Rowan Williams labelled a ‘subversive’ by MI5

Jun 19, 2011
David Cairns

Outspoken archbishop has a history of activism and strong left-wing views

The Archbishop of Canterbury rocked the boat earlier this month when he published an article in the New Statesman condemning the Coalition's "radical policies for which no one voted". Now it has emerged that in his younger years, Rowan Williams was listed as a "subversive" by MI5.

Senior MI5 officer Charles Elwell, who died in 2008, identified Williams as a dangerous element back in 1989 in a secret newsletter circulated to senior British politicians, including Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister, says the Sunday Telegraph.

Known as 'MI5's Witchfinder-General', Elwell warned of the "problem of Christian left wing groups" and cited the Jubilee Group, of which Williams was a member, as "the best known and probably most influential".

Shortly after the briefing, Thatcher said publicly that the Jubilee Group was "the most subversive group within the religious community in England".

Williams helped write a manifesto for the Jubliee Group back in 1974 when he was a student at Cambridge. During the 1980s, the group helped arrange demonstrations against the Poll Tax, in support of the strikers when Rupert Murdoch moved production to Wapping and against the US nuclear base at Greenham Common.

The MI5 listing does not refer specifically to Williams himself – and his membership of the group is old news - so the Telegraph's interest in it will be seen by some as another attempt to discredit him. Writing for The First Post, the Rev Stephen Thorp said William's critics sought to "dismiss the man rather than engage with the argument".

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