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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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The danger of abandonment

Archbishops of Canterbury and YorkPushing back apathy

The joint statement issued by the Archbishops on the importance to vote and to vote wisely was made in reaction to two prevailing factors: the general anger against MPs as a result of expenses and the nature of the voting system used for the European elections. Such a system allows that those with only 10% of the vote may be elected to the European Parliament. The Archbishop of York has said that "as Christians we should push back apathy that is seeing fewer citizens engage in the democratic process, and the consequences of such apathy."

 The danger of "an abandonment to the common life or common good"

Delivering the Temple Address the Archbishop has said the current economic crisis poses fundamental questions for society: "The woes of our current economic climate will bring many challenges over the coming years. Increasing redundancy, home repossessions and a recession will create an economic climate in which the economic givens of recent years can no longer be taken for granted. However alongside these challenges, will be opportunities for re-considering the purposes of our economic wealth".

For every statistic on the hundreds of jobs lost at a workplace, there are hundreds of stories of individual hardship and of families in desperate need.

At times such as these it does not do to welcome hardship as a necessary corrective to excess. The words of politicians from the past who suggested that "if it isn't hurting, it isn't working" could only have been spoken by someone who was patently not hurting. After all, the person wearing the shoes knows where the shoe is pinching! Our excessive materialism, perpetuating a culture of acquisition and greed leaves little room to acknowledge the belief of 'loving one's neighbour'. The economic boom has misled us into thinking that excesses could be justified. As Rabbi Heschel said, 'In a free society, all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible'.

Among the myriad of lessons which stand to be learned from the recent economic crises, one must surely be what was the purpose of the wealth that was generated during the recent decades beyond the increasingly rapacious consumerist appetite? Where is the greater vision that directs our frenzied business activities? Can we as a country find a vision that can maintain a reason and a purpose for our activity beyond avoiding the worst impacts of economic excess or slow down?

At any time of great crisis, be it personal, national or global, there is always a balance to be struck between the gravity of the dilemma at hand and the hope that this crisis too will pass. The road to recovery is a path not to riches but to service. It is rooted in the rediscovery of a vision to rebuild community in recognition of our duties to one another. Of standing ready to help our neighbour not only because they may be a victim of the recession, but because they are created in the likeness of God, and are an individual of infinite worth for who Christ died."