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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Waving St George's Day FlagsWhat it means to be English?

Can there be an identity that we can all share which is flexible enough to recognise the new aspects of England while remaining authentic enough to proudly recognise England's history? The Archbishop has commented that where there is no awareness of identity, there is a vacuum to be filled. Whether it be the corrupting ideology behind "Islamic" terrorism, salafi jihadism or the insidious institutional racism and bigotry of the British National Party, there are those who stand ready to fill the vacuum — with a sanitised identity and twisted vision — if the silent majority hold back from forging a new identity.

Historically, Christianity has been at the heart of this nation and the Christian Gospel has played a major social and civilising role in this country. It is true to say that such virtues as kindness to neighbours, fair play and common decency are not unique to the Christian faith — just as they are not unique to England. It is equally true to say these virtues have become embedded into our social fabric and heritage as a result of the Christian faith and its influence on society. The Archbishop has argued that we need to become better acquainted with this heritage, be grateful for it and build upon it. The Archbishop said: "Let us not forego our appreciation of an English identity for fear of causing upset or offence to those who claim such an identity has no place in a multi-cultural society. Englishness is not diminished by newcomers who each bring with them a new strand to England's fabric. Rather, Englishness is emboldened to grow anew."