Profile on +Rowan Williams in the National Catholic Reporter

12 09 2007

Thanks to the lead in Daily Episcopalian for pointing out the article, which may be read in its entirety here.

Below you can find some interesting tid-bits … my peanut gallery commentary is in bold and the article text is in italics.

He has sought to make space for all contending parties to be heard: notably the “inclusive” liberals led by the American Anglicans of the Episcopal church, who in 2003 ordained as bishop a divorced man, Gene Robinson, now living with a gay partner, (i can’t help but think they pointed all this out to say “look how different those Anglicans are compared to us”) and, at the other end of the spectrum, the conservative evangelicals, especially those of the “Global South” — the expanding Anglican churches of the Third World, above all in Africa — who have accused the North Americans of “following another religion.” (What is this new religion people keep speaking of?  I keep missing that memo) A crunch is approaching at the end of September, when the Episcopal church has been asked to declare that it will no longer bring forward candidates for the episcopate who are living in same-sex unions, and that no bishop will authorize same-sex blessings.

Virtually no one thinks the church will comply (DUH! But I do think we might yet be surprised at what comes out of NOLA later this month). Even Williams, who will address the House of Bishops of the Episcopal church later this month when it meets in New Orleans to decide its position, and who will then find it harder to avert open schism.


As he looks forward, the archbishop hopes against hope. He pauses for thought before he replies to questions, his eyes reflective under the bushy eyebrows (see? I told you he was like Gandalf!) …This archbishop is a formidable intellectual, commanding respect even from those who accuse him of obscurity and remark that he is too clever by half. He speaks and understands a clutch of languages. He was one of the founders of Affirming Catholicism, a movement in the Catholic wing of the Church of England that endorsed women priests during the heat of controversy over their ordination. His wife, Jane, herself a theologian, is an evangelical (with the fashion sense of a hippy who never recovered from a bad dose of LSD).
Ask the archbishop whether, given the present difficulties, he does not sometimes wish in his heart of hearts for a touch of papal power and he will always say no. Then what does he think that Christian leadership consists in?
One has to look at the Gospel, he replies, to tease out the context of a concept like that. In that light, he sees his task as taking appropriate responsibility “for making things happen in the direction of God’s kingdom.” (NICE answer … score one for Canterbury) Instant results are not always to be expected. In the Anglican Communion, decisions “depend very heavily on mutual consent.” Otherwise they will not stick. He does what he can, he says, to “make a difference that shifts things slightly.” (this whole paragraph is very interesting in a few ways … it’s also as the article says in the next paragraph “very Anglican” and “very Rowan Williams)
The Windsor proposals were to be a central plank of Williams’ strategy at the Lambeth Conference next year. They remain on the table, but he has had to row back. “We are still floundering a bit,” he said. The thrust of the opposition on both fronts can be gauged by how he phrases the difficulties. First, “it would radically change the character of the church if there were a more bureaucratic primacy, and take away something from the sense of being a bishop among bishops.”
As to the covenant, he would indeed like to see “a much greater convergence of our canon law” toward “some kind of worldwide screening process” that would make it possible to resolve any “really bad procedural blunder that caused scandal and damage to a church in a province.” But every Anglican province at present “has what is in principle a self-sufficient system of canon law.” To introduce any element into these provincial systems that gave jurisdiction elsewhere “would be a huge innovation.” (not to mention messy. It seems as if the Communion is not making effective use of the structures its has in place NOW. What another structure would solve is beyond me)
As a theologian in the 1980s Williams himself was one of those questioning the Christian tradition on homosexuality. “I still think the points I raised were worth raising. But put them in the context of a wider discussion of the doctrine of the church and how the church makes up its mind, and it looks a little less simple.” In that context it becomes clear that “there are no arguments that are winning the majority of Christendom over to a new position” that would amend or reverse the consistently negative Christian tradition on homosexual practice. He distinguishes sharply between questions a theologian may ask and actions or decisions a church or a bishop may take” (I don’t really want to admit it, but he DOES have a point)
“Every morning, therefore, I have an opportunity to remind myself that what matters is not the Church of England or the Anglican Communion but the act of God in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. When I am inclined to think that the whole thing is falling apart and that I am making a more than usually bad job of it (no comment…really), the transforming thing has got to be, and in my experience always is, renewing a sense of gratitude. Whether the Church of England survives or not, whether the archbishop of Canterbury survives or not, Christ still died on the cross and rose again, and that’s enough to keep you going for quite a few lifetimes (AMEN to that).”

Powered by such spiritual integrity, can Rowan Williams continue to keep the show on the road? The talking cannot go on forever, and not everyone can be right. After the nursing, should there be surgery? Some Anglicans wonder, but their church does not do surgery, and this archbishop certainly does not. The risk is that effective schism will continue to be staved off by solutions that pile anomaly upon anomaly. “I fear,” one Anglican bishop said, “that the communion may be held together in such a ragged way that one wonders what the point is.”

But a leading evangelical, Bishop Tom Wright of Durham, voiced a robust hope. “I really do believe,” he declares, “that if God had intended the Anglican Communion to shatter, he would not have raised up Rowan Williams to be the archbishop of Canterbury.”

A rather positive end to the article. I pray the Bishop of Durham is not mistaken in his convictions.




3 responses

12 09 2007
Sista girl

re: “It seems as if the Communion is not making effective use of the structures its has in place NOW. What another structure would solve is beyond me…”

I cannot believe you of all people couldn’t possibly surmise what ANOTHER structure would solve. Hello….you go to ***** Church. I have three words to assist in you making that leap: form a committee! 😉

Create a structure=form a committee.

Can’t you see the parallels?! It’s a bureaucratic and diplomatic way of LOOKing as if you are absolving a situation. Who says church and state/politics are separate…hahaha. Reverend boy, please…

12 09 2007
Reverend boy

You, Sista girl, are too clever by half as well it seems! Point well taken.

You’re right the natural tendency in this churchy environment is to create another structure/form a committee to give the illusion of fixing the problem.

You are way tooo funny 😉 and i love you for your brutal, phranc honesty.

13 09 2007
Sista girl

Uh…”phranc”…that is cute.

You know, now that I think about it…she (Phranc) resembles the picture my minds eye created from said description of Jane above, “His wife, Jane, herself a theologian, is an evangelical (with the fashion sense of a hippy who never recovered from a bad dose of LSD)” but with a reeeeeeeeally bad haircut -Phranc, not Jane…I have yet to see the latter’s hairdo.

DISCLOSURE: In no way is the lesbian singer/songwriter Phranc, Jane. They are not related -so far as I know- or even know one another -again, so far as I know. NOR am I implying Jane is on the down low and has certain proclivities.

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