'a loving God in charge of things' Is that how you see it? I know you believe in a loving God obviously, but in charge of things? I mean is he actually in charge of the way the earth is working?

ABC: I think we mean very things sometimes when we use language like being in charge of things, you might think that means supervising every single event, having it on a work plan for the day, ticking it off, time for an earthquake in Pakistan. I don't think that's the way in which God is in charge. I think it's much more a question of God sustaining by his energy, by his action, the whole system of the universe, and that means that at times that system of the universe brings about collisions, tragedies, tensions and God's action continues through that, enabling people to respond properly, enabling rebuilding to happen, enabling recovery, or even resurrection, you might say.

SM: We have very limited time left and appreciate the time that you are spending with us, the questions from listeners are many and varied. Here's a specific one; 'For whom should I pray this Christmas?' That's an easy one.

ABC: Well certainly pray for those who are most deeply affected by the aftermath of the earthquake and the children suffering from cold in Pakistan, but also pray for your next door neighbour, and pray for the person you are finding most difficult.

SM: Another question 'to what extent does Dr Williams think does the Bible should be read as a text replete with contradictions, historical, cultural and political biases and translation issues, unless, as the immutable law of God, it is my impression that people cherry-pick from the Bible to find passages that support their preconceived views particularly in respect of homosexuality.'

ABC: I think there's a good deal of selective reading of the Bible by liberals, conservatives, more or less everybody. As I read the Bible, I read it as the way in which God communicates to me how he deals with human beings. He deals with them by creation, by the very fact that He makes us, chooses us to be, by saving us from slavery, by committing to them in a very demanding sort of promise relationship. And finally he deals with them in Jesus and in the effect of Jesus, his death and resurrection on the people around him. And everything in the Bible I think has to be fed into that great, grand narrative, the central story.

SM: You've spoken before of your love of the Simpsons on television and in fact before you came on I noticed an advert on one of the televisions we have in the studio for a new Christmas episode of the Simpsons which we'll need to follow. Why is it you are a particular fan?

ABC: Well, cutting through all the philosophy for a moment, it's mostly because it's funny. That apart what I see is a family of very very fallible and muddled people, rather like us, who somehow cope with their failings, who come through in a kind of faithfulness to each other. It's not spectacular, it's not poetic, it's not grand, it's very human. But quite apart form that, all the layers of reference that every episode has, the multiples stories that go on, the skill with which all the balls are kept in the air I think is extraordinary, really skillful.

SM: You're probably the most famous Christian behind the Pope and Ned Flanders

ABC: There's a problematic trinity for you.

SM: But I suppose the two most prominent Christians in there would be the Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders. Would you enjoy going to Reverend Lovejoy's church do you think?

ABC: No I don't think I would frankly, I think he's a terrible preacher, he's got a boring voice, and well I'm afraid he's a sad pompous chap all told. Ned Flanders at least is ludicrous and foolish but generous. He actually does forgive people. And I think he a sort of, as a Christian myself, fool for Christ's sake.

SM: We appreciate your time with us very much, Archbishop. Are you enjoying the job?

ABC: Depends which day of the week you ask me really. I get on with it.

SM: How about Tuesday 6th December 2005.

ABC: Just at the moment, fine thanks.

SM: Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, thank you very much indeed for spending some time with us today.

ABC: Thank you.

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