Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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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Comments

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 !)

Posted by: Treebeard on Wednesday, 6 August 2008 at 11:51pm BST

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

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 1:50am BST

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 the Body of Christ and the late Modern Idea of sexual Orientation. Embodyment. The Time is now. It can’t wait. Just like Oscar II in his 35 years as King in the second half of the 19th century inaugurated the railway stations of Modernity with flags and speaches and pomp and music, to incorporate them in the structures of a backwards and Medieval Society.

For in Sweden railroads came late… Opposition to Steam and railroads had been stronger than most everywhere, giving rise to great fulminations in the 2nd Estate (the Clergy), where this innovation was claimed of the Devil; “the Fire”, “the smoke”…

But Oscar II very consiously incorporated the novelty (and new Social Classes down to Journalist and Students…) in Society, inaugurating railway stations with flags and pomp, and music (much laughed at later ;=) – and inviting new Classes to the Palace. 3.000 guests at a time would dine and dance in a place more suited for 250…

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 7:11am BST

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

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 7:13am BST

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.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 9:35am BST

@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?

Posted by: Walsingham on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 9:47am BST

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?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:18am BST

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, and the outcome of Lambeth a disaster area - rather than the more eirenic accomplishment that it has proved to be.

Some Bishops from both sides of the argument have
not been pleased at the outcome - but that may just be a sign of the Archbishop's skill in not precipitating a catastrophic breakdown of the Church. In other words, he may just have got something right! If he had been seen to favour either constituency, then there could have been a very decisive parting of the ways.

Before and during the Lambeth Conference, many of us in our home parishes have been praying that the wisdom of the Holy Spirit might be renewed in the gathered bishops - enabling the best possible outcome for the good of the mission of Christ in and to the world. That outcome could yet be achieved - not least because the ABC was not seen to be getting in the way of his fellow bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, very properly, was invoking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit upon the deliberations of the Conference - at the very beginning, in the retreat. That is what I would expect a responsible Leader of our Communion to have done. Perhaps he, like Jesus, actually prayed: "Not my will, but yours, Father, be done".
If some would have preferred a sort of papal injunction, then I suggest they might be in the wrong church. That is not the Anglican Way.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:58am BST

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 if our bishops can't be creative theologians except in private? Shame on us all.

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 11:18am BST

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 by lying about your true position and defending something you do not believe in.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 12:02pm BST

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.

Posted by: robroy on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 12:03pm BST

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.

Posted by: ettu on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 12:29pm BST

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…

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 1:24pm BST

"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 John wasn't acceptable to people of your ilk either. It's also why 5 years in jail is a good compromise. You STILL haven't said, BTW, what you consider an appropriate punishment for being gay. It's nice that you have finally come clean and can now leave behind all that nonsense about loving me but not what I do. I knew it wasn't true anyway, but it's nice to have the proof right from your own mouth, or rather keyboard. But, continuing with the idea of "compatible with Scripture", given that so much of what GAFCON et al say about anyone who doesn't agree with them is untrue, given the vehemence of their anti-gay rhetoric, given their espousal of non-scientific propaganda as "proof" of their position that we are disordered, I wonder why you are not more forthcoming in denouncing these kinds of behavious as "incompatible with Scripture." You surely don't think that lies, hatred, insult, and reviling are "compatible with Scripture", so why the reticence?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 2:44pm BST

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 since and these events make these letters nothing more than historical documents, irrelevant to the present debate.

Of course Sugden is trying to make Rowan Williams as uncomfortable as he can - but if you play these games they can backfire - Sugden needs to be very careful he doesn't see his own fingers burnt!

Front page story in The Times ...........

Who would have believed it?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 2:45pm BST

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.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 3:31pm BST

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 being used by their mischievous parents!

