DETROIT -— The Right Rev. and Right Hon. George Carey includes among his passions his wife, Eileen; the Barclays Premier League football club Arsenal; and “certain things such as a peaceful world,” he told The Blade during an interview at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit.
The former archbishop of Canterbury elaborated on obstacles to peace that he sees.
“I really do feel very worried about” what is happening to Christians in the Middle East at the hands of the Islamic State, Lord Carey said. “I think we’re now living in a world more dangerous than ever.”
Right Rev. and Right Hon. George Carey includes among his passions his wife, Eileen; the Barclays Premier League football club Arsenal; and “certain things such as a peaceful world.”
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He said that “our biggest enemy now is [ISIS] and Islamic fundamentalism, which now exists in America in all those Muslim families that you have graciously invited and said, following the Statue of Liberty, ‘Come and make your home here.’
“In Britain, too, we’ve got so many Muslims, and out of these people who we’ve educated are going to be the people who are going to be blowing up our trains and planes in the days ahead.”
More military action is near, Lord Carey predicted. “We’ll be sending ground troops to fight [ISIS] within the next year. I won’t bet on this, but I think it will become almost inevitable.”
Lord Carey of Clifton, 79, was the 103rd archbishop of Canterbury, from 1991-2002, and was named to the British House of Lords when he retired. He was the top Anglican bishop in the United Kingdom and the spiritual head of the global Anglican Communion and its 70 million members, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Lord Carey is attentive to the Islamic State “reconfiguring the social cultural landscape of the Middle East” and that fighting it can be done “by education, by kindness, by actually getting close to these people, and debating with them to show that they're not going to beat us,” he said. “Never in a million years are they going to beat us, U.S. and Britain. We’re too strong; our cultures are too strong. We’re not going to kowtow to them. That’s not our way.”
He and Mrs. Carey had traveled to the United States to visit a friend, the rector of St. Martin's in Houston, the largest Episcopal church in the United States, and then accepted an invitation to Detroit.
The former archbishop’s schedule in Michigan included giving an invocation before the legislature in Lansing and speaking at a tea held by the Daughters of the British Empire. At St. John’s, he presided at the Mass of the Feast of the Ascension on May 14 and preached on Sunday.
The Ascension is when it’s said that the resurrected Jesus physically rose into heaven. The former archbishop said, “For orthodox Christians it’s a fundamental doctrine of the faith. … Ascension, though, throws up very big scientific questions. How do we interpret that today, because there's no going up [into a heaven in the sky]? If you talk about ascension, you've got to actually interpret it in other ways. Was this an accommodation to the way we understand this, the three-decker universe [of] up there, living, and the dead/Hades and that kind of thing?
“Working it out theologically, and I often say you’ve got to actually realize the limitations of our language, you cannot possibly express this. Very often the way we express our deepest truths are through metaphor, through picture language, through the kind of Tolkien language, that of Harry Potter and that kind of thing. The only way we can do it is to portray it in words which are pictorial in nature.”
St. John’s is an Episcopal church that follows Anglican tradition. Rather than accept rapid change, at St. John’s, the priest and congregation tend to wait, while examining scripture, to be more assured of guidance.
St. John’s has remained Episcopalian and it did not break away, like some congregations, to join the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA’s first archbishop, Robert Duncan, whose term ended in 2014, is the Anglican bishop of Pittsburgh. He “is a good friend of mine and I admire him immensely,” Lord Carey said, “but in his position I may not, probably would not, have made his choice” to leave the Episcopal church.
When Lord Carey was archbishop of Canterbury, some Anglicans objected to social change, such as greater acceptance of homosexuals and increasing women’s roles in the church. He was the first archbishop of Canterbury to ordain women as priests, and female bishops from outside the United Kingdom attended an every-10-years Lambeth Conference at the archbishop’s palace in 1998.
Lord Carey as archbishop had established procedures for dissenters to remain in the church but be served by sympathetic bishops. “I think people should stay together in spite of differences because it’s very difficult to reunite people once they left,” Lord Carey said. “I'm probably more traditional; I might have more in common with ACNA than the Episcopal Church today, but feel as strongly that we shouldn't break away.”
A major challenge continuing in his church is how to acknowledge the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Anglicans.
“I’m glad I’m not the current archbishop of Canterbury,” Lord Carey said, “because we now have [legal] same-sex marriages, generally accepted in society, but they can’t get married in church. … How are we going to handle this, keeping to our faith, to doctrine, at the same time helping people, being loving and charitable?”
Lord Carey’s position is that marriage “does not include same-sex relationships. [But] same-sex marriages are now legal,” he said, “and as a citizen of my country I have to respect that and I go along with that. Not happily, but I go along with that and I greet people, I treat them just the same.”
As for the church, “Even though I recognize that the Episcopal Church is doing it out of compassion, out of its feeling of changes in theology, and I think those changes came out of liberalism rather than out of a careful reading of scripture, nevertheless, as a former archbishop I had to live with that. … I don’t see it as a prophetic act yet, but could it be? I just raise the question.”