The Truth will make you free.  George Carey.

I recently suggested that Lord Carey be invited to chair a significant public meeting in Oxford. The response was he might himself become the story for local journalists. Clearly, in the poorly informed public mind Lord Carey is primarily associated with recent stories about what he knew or did not know with relation to safeguarding cases in the Church of England. Three of the final chapters of this second volume of his memoirs give his, as yet insufficiently heard, side of the stories. It is to the credit of Isaac Publishing and Barnabas Fund, of which Lord Carey is patron, that they publish material, still controversial, in which someone who believes they were falsely accused and judged, (or persecuted like the beneficiaries of the work of the Fund) can speak freely.

Now 86, almost twenty years after retiring from Canterbury, Lord Carey continues his enquiring, curious, questioning exploration of life, the universe and everything in it.

He never forgets his very poor education in his early years and leaving school at fifteen with no qualifications. He has devoted much of his retirement to presiding over the work of the United Learning Trust which, with Tony Blair, Lord Adonis and Gordon Brown, set up “Academies” to turn around failing schools in the poorest areas.  Lord Carey sees education as far more than acquiring knowledge for a career; it is to shape the whole personality of a cultivated man or woman. He is troubled that in 2018, 48 per cent of private school students achieved A grades at A level, almost double the national average of 26 percent.

In retirement he continued his advocacy for the very poor of the world. While Archbishop he had persuaded the World Bank to engage seriously with religious communities, who in Africa and Asia provide the networks to carry out projects that agencies fund, and give poor people dignity and hope. This short-lived partnership, stopped by the World Bank Board, had enabled a major conference of the World Bank and the Churches of Africa, published as ‘Faith in Development’ in 2001. Lord Carey also called the meetings which led to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) so that more people are now out of dire poverty than there have ever been.

Self-taught, he gained a Ph D in theology and taught in three theological colleges. But he waits to see bishops and theological teachers fully engaged with the ‘missionary context in which we live’. He wants students to be inspired by people with success in building up congregations and leading others to baptism and faith. He thinks few bishops had any experience of growth in their formation as priests and so have little concept of what it means to make disciples. Thus parish vicars have little support from their bishops who have no real experience of successful growth in ministry. Leadership, he writes, is that ability to get things done, and if you do not get things done – you are not a leader.

He felt this lack of support himself when facing charges under the church’s safeguarding procedures, invented after he left office. Safeguarding, he says, has become an industry in its own right ‘often unjust in its treatment of ministers and presumption of guilt.’ Archbishops and bishops, he says, are in danger of forgetting their pastoral responsibilities to their clergy and predecessors. He calls for truly independent and professional disciplinary procedures such as for doctors, lawyers and teachers. Currently, he reports, over forty bishops are being investigated for alleged failure to report abuse. Might they be reluctant to make such reports without convincing evidence since the current law provides no anonymity for those accused of unproven crimes?  So innocent people have their lives ruined because police officers have decided that allegations of child sex abuse by people, who can be anonymous, are always to be believed.

On the contemporary issue of assisted dying his change of mind centred on the case of Tony Nicklinson, who following a stroke aged 58, suffered locked in syndrome and could only move and blink his eyes. Why, Lord Carey asked, could a terminally ill person ask for a machine to be turned off, but cannot get help to die peacefully? Mr Nicklinson eventually starved himself to death, thus legally committing suicide.Dr James Haslam, a Consultant in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine, argues that Tony Nicklinson’s case would make bad law since the ‘rightness of assisted dying in strictly agreed and controlled circumstances’ that Lord Carey espouses, in reality broadens and becomes uncontrolled as soon as it is legalized: it jeopardises very many other vulnerable patients. Canada has seen massive incremental extension within five years. Lord Carey’s views on assisted dying are provoking much debate. He will both like and respect that.

Chris Sugden

Church of England Newspaper November 12 2021

Details: Isaac Publishing 232 pages including index £10 from Barnabas Fund 9 Priory Row, Coventry CV1 5EX Phone 024 7623 1923 Or