Posted by: Stephen Roberts on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 4:20pm BST

"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 the Church - worldwide - is to you a means of coming closer to the truth. As you put it, 'If we don't stay together, 'we are only following our own local denomination or our personal preferences. Where then do you draw the line? How far can unity be stretched within the boundaries of still being based on the Bible?
In reply to this question Williams starts off with a rebuke of those who argue it is high time the Church accepted gay relationships. Their ideal is the inclusive church. ,,I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself'', says the Archbishop. ,,Welcome is. We welcome people into the Church, we say: 'You can come in, and that decision will change you.' We don't say: 'Come in and we ask no questions.' I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions. The boundaries are determined by what it means to be loyal to Jesus Christ. That means to display in all things the mind of Christ. Paul is always saying this in his letters: Ethics is not a matter of a set of abstract rules, it is a matter of living the mind of Christ.
That applies to sexual ethics; that is why fidelity is important in marriage. You reflect the loyalty of God in Christ. It also concerns the international arena. Christians will always have reconciliation as a priority and refuse to retaliate. By no means everything is negotiable for me. I would not be happy if someone said: Let us discuss the divinity of Christ. That to me seems so constituent of what the Church is.''

Critics of the American Church's gay policies say they have reached the boundaries.
,,In terms of decision-making the American Church has pushed the boundaries. It has made a decision that is not the decision of the wider body of Christ. In terms of the issue under consideration: there are enough Christians of good faith in every denomination - from evangelical to Roman Catholic - to whom it is not quite so self-evident. Who are not absolutely sure that that we have always read the Bible correctly. They are saying: this is an issue we must talk about. 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. The discussion must not be foreclosed by a radical agenda. The decision hasn't been made yet. Or rather, the tradition and teaching of the Church is what it always was."

You are commonly known as favouring the acceptance of gay relationships in the Church. Do you have to compromise your own ideas now as Archbishop?
,,Twenty years ago I wrote an essay in which I advocated a different direction. That was when I was still a professor, to stimulate debate. It did not generate much support and a lot of criticism - quite fairly on a number of points. What I am saying now is: let us talk this through. As Archbishop 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.''

Do you have an explanation as to why Anglicans are prepared to let the Church split now over homosexuality, and not for example when a Bishop denied the Resurrection of Christ?
,,I am intrigued by that. On the one hand it says something about our own age, which is obsessed with sexuality - left and right. But I think there's something else. Christian often find it difficult to describe what distinguishes them. More and more they live like the people around them. Divorce is a sad case in point. For some people homosexuality is the last issue where you can draw a clear line. And then it is for many people a central issue of the authority of Scripture. I don't want to minimize that. Even about divorce there are certain things in the Bible that seem to give a bit of room for manoeuvre. It is harder to say that about homosexuality.''

Posted by: Wim Houtman, Religion Editor, Nederlands Dagblad on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 4:23pm BST

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 education, opportunity, profession, choice of neighborhood and many other aspects of life. It is (wonderfully) amazing that we may have a Black president, elected as an American, not as a 'Black advocate'. I think TEC does not want to exclude people because of who they are, since they too were made in God's image. This 'overcoming' of Black exclusion, segregation, and prejudice is necessarily a very important part of TEC self-identification. My modesi opinion.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 4:34pm BST

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 during Lambeth itself....

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 4:40pm BST

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

Posted by: Wim Houtman, Religion Editor, Nederlands Dagblad on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 4:47pm BST

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 that might be) ... and certainly not the basic insight from Anglicanism's reformation tradition that the majority can be tragically and sinfully wrong.

"You can come in, and that decision will change you."

Here ++Rowan shows he's accepted the standard gays-can-change line of thought, going from the absolutely correct doctrine that entering a saving relationship with God will change us to an pre-conception about what that change will be. The problem, which ++Rowan's "catholic" blinders are keeping him from seeing, is that over-and-over, the change God is accomplishing through Christ is a change from self-loathing and dishonesty, to godly self-love and honesty, as exemplified in the life of Bishop Robinson. But that doesn't fit what the "majority" expects ... so ++Rowan won't accept it. He expects us to "change" according to his standards.

In short, advocates of inclusion can expect no aid or comfort from ++Rowan as he continues his drive to "catholicize" Anglicanism in his own image.

Posted by: WilliamK on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 5:33pm BST

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.

Posted by: JPM on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 5:43pm BST

"...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".

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 6:20pm BST

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.

