The 'Light Red Dean' of Canterbury Cathedral
The 'Light Red Dean' of Canterbury Cathedral

The Anglican Communion Archbishop of Canterbury in England, Dr. Rowan Williams, visited China last month and was warmly welcomed by the Chinese government. Dr. Williams was invited by the State Administration of Religious Affairs of the PRC, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches in China, and the China Christian Council.

Dr. Williams' schedule in China was arranged by the Chinese government. He visited many churches, attended a sermon at the Beijing Chaoyang District Church, and also met with Jia Qinglin, the Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The Chinese official media covered Dr. Williams' visit. They reported that he was excited over so many Christians in China and happy that he had an opportunity to communicate with the churches. He also mentioned that he was optimistic in relation to the changing Chinese religious policy, and believed the visit was a success.

Chinese dissident writer Yu Jie, also a Christian, published an overseas article documenting Dr. Williams' visit. He said it was a great success for China's “united front” policy and that Dr. Williams involuntarily became a crusader for revealing the lie of a “harmonious society” in China.

Yu Jie also pointed out that many of Dr. Williams' speeches during his visit were not reported by the Chinese media. For example, when delivering a sermon, Dr. Williams stated that whether a harmonious society could be achieved depended on whether the Chinese government allowed freedom of speech. Dr. Williams also requested China to stop news censorship. The Chinese media did not report those comments.

Yu Jie believes Dr. Williams is responsible for this because he did not request the Chinese government to honestly and openly report his speeches and activities. More importantly, Dr. Williams did not mention a word about the CCP's persecution against unofficial religious organizations and activities. On the contrary, he praised the CCP's gradual recognition of the positive impact religions have on society.

Dr. Williams' visit to China reminded people of the “Red Dean”—Dr. Hewlett Johnson, the Archbishop (Dean) of Canterbury from 1931 to 1963. Dr. Johnson favored the Left and was unhappy about the reality in the Western world, preferring instead, Communist Party governments. He believed that the Communist Party emphasized spiritual values and ethical standards consistent with the Christian spirit. He kept close relations with the British Communist Party and often wrote articles for the London Daily Worker.

In 1937 he visited Moscow and highly praised the former Soviet Union regime under Stalin. After the visit, he published a book titled “The Socialist Sixth of the World.” The name of the book referred to the size of the Soviet Union. He openly stated that he believed the Soviet Union was closer to Christian values than England.

In May 1945 he visited the Soviet Union again and met with Stalin. Shortly after this visit, he visited the United States and stated that the United States should share its nuclear secrets with the Soviet Union. In return, the Soviet Union awarded him with the Stalin International Peace Prize.

In 1951 Dr. Johnson visited China and met with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. He believed that China was another nation close to Christian ethics—everyone had ideals and the leaders were all saints.

At that time, China was involved in the Korean War against the United States. He strongly supported China's allegations that the United States had conducted bacterial warfare in Northeastern China.

In 1956 the CCP invited Dr. Johnson to visit again. He attended the CCP's National Day ceremony and stepped onto Tiananmen Square as an honored guest. Once again Zhou Enlai met with him and invited him to an official banquet.

The year 1956 was the peak for the “Red Dean.” It was also the time when his influence began to wane. Shortly after he stepped onto Tiananmen Square, the Soviets invaded Hungary. When the entire non-communist world condemned the invasion, Dr. Johnson not only refused to criticize the Soviets, he visited the Soviet Union again the following year to attend the anniversary ceremony of the October Revolution.

He lost the basic conscience of a Christian. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury was a tenured position appointed by the King, he could not be discharged, but he was forbidden to attend any religious activities as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Things are different today. Compared to the “Red Dean,” no matter how much Dr. Williams has been utilized by CCP propaganda, he is only “light red.”

Originally published by Radio Free Asia

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