Thinking Anglicans

Rowan Williams: the Pitt letters

Updated Thursday morning

The Times has released some correspondence between Rowan Williams ( who at the time was Archbishop of Wales) and Deborah Pitt.

Read all about it:

Ruth Gledhill Rowan Williams: gay relationships ‘comparable to marriage’ and

New light on Archbishop of Canterbury’s view on homosexuality

and on her blog, Archbishop Rowan: gay sex comparable to ‘marriage’

Mary Ann Sieghart Rowan Williams was selected as a liberal and now he should govern as one

Times Leader: Rowan Williams: pragmatism and belief

PDF of original letters here.

Update
The Telegraph has several reactions to this from conservatives (only) in Archbishop of Canterbury compares gay relationships to marriage. The Guardian and the Independent and the Mail also have reports.

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Treebeard
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Treebeard

Ah yes, the tones,of the Rowan we knew and loved pre-Canterbury !

The Rowan of the Michael Harding Memorial Lecture (The Body’s Grace), the Rowan who warmly visited and affirmed the Lesbian & Gay clergy Consultation (meets London, membership, national).

Yes, indeed and this is the voice of the Rowan chosen for Canterbury –but to our continutal and unsresolved grief, never arrived there.

Yes, let him govern as a liberal —for that was he chosen.

The Evangelicals had just had Carey for years–for heavens sakes !)

Pluralist
Guest

It’s a hatchet job by The Times in order to destroy, on someone who invites it because of his shift of position – though he was always Catholic orientated and has tried to impose it on Anglicanism.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/08/duplicity-duplicity-were-all-duped.html

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I quote: “the black shirts of his Anglo-Catholic brethren rather than liberal pink or evangelical bluish-purple” Is this true??? If so, it explains all. The acrimony, the hatred… Church you are not. Shame on you! “… a number of very ambiguous texts…” as changed in Cambrige during the 1960ies ; = ) “… a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely…” These are the kind of things Dr Rowan should be stating in public, telling the culprits that “Jungle justice”, gaol and oppression are un-Christian and inacceptable, because his is the task of incorporating Modernity in… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

How come this Ms Pitt published her private letters now???

john
Guest
john

Coup for Ruth Gledhill, of course, but the release of these letters now is highly mischievous and will bring nothing but grief. It will further undermine RW and will inspire the likes of MerseyMike to further heights of nihilistic destructiveness.

As for sensible liberals (like me, of course), we always knew that was his personal position and that for that reason he would never completely sell out gays.

Sometimes openness, publicity, etc. is a bad thing.

Walsingham
Guest
Walsingham

@Göran Koch-Swahne:

That was my first thought: “Interesting” timing on the release of these “private” letters.

As if the press hasn’t done enough to try and stir the pot. How blatant can you be?

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

Sugden, ready for the kill, says of Williams, “It puts him in an untenable position”. When, I wonder, did Canon Dr. Sugden first see these letters?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Unlike the Pope, who has supreme authority in the Roman Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury has to wrestle with the actuality of being ‘primus inter pares – that is, first of equals, and not supreme head of the Communion. Rowan’s faithfulness to the conciliar modus operandi has forced him, necessarily, to take note of all the opinions of his fellow bishops. This is one of the problems of being a non-hierarchical referee. If Rowan were freer to follow, and rule upon, his own understanding of the demands of the Gospel, it may be that things would have been different,… Read more »

Grumpy High Church Woman
Guest
Grumpy High Church Woman

Clearly pot stirring because Lambeth didn’t provide the psycho-drama that the press wanted. I understand (tho am troubled by and ultimately don’t agree with) the distinction drawn between the intellectual freedom of a Christian theologian (priest or lay) and a bishop. But just to accept the argument for a moment, why did that not apply when he was Bishop of Monmouth or Abp of Wales? Surely a Welsh bishop is just as much a focus for unity as an English bishop, let alone a primate of the Communion. A perplexing stance. What does it say about us as a church… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

The point is that this displays dishonesty. If any of you have ever had any connection with far-left politics, you will know that the policy of democratic centralism can see members all shift their stance at the same time. Submerging their individual view for the Party. I think this is much the same thing. But, the outcome is that people lie about what they believe. They defend things they do not agree with. And that is not truthful. It does not give anyone any credibility. Basically, it is unacceptable and casts doubt on the individual’s integrity. You cannot have integrity… Read more »

robroy
Guest
robroy

Interesting timing indeed. Lambeth 08 is dead and forgotten, now. Not that there was anything of substance anyway.