Posted by: David Bieler on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 6:30pm BST

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 his comments about 9 months after ++Rowan came into the office of ABC, and some 5 months after the Jeffrey John 'incident'. From an outsider's perspective, it seems that the latter has had a more pernicious effect that the 1998 Lambeth Conference is said to have had: Priddis after all was not appointed till almost a year after Jeffrey John was asked to 'step down' - I am new at this particular history, so any views welcome (and while I am rambling away - could anyone here hazard a gay/gay-friendly map of the AC in England)?

Posted by: orfanum on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 6:50pm BST

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 gays are being asked to sacrifice their salvation not for the sake of church unity per se, but for all the Church's gay couples who will - at some point in the future if we are patient - enjoy similar marital rites to heterosexuals.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 9:10pm BST

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.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:01pm BST

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.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:07pm BST

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 proceedings. Asked what sexual behaviour he would rule out, Dr Williams replied that it was his belief that "sex outside marriage is not as God purposes it." In our more relaxed meeting yesterday, he told me: "I always find it difficult to condense sexual ethics into a soundbite. I knew where the questioner was coming from of course."

It crossed my mind that Pharisees are still asking their trick questions. He continued: "All I can say is where the Church stands - it's not a question of what Rowan Williams's view is. So I think I would more readily have said something in a more neutral context to the effect that the biblical view of sexual relations is consistently within the pattern of absolute mutual commitment, reflecting God's commitment to his people. And the assumption of the Bible is that that commitment is heterosexual. That is the framework we work in."

He didn't say so, of course, but presumably our work in that framework could change or extend its structure.

I hope that helps in two regards:

1) Dr Rowan Williams clearly distinguishes between his personal views and his public responsibilities, as anyone sound in public life should, and

2) He recognises scriptural hermeneutics as a developing discipline, rather than one fixed in time either in the span of history or the span of one's own lifetime.

I hope this is helpful, because there is a hysteria and blood-lust developing in this debate that was markedly absent from the Lambeth Conference."

Posted by: MJ on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:10pm BST

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 Canterbury would cause a degree of anxiety.
In his excellent selection from the works of Robert G. Ingersoll, ‘What’s God got to do with it?’(2005) Tim Page says “Ingersoll never experienced the serene happiness and sense of sustaining purpose that faith can inspire in believers; it simply wasn’t in his nature.”
Williams’ description of himself in the letters as “muddled” seems accurate. I suspect that he has, under the influence of the evangelical advisers appointed by Carey, sought some “sustaining purpose” in order to reduce his anxiety, and found it by adopting the simplicities offered by the evangelicals. They relieved him of the necessity of thinking.
“The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and his fellow men” – Ingersoll.

Posted by: Paul R on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:13pm BST

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 that they might object to, except keep the Anglican Communion together? It's really very ugly, very sad.

On a slighty different topic: Has anyone besides myself attempted to post a comment from a liberal position on Gledhill's blog lately? I am wondering whether any liberal comments at all are being approved. I don't see any appearing.

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:41pm BST

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 for the bemused visitor not used to arcane English ecclesiastical gay subculture?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 10:46pm BST

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 personal opinion that enshrined the outcome of the previous Lambeth Conference in 1998.

It was also the English diffidence of the other Bishops at Lambeth that allowed the bullying tactis of the future 'Global South' fraternity to formulate and enforce the infamous Lambeth 1.10 upon the entire Communion. This was so obviously a case of a minority gaining the support of an ABC who openly shared their repugnance of Gays.

Ruth Gledhill so graciously (?) now shares her opinion that perhaps the Holy Spirit prevented her from 'outing' the ABC's letters to Dr.Pitt before the Conference began. One wonders if she is secretly annoyed that circumstances prevented her from doing that. WEhat a scoop it might have been. On the other hand, it could have cleared the air??

It is important to note the last sentence of my quote (above) from the ABC's reply to the Editor of Dagblad:
"My personal ideas and questions have to take second place"

I do believe that the integrity of Archbishop Rowan is retained, - 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. It was precisely because of the insistence on his own opinion being put before everyone else that the previous ABC could be held responsible for the disaster that was wreaked upon the Christian homosexual community by the promulgation of the Resolution which has had the effect of disenfranchising them from authentic ministry in the Church.

