Rev Dr Malcolm Brown is Director of Mission and Public Affairs of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Council.
In his forthright criticisms of the Archbishop of Canterbury on these pages, Tim Montgomerie says it is a "tragedy" that the Archbishop does not put more effort into celebrating the plans of the Coalition to tackle some of the country’s most deep-seated social problems. He contrasts this, mystifyingly, with the Archbishop’s supposed ‘silence’ throughout the previous Government’s time in office.
Long before the first politician’s foot trod the ground of the now iconic Easterhouse estate, the churches have had a physical, human, presence in every community of the country. Our clergy and laity encounter the problems of poverty - yes, and dependency - every day. In many cases, church people experience the problems personally. And when our archbishops speak with the backing of that direct, long-term experience, struggling communities are encouraged to strive harder to make their communities better places. It is, incidentally, how the poor responded to Jesus.
Jesus also said something about motes and beams. As the Evening Standard’s current campaign shows, there is a real literacy problem in this country. But whilst the Archbishop’s critics can string the words together on the page, too many of them seem to have had some difficulty reading the text of his New Statesman article. Read his words carefully: he is asking you to think beyond the neurotic defensiveness which mars our political life because it can only hear its own voice. People who actually believe in the Big Society know that the tapestry of dissenting voices is key to its flourishing. That tapestry of voices is a core Conservative concept, by the way, as those who have read Burke know.