Rowan states, “When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why.” But this letter was written when he was archbishop of Wales. Does not the archbishop of Wales have the same responsibility to teach the clear position of the Church: Homosexuality is incompatible with scripture.

ettu
Guest
ettu

Ah, Vaunted Ambition!! How seductive – I cringe at the thought of the psychological energy that RW must expend to “reconcile” his inner thoughts and his outward actions – his history with his present reality – I accept that this may happen in mega industrialists ( tho the one I know is tortured by ethical quandries more than RW seems to be) but it is so hard to accept it in this “line of work” He seems to have entered rather blithely on a slippery slope depending more on intellect and ability to dissemble rather than on inner integrity.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

The “substance” of Robroy, seems to me to be the “disaster area” Father Ron Smith talks about, the one that was 1998 and its aftermath… +Carey followed “his own understanding of the demands of the Gospel,” with fatal effect. The AC is still not free from it. As of yet, it remains to be seen if the Indaba thing will prove the beginning of the end of Gaffecon ambition or the end of the beginning of a new thing…

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“You cannot have integrity by lying about your true position and defending something you do not believe in.” Merseymike, this looks suspiciously like you are equating integrity with not being satisfied till you get your own way. And robroy: “Homosexuality is incompatible with scripture” I note not “non-celebate homosexuality” nor “homosexual sex” but “homosexuality”. This is what you really think, all that nonsense about “hate the sin, love the sinner” is just that, nonsense. So, regardless of what I DO, it’s what I AM that is repugnant to God, or at least to you. This, of course, is why Jeffrey… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I wonder what other bits Chris Sugden has in his draw? As many have guessed this is his planted story – and you have to admit it worked! Indeed, indeed there is nothing new in the the story – we did all know that Rowan once held these views. It was because he would not “recant” on his nomination to Canterbury – that the likes of Reform and the Church Society declared him a “false teacher”. I remember their arrival here in Newport and saw them leave with a flea in their ear ……… But so many things have happened… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

If we think it’s been dirty going these past few years, wait for the dog-fight that will erupt, regardless of method of selection, when it comes time to select the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Stephen Roberts
Guest
Stephen Roberts

Let’s unpick the “scoops” from the Telegraph and the Times. Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Telegraph (son of Nick Wynne-Jones, secretary of Anglican Mainstream) “reports” his father’s colleague Chris Sugden (father of Joanna Sugden, colleague of Ruth Gledhill at the Times), and Rod Thomas also of the Anglican Mainstream committee (except when he’s representing Reform because two groups sounds more impressive) that Chris nor Rod say that Rowan should resign. And this passes for journalism? I mean, why not give Andrew Carey a quick call too so he can trot out his dad’s views to boot? Preserve us from Clergy kids… Read more »

Wim Houtman, Religion Editor, Nederlands Dagblad
Guest

“The Church is not inclusive” by Wim Houtman Religion Editor, Nederlands Dagblad More recently than in his eight year old letter quoted by Ruth Gledhill of The Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams offered his views on homosexuality, showing a shift towards a more conservative stance – or at least a willingness to learn. In an interview with the Dutch Christian daily newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad, in August 2006, he distanced himself from his earlier essay, “The Body’s Grace”, and from the ideal of an “inclusive Church”. This is what Rowan Williams said less than two years ago: Unity in… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

The quote from Dagblad is an interesting comment on the letters to Deborah Pitt, however I note that the ABC forclosed the only real possibility of open informed discussion by banning Gene Robinson, and doing it I believe without an explanation to him or to the public. I think it may be hard for non-Americans to realise what a strong effect the long exclusion of Blacks has had on the thinking of the TEC. It has taken a long time, and still is not nearly complete, to create a society where who you are does not automatically exclude you from… Read more »

