Monday, 3 April 2006

more on the Guardian interview

Updated Monday evening

The interview of Rowan Williams, conducted by Alan Rusbridger editor of the Guardian, was analysed in some detail in the Church Times last week, by Andrew Brown. The column was headlined Man not born to be king. Andrew wrote in part:

…If the interview had a theme, it was not the warnings and denunciations contained in the news story; it was a portrait of a man who doesn’t want to be a leader, and doesn’t believe that leadership is even possible in most situations.

It is enormously refreshing to find an Archbishop who doesn’t believe his own propaganda. But I think it’s wrong of an Archbishop not to take advantage, at least intermittently, of the fact that other people do believe his propaganda, and want to. Equally, there is a danger that a man who does not believe his own propaganda will find himself repeating the propaganda of others. How else is one to interpret this exchange:

Rusbridger: “The Archbishop of Nigeria recently told Nigerian Muslims, in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon furore, that they did not have a monopoly on violence and that Christians might strike back. Coincidentally or not, the remark was followed within days by a spate of attacks on Muslims by Christians which left 80 dead.”

Williams: “Hmmm, I think that what he - what he meant was, so to speak, an abstract warning - you know, ‘Don’t be provocative because in an unstable situation it’s as likely the Christians will resort to violence as Muslims will.’
“It was taken by some as open provocation, encouragement, a threat. I think I know him well enough to take his good faith on what he meant. He did not mean to stir up the violence that happened. He’s a man who will speak very directly and immediately into crises. I think he meant to issue a warning, which has been taken as a threat, to have meant a provocation. Others in the Nigerian Church have, I think, found other ways of saying that which have been more measured.”

Giles Fraser had a column in the Church Times headed The Church needs some sort of leadership. Part of that reads:

…We know the Communion is in critical trouble. We hear Chinese whispers of meetings and phone calls trying to broker deals. Last week, I phoned Lambeth with a worry about a rumour. “Trust us,” comes the reply. OK, I have to; we all have to. And what I am trusting in, as much as anything, is the Archbishop himself. He might not like this over-investment in him personally, but there it is.

I don’t want a fantasy archbishop on a white charger, a deus ex machina who appears to make everything well. But the mood among many ordinary Christians is one of apprehension: are we being sold out? After the Jeffrey John disaster, the worry is that the Archbishop allows himself to be bullied off the ball. Yet, despite all this, trust to keep on believing in this Church remains for many of us a trust in the Archbishop. It’s a trust that’s in need of a bit of help. And that, surely, is the essence of leadership.

In the original interview, there is this:

Rusbridger: And have you got a strategy for going forward as to how, given the media is always with us, what is your strategy for engaging with it in the future?

Williams: It’s a big question to ask really and I know that I’m not the world’s greatest strategist of thinking forward, but I think I need to take more advice on what makes sense or what sounds alright, a great temptation to try and do everything or be good at everything you can’t be.

A response to this is to be found today on the Guardian website (not in the paper edition) where Andrew Brown has written a letter of advice to the archbishop, in his regular Monday column. A fragment:

…So I think that the media strategy you need is plain. You need to explain to the rest of us, who believed you inhabited our moral universe, just why sharing a church with gay bishops is a matter of theological gravity comparable to sharing it with enthusiastic Nazis and in the end just as much incompatible with real Christianity. You need to explain just what the arguments were that persuaded you, after 30 years of standing up for the outcast, that God really is on the side of the big battalions in your church…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 3 April 2006 at 12:10pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

But Brown and Fraser put it mildly.

In response to the "Nigeria affair" we witness secular organizations moving ahead where the church is supposed to lead.

How many yet on the fringes of the church are repulsed by our -- and our Archbishop's -- pathetic, inconsistent, garbled moral witness?

Posted by: The Anglican Scotist on Monday, 3 April 2006 at 1:11pm BST

In defense of Rowan Williams, his leadership team have had a pretty tough wicket for the last year or so. The ultra puritans can not complain that they weren't given fair warning that there was going to be something big coming through - God sent me to warn them in early 2004 (so they've had over a year head start than many others). In mid-2005 they locked me out of a conservative forum and shortly thereafter a long paper came out of the UK which at one point stated that the gift of prophecy does not apply to modern events and it was unbiblical to attempt to so (so stuff God if He wanted to anoint someone).

