1. It again comes down to what sort of society we are. ++ Rowan is among those in the church who has accepted the end of Christendom in the UK, and that we now have to live in a new secular pluralist reality. Other bishops, like Michael Nazir-Ali, argue for Christendom laws and customs to stay in place. Some of the debate within the church is between two different views of what point in history we have reached, and whether it's possible to do a Canute in reverse and stop the tide going out.
2. I almost completely agree with those who say that people who come to this country to live should be prepared to abide by its laws and legal system. No legal system is perfect, but there is a danger of creating ghettoes and untouchable areas if you have separate jurisdictions.
3. Muslims beware. If you really want sharia marriage law to come into the state system, talk to any Anglican who has had to deal with planning law. The Anglican church has it's own system for planning permission, called the faculty system, which allows all planning decisions around churches to be dealt with internally. It is possibly the biggest source of gripes within the CofE after those horrible green cups you still find in some churches. There are several historical interest groups, all more bothered about preserving stuff from previous centuries than in the worship and mission of the church, and a pervading sense that we have to run a tight ship in order to stop the state taking planning permission back again. This makes the faculty process long, tortuous, and frequently unsatisfactory. The faculty system in our diocese has representatives from the Victorian society, but no mission specialists, in the main advisory group. That says pretty much all you need to know about how it works!
It very much depends how it would work, whether it's an attempt to regulate internal islamic 'justice' by the state, or just an attempt to legalise it. The former might benefit those in the Muslim community who are currently victims of their own 'legal system'.
4. Rowan Williams comments would have been much better said by someone else. The trouble is that he's leader of the worldwide Anglican communion. His words therefore reflect on Anglicans in Pakistan, Nigeria and Uganda, whose churches are being firebombed by gangs of Muslims, whose leaders and their families are being attacked and murdered. Patrick Sookhedeo of the Barnabas Fund is pretty trenchant:
Furthermore for the many Anglicans and other Christians living in contexts
where shari`a is being applied and causing untold misery and suffering, for
example in parts of Nigeria and parts of Sudan, the Archbishop of Canterbury`s
suggestions are not just unwise, but insensitive to the point of callousness.
In many parts of the Muslim world, England is (mistakenly) seen as a 'Christian' country, so for the leader of global Anglicanism to suggest that Muslim law could possibly replace 'Christian' laws looks like a massive admission of defeat by Christians. The Ugandan church's decision today to disassociate from the Lambeth conference may, in part, be a damage limitation exercise. There is a cost to the mission and ministry of the church in Uganda of being associated with a global church which looks like it's lost confidence in the Christian faith. We haven't lost that confidence, it's just that a debate about culture, law and society within the UK looks very different when you're looking from Uganda. That's why, if this needed to be said (and the issue certainly needed to be raised, though maybe not this way), it would have been better said by a local, English bishop rather than AB of C. Symbolism is so important.