George Carey

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George Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.[1]

Archbishop of Canterbury

In a review of Carey's autobiography, writer Michael Arditti notes that:

His eleven years in office were marked by unprecedented public criticism. He managed to alienate many of his natural supporters on the Evangelical wing of the Church, as well as both the Liberal and Conservative opposition. He was, arguably, the most excoriated archbishop since the execution of Charles I’s favourite, William Laud.[2]

In 1998, Carey opposed Rowan Williams' nomination as Bishop of Southwark.[3] The episode would be recalled by the Guardian in 2006, when it stated that "it is an open secret that there is little personal warmth" between Carey and Williams, who succeeded him as Archbishop.[4]

Among the issues which divided the Church during Carey's tenure was homosexuality. Carey set out his own position in an interview with David Frost to mark his retirement as Archbishop in 2002:

I think the issue of homosexuality - and I do respect homosexuals by the way and I've got many friends who are homosexuals, they know I disagree with practising homosexual, they know I do not want practising homosexuals in the priesthood, they're well aware of that, but it's a debate that is still going on. I'm not silencing the disagreement and the debate - it must be with us because homosexuals are people, made in the likeness of God, so we have to treasure them.[5]

Public activity since retirement

In March 2004, Lord Carey delivered a speech on Islam at the Gregorian University. He said that Islam had "contributed greatly the human family and still has much to offer, but added that "wherever we look, Islam seems to be embroiled in conflict with other faiths and other cultures."

It is in opposition to practically every other world religion- to Judaism in the Middle East; to Christianity in the West, in Nigeria, and in the Middle East; to Hinduism in India; to Buddhism, especially since the destruction of the Temples in Afghanistan.
We are presented therefore with a huge puzzle concerning Islam. Why is it associated with violence throughout the world? Is extremism so ineluctably bound up with its faith that we are at last seeing its true character? Or could it be that a fight for the soul of Islam is going on that requires another great faith, Christianity, to support and encourage the vast majority of Muslims who resist this identification of their faith with terrorism?[6]

Carey returned to the subject in his Sternberg lecture at the University of Leicester on 12 May 2004, saying that his previous speech "attracted a great deal of attention because of newspaper reports of the lecture that seemed to suggest that I was particularly hostile to the Muslim world."[7]

those who thought my Gregorian lecture was critical of the Muslim world were looking in the wrong direction. For those who took the trouble to read my lecture will have noted that I was as critical of the West, of Christianity and, for that matter, also sharply critical of Israel’s policy with respect to Palestine.[8]

In February 2006, Carey told the Jerusalem Post he was "ashamed to be an Anglican" after the Church of England voted to divest from companies supplying to Israeli Government in the occupied territories.

The February 6 divestment vote, which was backed by current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, was "a most regrettable and one-sided statement," Lord Carey said, and one that "ignores the trauma of ordinary Jewish people" in Israel subjected to terrorist attacks. Lord Carey joined Jewish leaders protesting the vote by the General Synod, the church's legislature, to adopt a "morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc., until they change their policies."[9]

At Easter 2006, the Sunday Times revealed the contents of an open letter being drawn up by critics of Lord Carey.[10]

The letter accused Carey of being "discourteous to Archbishop Rowan Williams, as he attempts to hold together the Anglican Communion of churches at a particularly difficult time." It continued "you appear to be offering yourself as an alternative leader. The Archbishop of Canterbury deserves our respect and support, not the disloyalty which you currently display."[11]

According to the Guardian, the letter attracted 130 signatures but failed to win support from senior clerics. Lord Carey responded:

"I think this is a mischievous letter from Australia and I hope the authors will reflect and repent on what is most unfair. It is ill founded and the authors did not have the courtesy to consult me first. This is un-Christian and to send it out at Easter damages our whole unity and what we are trying to do."[12]

Damian Thompson wrote of Carey in November 2006:

As Primate of All England, he was dismissed as a self-important booby: Captain Mainwaring in a mitre. Since his retirement in 2002, however, he has become "the king over the water" for conservative evangelical Anglicans, who – thanks to mushrooming churches in Africa – now far outnumber communicants of the Church of England.[13]

