Robert Runcie bigraphy, stories - Archbishop of Canterbury

Robert Runcie : biography

2 October 1921 - 11 July 2000

Robert Alexander Kennedy Runcie, Baron Runcie PC MC (2 October 1921–11 July 2000) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Runcie was selected as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1979. Ironically, in view of his future relations with the Conservative government, there is evidence that Runcie was actually the second choice of the Crown Appointments Commission, the first choice, Hugh Montefiore, having proven politically unacceptable to the then newly elected Conservative government. He was installed as archbishop on 25 March 1980.

During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury he witnessed a breaking down of traditionally convivial relations between the Conservative Party and the Church of England, which was habitually described as "the Tory party at prayer". This was due mainly to the church's pronouncements on political matters and Margaret Thatcher's support for the ethos of individualism and wealth creation as well as her claim that "there is no such thing as society",Wikiquotes – Margaret Thatcher which many Anglicans thought was uncaring and anti-Christian.

In 1981, Runcie officiated at the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer, despite suspecting privately that they were ill-suited and that their marriage would not last.

On 11 March 1982, Runcie attempted to give a speech in St Nicholas Parish Church in Liverpool but was shouted down by people angry about the Pope's prospective visit to Britain. They shouted that Runcie was a traitor, a liar and was selling the Anglicanism down the road to Rome. After interruptions of the service, Runcie asked them to listen to chapter five of St Matthew's Gospel: "For they are the words of Jesus himself" but they replied: "You had better read your Bible yourself. You are a traitor and a Judas". Outside, demonstrators held placards with the inscriptions "Rome Rules Runcie", "Our Faith Our Bible", "Revive Reformation", "Calvary not Popery", and "Jesus What More". Afterwards, Runcie said: "I am trying my best to find forgiveness for them, but it is very upsetting".The Times (12 March 1982), p. 1. Cardinal Basil Hume called the demonstration "particularly abhorrent and a scandal".The Times (15 March 1982), p. 2.

On 17 March 1982, Runcie gave a speech to the National Society for the Promotion of Christianity in which he said that Christianity should play a crucial part in the religious education of all pupils, even if they were non-Christian: "While recognising that a truly pluralistic society should not merely tolerate diversity but value and nurture it, I must also express the fear that at times we seem tempted to sacrifice too much of our native Christian tradition on the altar of multi-culturalism".The Times (18 March 1982), p. 3.

With a dramatic gesture of goodwill, he knelt in prayer with Pope John Paul II in Canterbury Cathedral during John Paul's visit to Great Britain in 1982.

On 18 April 1982, Runcie said in an interview with London Weekend Television that he hoped the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church would be unified by the year 2000: "I dream of unity with Rome, and with the great Reform tradition and with the orthodox, by the end of the century, but we will have to get a move on, certainly, if that is our target. I don't not see why we should not have that target." Runcie said of the office of Pope: "There is advantage in having a central focus of affection, even a central spokesman to articulate what the churches in different parts of the world are thinking. I think Anglicans recognise that there is value in that sort of concept". He also played down the Queen's role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England: "Our entanglement with Crown and Parliament is not very considerable now. The Queen's position in the life of our church is very much a symbolic position. She is, as it were, a chief lay person in our church rather than somebody who has a decisive voice in all our appointments."The Times (19 April 1982), p. 10.

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