Ruth Gledhill
Guest

Chris Sugden had nothing at all to do with these letters. They were posted to me on the day Lambeth began. I did not do the stories then because I was not in the office to open my letters, being in Canterbury. I returned to work on Tuesday, and by 5pm when I got to the bottom of my huge pile of post I found the letters. There was no space in Wednesday’s paper so we ran them today. I wonder myself if the Holy Spirit was at work on Rowan’s behalf, in ensuring this story did not come out… Read more »

Wim Houtman, Religion Editor, Nederlands Dagblad
Guest

Maybe you could add it on the blog site with a link to the full interview …?

http://www.nd.nl/htm/dossier/seksualiteit/artikelen/060819eb.htm

Thanks, Wim Houtman

WilliamK
Guest
WilliamK

Thanks to Mr. Houtman for posting the article that sets out more-or-less the current state of ++Rowan’s thinking, which is not that of his past letters. I’d had a vague recollection of seeing this last year. I think it makes clear that ++Rowan’s understanding of “catholic” is leading him to set aside his own judgment in favor of the “majority” view, much in line with standard Roman Catholic teaching that requires intellectual assent and obedience in action to the teaching of the Magisterium. I don’t think this should really surprise anyone, since this is his driving committment, not “liberalism” (whatever… Read more »

JPM
Guest
JPM

Yes, this is certainly a dirty trick. Maybe it will inspire Williams to stop prostrating himself before the likes of Sugden. That would be a nice change.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“…But if we are going to have time to discuss this, prayerfully, thoughtfully, we really don’t need people saying: we must change it now….”

We’ve been talking about it for 30 years now; eventually, somebody had to say “the change happens now”.

David Bieler
Guest
David Bieler

Of course, if a conservative wanted to support ++Rowan’s efforts, one could hold him up as an exemplar of the sacrifice that the North American churches should be adopting. That woudl require them to bo interested in unity, which they are not, except with their own kind who make an idol of the particular Biblicial texts they want to use to bludgeon anyone who tries to deal thoughtfully with Scripture and its relationship to thier lives in a 21st century world rather than a first century world or a medieval one.

orfanum
Guest
orfanum

Perhaps again just as much in reflection on previous posts about this subject as much as on this one, anyone remember this from last year – were there any further reverberations, or is it possible that non-lay officers of the AC might benefit from a ‘law-of-the-land’ approach now that ++Rowan has nailed his colours to the mast? http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/7075095.stm Curiously, a bit more digging around the BBC site revealed this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/3251378.stm So, was this succession at Hereford indicative of a ‘conservative conversion’ of the AC that is far longer in the tooth than I imagined? The Right Reverend John Oliver made… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

Lambeth 1:10 applies only to HETEROsexuals! Homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture EXCEPT if you are born gay. To conclude that a gay partnership might “reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, IF AND ONLY IF it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness” is an endorsement of gay marriage and gay church blessings – a route to salvation for gay couples. This explains why a liberal would adopt conservative policies. He sees it as important to persuade the whole Communion that people are born gay – to continue the listening process. So… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Ford: it is really quite simple. I do not think that anyone who does not tell the truth and support publicly that which he actually believes has integrity.

I think that of people in the closet who make anti-gay proclamations. I also think those who are actually supportive of gay rights but speak against them using spurious excuses also lack integrity.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

This quote emphasises the problem and why RW’s entire stance is one which leads to hypocrisy

“Equally I have to guard the faith and teaching of the Church. My personal ideas and questions have to take second place”

No. That is institutionalised nonsense. People should stand for and speak the truth as they see it. I see no appeal in a didactic institution which tells people how to think and is inflexible enough not to deal with social change.

