George Carey

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Devil's in the details
There are deep forces at work in Western society, hollowing out the values of Christianity and driving them to the margins
—George Carey, not understanding one of the most important tenets of Western society[1]

George Carey (1935–) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002. An often outspoken Evangelical Christian, George Carey has been called "arguably, the most excoriated archbishop since the execution of Charles I’s favourite, William Laud" in 1645.[2] Other Anglicans disagree and claim that he was the worst since Archbishop Abbot shot a gamekeeper dead in 1621.[3]

As Archbishop of Canterbury[edit]

Carey was a surprise nomination for the office. Margaret Thatcher may have chosen him because he wrote a book called The Church in the Marketplace.[4] the success of which was the second highest point of his career (the highest being presiding over the ordination of the first women priests in the Church of England), and also because he came from Essex and had not been to Oxford or Cambridge universities, thus fitting into the Thatcherite model of the self-made man (something since reversed, as in the Tory party itself - the current Archbishop, Justin Welby, went to Eton). In the book, Carey describes the Church of England as "like a toothless old woman muttering in a corner ignored by everyone."[5] Carey's response to the situation was to mutter more loudly but no more coherently; he instituted a 'Decade of Evangelism' that, demonstrating the declining relevance of the Church of England. helped lead to church attendance falling by a quarter.[6] The other theory is that, as stated by John Shelby Spong, "It was an irresponsible act of political revenge by the deeply opinionated Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher" who was given a choice between a decent candidate and one the church leaders thought (mistakenly) "was too bizarre a choice even for Margaret Thatcher."[7]

Carey's tenure can perhaps best be summed up with his own words at the 1998 Lambeth conference, where he supported a homophobic motion:

If this conference is known by what we have said about homosexuality, then we will have failed.[8]

Since being Archbishop of Canterbury[edit]

If George Carey was a poor Archbishop of Canterbury, he's been an even bigger disaster since. After he stepped down, Anglicans in many countries began to complain about him openly. He was barred from delivering a Church Mission Society lecture in England in 2006 because he had become "a factor of disunity and of disloyalty to Rowan Williams, a divisive force."[9] Australian Anglicans published an open letter denouncing him.[10] Meanwhile, the head of the American Episcopal Church told Carey to stop letting himself be used by people sowing division.[11]

Carey claimed that the Church of England was in good shape when he handed it over in 2002 and falling apart just four years later,[12] demonstrating his lack of understanding of the church he supposedly led.

In June of 2017, Carey stepped down as honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford. Despite receiving repeated reports that Anglican bishop Peter Ball had committed sexual abuse against 18 young men, Carey and the rest of the Church (along with high government officials) offered letters of support in Ball's criminal defense. An independent report on the case said the Church "... colluded [with the abuser] rather than seeking to help those he had harmed”. The then-current Archbishop of Canterbury hinted very strongly that it was time for Carey to go.[13]


George Carey is a fairly mainstream evangelical with a Christian persecution complex.[14] He believes that Christians are being "persecuted" and driven underground because they aren't allowed to wear crucifixes or are being forced to do their jobs as registrars even though they disagree with gay marriage.[15] In addition to being a militant homophobe,[16] he believes migration policy should foster the preservation of the Christian heritage of the United Kingdom.[17] Carey also made a personal appeal on behalf of Augusto Pinochet to be released when the former dictator was under house arrest in Great Britain facing charges related to torture and other gross human rights violations,[18] and is supportive of the arms industry.[19]

But the one thing that has made him "ashamed to be an Anglican" was the Church of England voting to divest from companies profiting from the Occupied Territories.[20]

In April 2010, in his most open rejection of the rule of law, Carey suggested that intervention by senior clerics, including himself, was "indicative of a future civil unrest." He also wanted to throw out any judges that had decided cases on religious liberty, "as they have made clear their lack of knowledge about the Christian faith." His submission was rejected by the Court as "misplaced" and "deeply inimical to the public interest."[21]

In 2014, Carey came out in favour of a bill in the UK parliament to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill patients though previously he had opposed the measure.[22]


Not to put too fine a point on it, George Carey was one of only four UK bishops to directly refuse to sign the Cambridge Accord, an accord that did nothing more than assert that homosexual people had human rights.[23]

He tried to block the appointment of Rowan Williams (his successor as archbishop) as a bishop for being soft on homosexuality,[24] and claims that to allow gay marriage would be an act of "cultural vandalism."[25] And in October 2012, speaking alongside Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe he compared the treatment of opponents of gay marriage, by means of a slippery slope argument, to that of the Jews in Nazi Germany.[26][27] Because the Nazis treated the gays really, really well, you know.