Following a series of exchanges, including God slaps, a few months later Rowan W commented that if God decides to move, the best thing is get out of His way. To which in a public paper I commented that made it sound like the Anglican Communion was a bunch of cockroaches. It is good if the vermin run away when God's light shines, but it would be nice if there were some people of faith left in the field so that if God throws a ball their way they will at least try and run for home goal.

I think Rowan is choosing the best course of action. It is also like he is pouring calming oil onto troubled seas as both sides are quite passionate. Leadership is not always testosterone and military success. Leadership sometimes involves giving people the space to creatively explore the boundaries and see if they can not find an innovative way out of conundrums. The latter style of leadership takes more time, but the result at the end is usually a blend of understandings that is more robust, diverse and stable than a monolithic solution rammed through by ego.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 3 April 2006 at 11:54pm BST

" get out in front of the nation and apologise." Andrew Brown

So get out in front of the ENTIRE Anglican Communion ++Rowan and apologise!

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 4:29am BST

It is true that action oftentimes does more damage than wisely not acting upon the impulses of the rash and selfrighteous, but head in sand is not leadership.

Leadership is giving a sense of direction.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 10:34am BST

I hope someone will give the Archbishop a copy of Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Dr. King is quite severe on those moderate or middle of the road white pastors who wanted to wait for things to settle down, wait for a more propitious time, wait for some kind of compromise. In fact I think it can rather easily be found online. Maybe someone privy to the Archbishop's email address might thoughtfully forward a copy. Dante reserves a special place for the equivocators, if I remmeber correctly. It's not pleasant.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 3:32pm BST

Meanwhile, at SydneyAnglicans, the Jensenites are calling us Episcopalians “priests of Baal.” Take a look:

Posted by: Kurt on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 3:59pm BST

Huh. Baal was the Canaanite fertility god. If it's non-fertile sexuality they're against I fear they've nicked the wrong group there. Perhaps they might consider a sects change in Sydney?

Posted by: Cassandra on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 5:03pm BST

Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail can be found online at

Thank you for referring us to this, Cynthia. You are right: it contains many lessons that may be applied to the present controversy in the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 5:23pm BST

I see that pleasant remark about his fellow Anglicans comes from David Ould - an occasional visitor to this august portal. Nice boy.

Posted by: on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 6:49pm BST

Coincidentally, published a torah study contrasting the differences beween Balaam and Abraham only this week (see )

Some of the differences noted in this study include:
"We read of Balaam in Numbers 22-24. He was a Gentile prophet of G-d who lived during the time of the Exodus. However, rather than using his prophetic spirit as a tool for divine awareness and communion, he perverted it into a weapon to be used for his own selfish ends. For a price, he would use his powers to place curses and destruction upon others. Heads of state would regularly hire him to curse enemy armies and nations."

"The differences between Abraham and Balaam are evident in the stories of their lives. Whereas Abraham refers to himself as dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27), Balaam makes every effort to avoid admitting his shortcomings. Whereas Abraham refuses any of the spoils of his battle with the five kings (Genesis 14:23), Balaam's appetite for wealth and pleasures (of all kinds) was insatiable. In addition, Abraham was of "lowly soul," which Rashi explains to mean he did not consider himself above others. In spite of his greatness, he was quite at home serving strangers and passers-by, waiting on them hand and foot (ibid., 18:1-8) and bowing before the people of Chais (23:6). Balaam, however, with his false air of superiority, exhibited all of the smallness and pettiness of arrogance, insulting and belittling others in vain attempt to inflate his own ego."

"Last and perhaps most important, Abraham had a good eye. He viewed favorably all of mankind and as we shall see, the entire universe. He admired others for their good qualities and rejoiced over their good fortune. Balaam, however, just did not see the world in a positive light. He was so rankled by lust, jealousy and smallness that he could not look favorably upon the world around him."

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 5 April 2006 at 12:41am BST
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