MJ
Guest
MJ

George Pitcher, on his Telegraph blog, adds this: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/george_pitcher/blog/2008/08/07/rowan_williams_and_sex_a_clarification “There’s an old journalistic saying (or if there isn’t, there should be) that if you have a scoop then it’s worth repeating. So amidst all the hoo-ha surrounding old letters of Dr Rowan Williams, in which he discussed his theological view of human sexuality, I thought it might be relevant to repeat what he told me on Sunday, at the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference. The interview gave me the opportunity to ask Dr Williams to clarify an answer he gave to a press conference question early on in the Lambeth… Read more »

Paul R
Guest
Paul R

I don’t know why so many people seem to think that the views Rowan Williams held eight years ago, before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, are the views he really holds today. Ruth Gledhill, for example, begins her report “Rowan Williams believes that gay sexual relationships can ‘reflect the love of God’ in a way that is comparable to marriage, The Times has learnt”. I very much doubt that he does still believe in that way. I think it is likely that he underwent some sort of ‘conversion experience’ on being appointed Archbishop. I imagine that finding oneself Archbishop of… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Ruth Gledhill and George Conger began circulating stories on their blogs immediately after Lambeth, to the effect that many bishops were dissatisfied with ++Rowan’s leadership, that they wished him gone, thought he should resign — naming no names, of course. Peculiar stories, in the light of the near-unanimous endorsement of ++Rowan’s leadership from bishops who were willing to be quoted by name. Now this. Odd that she and Conger (I can’t be surprised at anything the Telegraph does) should be so determined just at this point to degrade ++Rowan’s reputation and force him out of office. What has he done… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Orfanum: gay-friendly C of E: every diocese has loads of big screaming clerical queens, but in some (Rochester, Winchester, Durham, Carlisle, for example), the screaming is currently best undertaken in a sound-proof closet, unless a spell on the rack in the episcopal dungeon is your cup of tea. London, Southwark, Chelmsford, Salisbury, Oxford, Gloucester, St Alban’s (with the man who was famously regarded as too sinful to be a bishop, but perfectly acceptable as an excellent Dean) all have a diocesan culture of more openness and kindness than the first list. Anyone add to (or correct?) this quick unrepresentative sketch… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Archbishop Rowan’s response to a question from the Religion Editor of Nederlands Dagblad: “As Archbishop (of Canterbury) I have a different task. I would feel very uncomfortable if my Church would say: this is beyond discussion, for ever. Equally I have to guard the faith and teaching of the Church. My personal ideas and questions have to take second place.” I do not see this statement as in any way contrary to the ABC’s proper responsibility as Primus-inter pares of the Anglican Communion. After all, as I stated earlier, it was the previous ABC’s (George Carey’s) expression of his own… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

Had no problems at all posting on Ruth Gledhill’s blog, Charlotte. Merseymike also posts over there pretty regularly, sometimes pseudonymously, sometimes over his own name. One particular “reasserter” commentator has been aggressively and intemperately active over there of late. I think that the length of his or her posts slants and sometimes sets the tone of a thread. The only post of mine that was suppressed was held at my request because I was uncertain of my facts. When I was certain I resubmitted & it was published. Can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Fr. Mark: Exeter/Devonshire is an interesting “blip” on the padded screaming cell C of E scene. Although the bishop there entertained rather conservative alikes from TEC before Lambeth (and appears himself, perhaps inaccurately, as such to me), I however got the impression that the diocese was anything but fearfully closeted during a recent choir tour there (at the cathedral).

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Intellectual dishonesty is what you expect from politicians.

It is something you sadly know may sometimes be expected from bishops.

It is the ultimate and unforgivable sin of scholars, whether they are bishops or even archbishops.

SHAME on the ABC.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“by his admission that his own opinions (about gay relationships) had to be secondary to his task of trying to hold on to the unity of our Communion.”

Compare to…

“It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:14)

In this context, it could be the ROWAN’S CHRISTIAN INTEGRITY which is that “one man”, figuratively (Literally, it’s some faggot or dyke getting his/her head bashed in, in London or Lagos).

Lord have mercy!

