Former Archbishop of Canterbury presents first Grand Challenges lecture

Keele University’s Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences welcomed Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and former Archbishop of Canterbury, to campus this week to present the first Grand Challenges lecture of 2018/19.

Professor Jonathan Wastling, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, introduced Dr Williams with a warm welcome to the packed audience at Keele Hall on Tuesday October 17. Dr Williams stood down as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2012 to take up the position of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University.

His talk on Ethics, Law and the Future of Democracy looked at the UK in the aftermath of a referendum. Dr Williams spoke about the importance of referendums, and why we aren’t usually governed by them. His talk focused on democracy, how it has evolved, works and why it may be at risk.

During his closing speech Dr Williams said: “Whether you voted remain or leave in the Brexit referendum, you must surely have some concern about a political situation where one set of apparently intractable problems, is currently occupying the entire political energy of the government, to the visible detriment of any other urgent issue in society - this can not be the way to do it. This is why I think a referendum is not a good idea, there are other ways of sorting out the discernment of a political community. Referendums must be thought hard about, to which conditions it operates under, what makes it valid and binding, and what process goes into making it work.”

Rowan Williams and Jonathan Wastling Professor Wastling said: “Thank you to Dr Williams for what was a fascinating lecture. He challenged us on a social, societal and political level, and challenged us as an academic institution to live up to our responsibilities to our society, as well as challenging us on a personal moral basis as well.”

The Grand Challenges lectures offer a distinctive range of interdisciplinary perspectives on pressing societal questions and are open to all: undergraduates, postgraduates, all staff members and the wider Keele community. Find out more about the 2018/19 Grand Challenges lecture series.