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Sell Lambeth Palace. Stop the politics. Shed the vestments. Tory MP Gary Streeter's manifesto for the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

By Tim Montgomerie
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Streeter SpeakingTory MP Gary Streeter is one of Parliament's most active Christians. Earlier this year, writing in the Church of England Newspaper, he offered some advice to the soon-to-be-appointed new Archbishop of Canterbury:

  • "On day one I would hold a press conference at a homeless shelter in Camberwell and announce that the Lambeth Palace site was to be sold for redevelopment. I would relocate Church HQ to a modern office unit south of the river and use the remainder of the proceeds of sale of the Palace site to fund a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts."
  • "I would never wear clerical garb even for state occasions but would wear a suit and sometimes a decent tie."
  • "I would also restrict discussion on sexuality in the church to the same proportion of time as Jesus spent dealing with this topic in his three years of ministry, i.e. not at all."
  • "I would meet regularly with Christians battling away in politics, business, science and the media and encourage them in their journey and I would never lambast them from the pulpit even though they might sometimes get things wrong."

You can read his full article here.

There is a child-like raw simplicity to Gary's plan but I argue in today's Times (£) that it is exactly the sort of manifesto that the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury should embrace. All of Gary's recommendations sweep away the clutter that the Church has accumulated since it was trusted with spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ. Clutter that means people focus on the Church (and its faults) rather than Jesus Christ (and his teachings and example).

Gary's most important recommendation is, I think, the argument that Rowan Williams' successor should dispense with the riches of his office. It is certainly true that you can be rich and a Christian. The biblical warning that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven has to be read alongside other scriptural passages that celebrate wealth creation and industry. It is not money that is at the root of all evil but the love of money. Wealth becomes problematic when it is hoarded and becomes, itself, an object of worship. But if it is possible for Christians and bishops to live with wealth it certainly isn’t necessary. Every archbishop for centuries has lived in very comfortable circumstances. Isn’t it time for one of St Augustine of Canterbury's successors to live a little more like Jesus and a little more like the people of his time?

A shock-and-awe reform of the Church would put the new Archbishop on the frontpages of the nation's newspapers for the right reason. A window would open and at least for a little while a generation that has heardly heard the Christian story might become curious about this man who lived two thousand years ago and changed the history of the world in such profound ways.


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