JBE
Guest

Choirboyfromhell: +Exeter was one of the ‘Nazgul’ who signed the anti-Jeffrey John letter. The diocese is far from gay-friendly, being a fertile area of growth for Reform types (Rod Thomas is Vicar of Elburton, just outside Plymouth). Truro, on the other hand, is (currently) much more relaxed about such things.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

There is nothing newsworthy in these letters and they are entirely in line with RW’s policy of working with extreme care and caution toward a change in church teaching, one demanding a wide consensus among Anglicans. He has said many times that he cannot impose his own personal view by fiat. “The point is that this displays dishonesty. If any of you have ever had any connection with far-left politics, you will know that the policy of democratic centralism can see members all shift their stance at the same time. Submerging their individual view for the Party. I think this… Read more »

Ruth Gledhill
Guest

Charlotte, I do not censor liberal comments. I censor libellous comments. I am not aware of having seen comments from you recently and have certainly not censored any. Some posters for some reason get put into the spam file however, and I rarely check that file as it is usually choca with pornographic and promotional comments. When commenters complain that I am not posting them, that is normally the reason – it is because I simply don’t see their comments. I get a complaint like that about once a year. If you let me know when you are posting at… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

It would be possible for a person to openly say there are views contrary to the ones being put into action. You’d hope for better in a religious community, but people do it all the time in paid employment. Where this is different is that he is building a ‘Catholic Church’, and these are his views. No one wants this construction putting on the matter, only to perhaps hold a communion together if this is what is wanted. He also sacrifices one set of personal views from the other. In building a Catholic Church, in centralising, he proposes ways and… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I drafted this for Richard Kirker back in August 2006, I think the whole thing pertinent but this gives the flavour: “To my astonishment he now says that the positive view he expressed on same-sex relationships in the lecture “did not generate much support”. But after the lecture was published we was appointed Bishop of Monmouth (1992), Archbishop of Wales (2000) and Archbishop of Canterbury (2002) in the full knowledge by the appointing bodies on each occasion that he stood by the lecture. Indeed it could be argued that the lecture served in each of these instances to aid –… Read more »

robroy
Guest
robroy

Charlotte writes, “Ruth Gledhill and George Conger began circulating stories on their blogs immediately after Lambeth, to the effect that many bishops were dissatisfied with ++Rowan’s leadership, that they wished him gone, thought he should resign — naming no names, of course. Peculiar stories, in the light of the NEAR-UNANIMOUS endorsement of ++Rowan’s leadership from bishops who were willing to be quoted by name.” Actually, the Times conducted a poll published by Ms Gledhill of bishops who were in attendance and 25% of those bishops were dissatisfied with Rowan’s performance. If one adds all those who voted their dissatisfaction by… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Thank you JBE, it might be of interest to note that the liturgy at Exeter was surprisingly quite high per my past experiences at English Cathedrals, (at least for the communion) and there’s a nearby “spikey” parish church (the highest spire west of Salisbury). As for LGBT concerns, don’t write off the cathedral staff, as is not what it appears.

I wonder how intense some of the quiet revolts in chapter and stalls have gotten over the centuries.

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Also relevant to this discussion is the letter to the Editor of The Times published today and signed by seventeen Church of England bishops, including Wright of Durham, Scott-Joynt of Winchester, and Gledhill of Lichfield. The bishops protest strongly against The Times’ handling of the Pitt letters. Their letter begins: “Sir, As bishops in the Church of England, we wish to protest in the strongest possible terms at what we regard as a gross misrepresentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. “First, your front-page story (August 7) and the further material inside were presented as though he had just made a… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

I can attest that Ruth does not routinely censor comments based on the position of the commentor. She will, from time to time, “snip” comments she thinks may be libelous. I do not know if or how often she might reject entire posts. I do know that the only time I had trouble getting a comment to appear was when Ruth was away and an assistant was doing the moderation. In correspondence, the assistant claimed not to have received the comments in question – which did eventually appear after having been entered several times. But since the topic of the… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“non-anonymous polling is well known to lead to bias in sensitive questions or where there is fear of repercussions of truthful responses.”

You would do well to remember, robroy, if you ever quote the “2-3% of men are gay, not 10%”, a thing most popular in conservative circles, that this “statistic” comes from non-anonymous polling, which is just as unreliable as you say, and for the reasons you give.