In a July 2008 article for the News of the World, Lord Carey attacked a ruling that the paper breached Max Mosley's privacy by reporting on orgy he took part in:

He said: “If a politician, a judge, a bishop or any public figure cannot keep their promises to a wife, husband, etc, how can they be trusted to honour pledges to their constituencies and people they serve?”
“This is a bleak, deeply-flawed ’anything goes’ philosophy. It is also dangerous and socially undermining - devoid of the basic,decent moral standards that form the very fabric of our society.”[14]

In January 2010, Lord Carey signed a declaration on population by the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration calling for a reduction in net immigration to less than 40,000 a year.[15] Damian Thompson suggested that Lord Carey signed because "in recent years his contacts with the evangelical world have opened his eyes to the shared anti-Christian agenda of multiculturalists and Muslims."[16]

On Education

In a November 2009 News of the World article, Lord Carey attacked Government education policy, arguing that "By making lessons in gender equality compulsory, as part of the personal, social, health and education (PSHE) curriculum, schools are being diverted from their core purpose ever more."[17]

The onus on preventing teenage pregnancies and fighting against childhood obesity, which rightly belongs at home, has been dumped on the schools.
As a result they've trespassed on matters which should be dealt with in the family, and failed to meet their primary purpose which is to teach the three R's.[18]

On Christianity and the law

In a February 2010 News of the World article, Lord Carey criticised a ruling against British Airways employee Nadia Eweida over her right to wear a cross at work, and attacked what he called a "creeping, corrosive assault on our national religion".[19]

Lord Carey led a group of six Anglican bishops who wrote to the Sunday Telegraph on 28 March 2010 in support of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse involved in an employment tribunal with the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust over her right to wear a cross while at work.[20]

The Bishops stated:

This is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect. We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development.
In a number of cases, Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship are simply not being upheld. There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country. We believe that the major parties need to address this issue in the coming general election.[21]

The signatories included Lord Carey; the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester; Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Former Bishop of Rochester; Rt Rev Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester; Rt Rev Anthony Priddis; Bishop of Hereford; Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn.[22]

McFarlane witness statement

On 15 April 2010, Lord Carey submitted a witness statement in the case of Gary McFarlane, a Christian sacked for refusing to give psychosexual counselling to homosexual couple.[23]

Lord Carey's statement accused the judiciary of being insensitive to Christian belief:

. The field of sexual ethics and Christian (and other religious) teaching on this subject is a field of complex theology for debate by the Church (and other religious) institutions. The vast majority of the more than 2 billion Christians would support the views held by Ms. Ladele. The descriptive word ‘discriminatory’ is unbefitting and it is regrettable that senior members of the Judiciary feel able to make such disparaging comments.[24]

After citing a number of other cases, Carey concluded:

This type of ‘reasoning’ is dangerous to the social order and represents clear animus to Christian beliefs. The fact that senior clerics of the Church of England and other faiths feel compelled to intervene directly in judicial decisions and cases is illuminative of a future civil unrest.[25]

Lord Carey went on to call for Mr McFarlane's case to be heard by a freshly constituted Court of Appeal, under the Lord Chief Justice:

Further, I appeal to the Lord Chief Justice to establish a specialist Panel of Judges designated to hear cases engaging religious rights. Such Judges should have a proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues and I would be supportive of Judges of all faiths and denominations being allocated to such a Panel. The Judges engaged in the cases listed above should recuse themselves from further adjudication on such matters as they have made clear their lack of knowledge about the Christian faith.[26]

A few days before the hearing, the Telegraph had reported: "Lord Carey is not thought to have named Lord Neuberger in his statement but there is no doubt that the Master of the Rolls is targeted for criticism."[27]

In a statement ahead of the court hearing, the Christian Legal Centre said that Lord Carey and other supporters "are specifically concerned by a ruling of Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, on behalf of the Court of Appeal, that Lillian Ladele, a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships ceremonies – because they were against her Christian beliefs – could no longer work as a registrar."[28]

In an analysis of Lord Carey's statement, parish priest Doug Chaplin wrote: "It beggars belief that this is the man complaining about discrimination, when here he wants to enshrine it in the courts."[29]

Former Guardian religion correspondent Stephen Bates said of Carey's statement "Down this way, frankly, madness lies. For, of course it's not just any old religious judges that Carey would want, but only those who share his particular view."

