11 April 2019, The Tablet

Malcolm McMahon: The listening archbishop

The Tablet Interview

Malcolm McMahon: The listening archbishop

Malcolm McMahon


Liverpool’s genial London-born archbishop speaks frankly about the future of the Church and about his plans to revitalise his diocese through greater involvement of the laity

A favourite church of Archbishop Malcolm McMahon’s is round, with the altar in the centre and huge panels of abstract stained glass on the walls. Built in the early 1960s, St Mary’s, in the industrial town of Leyland, Lancashire, has remarkable Stations of the Cross. Roman soldiers wear swastikas, women are in modern dress and a local workman helps Christ to carry his Cross. Even more unconventionally, there is a fifteenth Station showing the Resurrection.

This choice of church gives a significant clue to the theology of the ninth Archbishop of Liverpool. More clues follow in an interview in which the archbishop talks about his hopes and fears for next year’s diocesan synod. We meet in a small room at the diocesan offices located in a city suburb. Round the table also are two of the Synod 2020 moderators – both priests – and his communications officer.

Archbishop McMahon is genial and outgoing until we settle down to the interview. Then he folds his arms and becomes guarded. I get the impression that he finds journalists superficially friendly but bent on mischief. Frankness has occasionally, in the past, led to unwelcome headlines.

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