The Word: Rowan Williams

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is arguably more than any other contemporary public figure the very antithesis of the modern culture of spin and the glib comment. At times the combination of his scholarly approach, intellectual rigour and refusal to talk in soundbites have led to controversy and misunderstandings.

Speaking to Alison Hilliard, in the Master’s study at Cambridge’s Magdalene College, Rowan Williams discusses his three most treasured Bible passages. Through his choice of verses, he reflects on his encounter with death in the 9/11 attacks, the hurt he experienced as Archbishop when he tried to unite the Church and his concern that contemporary society is “eating the spiritual equivalent of junk food”.

Bible verses read by David Suchet.


Bible extracts taken from The Complete NIV Audio Bible and provided by Biblica

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  • “And that was a deep insight into the nature of the Church. We can face death, we can face challenge because of one another not because of the great people we are individually but because of the love that there is between us.” Not because of God and the promise of salvation and the example of Christ then?

    Luke 22
    41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

    So for me one of the most important things about reading and interpreting the Bible is first ask, ‘What’s the question addressed to me? Not how do I take this a roll it up into a baton to bash somebody over the head with but what’s it saying to me?’ OK. Well here’s what I think it’s saying to me particularly in relation to the abusive people I came across in the Anglican Church (mentioning no names):

    1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
    4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
    5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
    6 Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7 But the Lord said to me,
    ‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
    for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
    and you shall speak whatever I command you.
    8 Do not be afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you,
    says the Lord.’
    9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
    ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
    10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
    to pluck up and to pull down,
    to destroy and to overthrow,
    to build and to plant.’
    11 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of the watchful tree.’ 12 Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’

    Matthew 5
    10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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