What about a Christian who honestly believes that Jews are Christ-killers: could he refuse a Jewish judge (it's worth noting that the Master of the Rolls, to whom Lord Carey objects, is Lord Neuberger)? What about a fundamentalist who believes that the Bible ordains slavery, as some still even now, do? Could they refuse a black judge? Or a Muslim judge?[30]

The Guardian's legal correspondent Afua Hirsch wrote:

The supreme court is noted for high-profile characters of Jewish descent. Lord Neuberger has been singled out for criticism by some Christian groups because of a recent judgment.
It is unthinkable that anyone would question the legitimacy of these judges on the basis of their religion or descent, and it is hard to think of a more regressive development of Carey's demands than the prospect of that changing.[31]



External Resources



  1. Biography, Official Website of Lord Carey of Clifton, accessed 16 February 2010.
  2. Michael Arditti, Know the Truth, Daily Mail, 11 June 2006, archived at
  3. Christopher Morgan, Open letter tells Carey: end feud with archbishop, 16 April 2006.
  4. Stephen Bates, Lord Carey hits back at critics' open letter, The Guardian, 24 April 2006.
  5. Breakfast with Frost, BBC, 27 October 2002.
  6. Lord Carey, Christianity and Islam: Collision or convergence?, 25 March 2004, archived at
  7. Lord Carey, Islam and the West: The Challenge to the Human Family, 12 May 2004.
  8. Lord Carey, Islam and the West: The Challenge to the Human Family, 12 May 2004.
  9. George Confer, Lord Carey 'ashamed to be an Anglican', 8 February 2006.
  10. Christopher Morgan, Open letter tells Carey: end feud with archbishop, 16 April 2006.
  11. Open letter to Lord Carey of Clifton, Sunday Times, 16 April 2006.
  12. Stephen Bates, Lord Carey hits back at critics' open letter, The Guardian, 24 April 2006.
  13. Damian Thompson, The archbishop's days are numbered,, 24 November 2006.
  14. Lord Carey, Former archbishop Lord Carey rebukes Max Mosley court win, Times Online, 26 July 2008.
  15. A DECLARATION ON POPULATION (pdf), Balanced Migration, 6 January 2010.
  16. Lord Carey, Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, shatters the Anglican consensus on immigration,, 5 January 2010.
  17. Lord Carey, My heart bleeds at the way we are betraying a generation of youngsters, News of the World, 29 November 2009.
  18. Lord Carey, My heart bleeds at the way we are betraying a generation of youngsters, News of the World, 29 November 2009.
  19. Lord Carey, BA victory is another nail in the coffin of Christianity, News of the World, 20 April 2010.
  20. The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect, The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2010.
  21. The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect, The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2010.
  22. The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect, The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2010.
  23. Frances Gibb, Lord Carey warns of ‘unrest’ if judges continue with ‘dangerous’ rulings, TimesOnline, 15 April 2010.
  24. Full statement cited in Ruth Gledhill, Carey warns of 'civil unrest' over 'dangerous' anti-Christian rulings, TimesOnline, 15 April 2010.
  25. Full statement cited in Ruth Gledhill, Carey warns of 'civil unrest' over 'dangerous' anti-Christian rulings, TimesOnline, 15 April 2010.
  26. Full statement cited in Ruth Gledhill, Carey warns of 'civil unrest' over 'dangerous' anti-Christian rulings, TimesOnline, 15 April 2010.
  27. Andrew Alderson, Church leaders head for showdown with top judges over bias against Christians,, 11 April 2010.
  28. 'Christian Victims' of English Judicial System to Challenge Master of the Rolls - today in Court, Christian Concern for our Nation, 15 April 2010.
  29. Doug Chaplin, [One law for us, one for you: the Carey-a Sharia revisited One law for us, one for you: the Carey-a Sharia revisited], Clayboy, 15 April 2010.
  30. Stephen Bates, Lord Carey's bloated conscience,, 16 April 2010.
  31. Afua Hirsch, There is no case for faiths to get special treatment in court,, 19 April 2010.