The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, stops work at 6pm so he can watch The Simpsons. He is more afraid of what his wife Jane thinks than he is of the Editor of the Daily Mail. And he believes that gay clergy should adhere to the Bible and not act upon their sexual preferences.
Dr Williams spoke of the insecurities and anxieties of high office in the Church of England in an interview with three teenage reporters from the youth magazine Oi!.
He told one of the interviewers, 17-year-old Georgie Gothard, who said that she was 12 weeks pregnant and did not know whether she should keep the baby, that he could never advise anyone to have an abortion and that the 24-week limit was too high.
“Personally, I believe a child is a gift from God and you wouldn’t give a gift back, would you?” he said.
And he confessed that, although at £60,000 a year he earns less than a headteacher, he enjoys his job – “at least the nonpolitical side of things”.
This is because he is passionate about the environment and likes meeting people, he said.
Dr Williams was interviewed for the Kent-based magazine over tea and toast at the Old Palace next door to Canterbury Cathedral. The three teenagers reported that they found him relaxed and accessible. “I was expecting just words. What he gave me was meaning, an understanding of who I was and where I was at, cloaked in kindness,” one said.
Dr Williams told them how he found a dead person in his drive one day, how he made the Church install a decent kitchen in his house and how his two children hate him turning up to watch them in an event.
Holly Mounter, 15, described the teenage fear of not being good enough and asked Dr Williams if he ever felt the same. He replied: “Yes, often. It’s not an easy job. I have everyone judging me and many people thinking that the decisions I make are stupid. My teenage daughter thinks I’m every kind of idiot there is.
“There are two things that keep me going, though, and my family are one of them. Having support and love from those closest to me is hugely important. God is my other source of strength. He’s always there for me, even if He thinks I’m an idiot too.
“And that is why what the Editor of the Daily Mail thinks of me is pretty irrelevant. Ultimately, I’m answerable to God – and my wife!”
He said he thought that Britain could cope with the present rate of immigration but was concerned when he recently saw three families sharing a three-bedroomed house in Norwich.
Mylie Veitch, 18, asked him for his views on a gay friend of hers who is considering adopting with his partner.
Dr Williams said: “This is a big one. I have questions as to whether same-sex couples can provide the same stability as ‘normal parents’. I have no answers really, just questions.
“Many would argue that we need a balance of men and women to bring a child up. However, I have seen one fantastic example of same-sex parenting first hand and I suppose stability is another key consideration.”
Asked about his support for gay clergy, he replied: “I have no problem with gay clergy who aren’t in relationships, although there are savage arguments about the issue you might have heard about. Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the Bible. Gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practising homo-sexual relationships don’t. This major question doesn’t have a quick-fix solution and I imagine will be debated for many years to come.”
He admitted that even though he stops work at 6pm to watch television and spend time with his family, he starts up again later, usually with an evening appointment.
The Archbishop’s remarks come as the Anglican Communion, which he leads, moves even closer to schism in the row over homosexuality. In the past few days a conservative diocese in the US formally left the Episcopal Church to realign with the traditionalist province of the Southern Cone.
Many insiders believe that the dispute will move across the Atlantic to Britain next year.