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ive years ago, British chests swelled with pride at the thought that London was about to overtake New York as the world’s leading financial centre. But the pride came before a fall. It was no coincidence that Britain’s

economy was more badly damaged by the cost of bailing out the banking sector than America’s, where the finance indus- try constitutes a smaller component of the total economy. Anyone with a sense of satisfaction at the thought that Britain is now the world’s second-largest arms exporter needs to reflect on that lesson. Why do so many countries in the world, includ- ing many that rely on British development aid, need such large armed forces, so expensively equipped? Armaments are for killing people. Who are they intended to kill? More to the point, how many refugees arriving at Europe’s borders will be fleeing armed conflict at home, facilitated by the British arms industry? The moral ambiguity about the arms trade has not been

resolved by the imposition of a government regime of bans and conditions concerning what may be sold to whom. The ambiguity lies at the heart of the trade itself. It is a business on which Britain has become as dependent as any drug addict. It claims a turnover of £22 billion in 2010, exporting £9.5bn

worth of equipment and employing 110,000 people. The Government, desperately looking for growth points in an otherwise declining industrial sector, wants to boost this even more. Taxpayer-funded subsidies are available. Meanwhile British armed forces, with the wind-down in Iraq and Afghanistan, are contracting. The industry needs new customers. As a general principle, those who supply goods do every-

thing they can to increase demand for them. The arms indus- try is not uniquely exempt from that rule. The carnival of weapons salesmanship in London’s Docklands this week showed the industry flashing an exotic display of killing machines, and equally exotic foreign military personnel being excited by it. A comprehensive alliance of protest groups, many of them

religiously based including the Catholic pacifist movement Pax Christi, lobbied and picketed the exhibition to draw attention to its real nature. “I find it scandalous that this country is one of the biggest exporters of arms in the world,” said Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood, in whose Catholic diocese the arms fair was taking place. “Advanced weapons are sold to countries at war with each other or to regimes that oppress their own people or attack their neighbours.” Nevertheless, there is such a thing as legitimate self-defence.

The use of military force is not wrong in a just cause, such as to assist a rebellion against a dictator like Colonel Gaddafi. The Nato operation in Libya – albeit against a regime which the same Nato countries had propped up – was not without its side effects in civilian casualties. But so far, regrettable though they are, they seem to have been within the limits set by the just war criteria of proportionality. It is notable, however, that few if any countries to which Britain had sold arms, were ready to use them to assist Nato in the overthrow of this tyrant. That undermines the point that British arms sales serve Britain’s wider interests. Instead of rejoicing with patriotic pride at their increase or revelling in their ingenuity, it would be more noble to manage their decline.


he proposed visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to Zimbabwe next month high- lights one of the Anglican Communion’s most divisive disputes. Zimbabwe’s Anglicans have been drawn into

a bitter quarrel which centres on the activities of the Revd Nolbert Kunonga. He has proclaimed himself “Archbishop of Harare” in place of the bishop recognised by the rest of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Chad Gandiya, and has seized church property, including the cathedral. Allied to the regime of President Robert Mugabe, the Kunonga faction claims to be more authentically biblical in its version of Anglicanism because it rejects any accommodation with homosexuality in the Church, especially moves in the United States to allow homosexuals to be ordained or appointed as bishops. This reflects a homo- phobic and patriarchal approach to sexuality which is deeply rooted in many African cultures, across denominations. “Archbishop” Kunonga has been excommunicated by the

Anglican province in southern Africa. The Archbishop of Canterbury brings with him not much more than the power of persuasion, though he can demonstrate the solidarity of the rest of the Anglican Communion with the dispossessed Anglicans who have been forced to celebrate Holy Communion in Harare Cathedral car park. But the Anglican division over homosexuality is beyond any immediate solution and has vexed Dr Williams’ primacy since he was appointed in 2002. There is speculation that he would like to retire long before the required age of 70 and return to academic life. His own sympathies regarding homosexuality have always been pro-

2 | THE TABLET | 17 September 2011

gressive, but he leads a Church, in England and overseas, where majority opinion has not caught up with him. On behalf of that conservative majority opinion – to the dismay of some of his own liberal circle of friends – he has tried to maintain the Anglican Communion’s unity, albeit with diminishing suc- cess. Parts of it are in de facto schism over the issue; a de jure break-up cannot be postponed for ever. A formal split would seem like a personal tragedy for this kindly, learned and lib- eral man. He is the last person to want to preside over one. For Dr Williams, or more likely his successor, the unavoid- able question has to be whether the received model of Anglican unity, based on an ecclesiology more Catholic than Protestant, is still realistic when many parts of the Anglican world are not prepared to play by its rules. There is no central Anglican authority, a situation that did not seem to matter when a gen- eral consensus existed as to what Anglicanism stood for. Its absence now makes the task of the Archbishop of Canterbury, titular head of the Communion and chief defender of its unity, uniquely burdensome. Other international Christian denom- inations, such as the Lutherans and the Methodists, have felt that the universal dimension of their faith was sufficiently expressed by a looser federal structure, without any attempt to impose uniformity of doctrine or church order. If that pattern is the one towards which Anglicanism is inexorably progressing, any attempt to head it off will be a wasted effort. With his experience, it would not be surprising if Dr Williams was beginning to think he has given it his best shot, but that the task may be beyond even human capability.

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