I doubt whether Mr Sugden would have had any real influence on the ABC's leadership of the Lambeth outcome. Perhaps the Bishops of Winchester. Exeter and Rochester may have had some influence, but we may never know.

Let's wait and see what next meeting of the ACC, and, of course, the General Convention of TEC, have to say. I do not believe that the next GAFCON meeting will have anything meaningful to offer that will be at all helpful. Let's pray that the Holy Spirit may yet bring about an outcome that reocgnises the demands of the Gospel in our world of today.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 11:10pm BST

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.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 1:18am BST

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).

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 1:49am BST

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.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 4:20am BST

"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!

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 6:24am BST

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.

Posted by: JBE on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 10:47am BST

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 is much the same thing."

The difference is that the view he holds back on is not just a political view but a matter of doctrinal change, something churches allow only with the greatest reluctance. Lambeth 1928 produced doctrinal change on contraception, and maybe Lambeth 2018 will do the same for homosexual relations. Rowan does the most he realistically can to keep the door open to that change.

"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."

I agree it is a tight-rope -- but if you listen carefully you will find a clause in RW's utterances that leaves the door open -- for instance he often calls for people to make a biblical case for loving gay relationships.

"You cannot have integrity by lying about your true position and defending something you do not believe in."

He defends monogamy but he never rules out the possibility that gay unions might be recognized as participating in the virtues of monogamy. It is not his business to push a minority agenda but rather to ensure that minority and majority keep together until such time as a wider consensus makes the minority more mainstream.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 12:34pm BST

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 ruth.gledhill@thetimes.co.uk I can look for it in the spam file and clear it for publication. Normally after two or three times doing that, Typepad lets the commenter through without classifying them as spam.
Regarding other comments. Yes, this would have for all the obvious reasons been a 'good story' to have during Lambeth but again for all the obvious reasons it would not have been 'good' for Rowan. So I am glad that I was saved having to deal with that one and the inevitable fall-out by the preference of the source for using post rather than email.

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 2:13pm BST

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 means via Instruments of Communion that end up marginalising the marginalised social group even more. It is this I oppose about him, and I'll keep doing it, it is just that a certain standard of behaviour ought to be employed if you can subject to the usual failures.

I did comment on Ruth Gledhill's blog. She followed her hatchet or knife job with a pretty thing about enjoying Lambeth - I commented that presumably this was to show she has a human face.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 2:48pm BST

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 – not hinder – his appointment. There is rich irony here, in the light of current controversies.
He has never to my knowledge publicly repudiated (before) the views he advocated then; indeed he has permitted continued re-publication of the lecture."
http://www.lgcm.org.uk/html/AngText03.html
I am deeply sorry if this has had nothing to do with Sugden - I apologise profusely.

It makes me even more interested to know what led Deborah to release these letter and what advice she had.

I look forward to asking her myself.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 6:55pm BST

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 declining the invitation brings it up to about 45%.

And of course, non-anonymous polling is well known to lead to bias in sensitive questions or where there is fear of repercussions of truthful responses. ("Is your boss an idiot?"). Thus, it is quite believable that the actual rate of dissatisfaction with Rowan is over 50%. (Not as bad as George Bush, but...)

Posted by: robroy on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 7:50pm BST

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.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 8:46pm BST

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 fresh statement, whereas the letters now leaked were written, in a private and personal context, between seven and eight years ago (this only became apparent six paragraphs into the report). One can only wonder at the motives behind releasing, and highlighting, these letters at this precise moment – and at the way in which some churchmen are seeking to make capital of them as though they were ‘news’."

See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article4487712.ece for the original.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 9:46pm BST

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 thread was the religious policy of James VII and II, I don't expect the problem had anything to do with current liberal - conservative questions.

I do note that Ruth today removed a post she had previously allowed through after specific complaint about the content. That post was from a "conservative" referenced above by the strange rabbit.

In my correspondence with Ruth - even where I have been critical of her coverage - she has always acted graciously and has lamented the disproportional lack of liberal posters to her blog.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Friday, 8 August 2008 at 11:03pm BST

"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.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 8:20pm BST
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