Sunday, 13 December 2009

More on that Telegraph interview

This one by George Pitcher in case you missed it yesterday.

On the one hand, there is the bit about Uganda:

Andrew Brown Rowan denounces Ugandan law

There is a passage a long way down in the Daily Telegraph’s interview with Rowan Williams which deserves celebration and quotation:

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

On the other hand, there is the bit about politics:

What would he like to see from politicians in the coming general election year? He responds that we “curiously have three party leaders, all of whom have a very strong moral sense of some spiritual flavour”. David Cameron may have conceded that the Church of England is in his DNA, but Gordon Brown is a son of the manse who is notoriously secretive about his faith or lack of it, and Nick Clegg has declared his atheism. “But he takes it seriously,” replies Dr Williams. “And with all of them I think if you can get them off the record or off the platform, these convictions will come through quite strongly.”

Is the problem “we don’t do God” spin doctors? “I think it’s important for politicians not to be too protected, to be able to establish their human credentials in front of a living audience.” So our leaders need to be more open about their faith? “I don’t think it would do any harm at all. Part of establishing their human credentials is saying ‘This is where my motivation comes from … I’m in politics because this is what I believe.’ And that includes religious conviction.

“The trouble with a lot of government initiatives about faith is that they assume it is a problem, it’s an eccentricity, it’s practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities. The effect is to de-normalise faith, to intensify the perception that faith is not part of our bloodstream.”

Theo Hobson What’s Williams whinging about?

Ok, Williams is right that there is a widespread perception that religion is “a bit fishy”, but I don’t see how the government can be blamed for this. MPs who raise secularist concerns are only echoing a major sector of public opinion, and I haven’t noticed many senior ministers denouncing religion. He is fuelling a crass culture war by complaining that poor Christians are persecuted by nasty secularists. If religion is now widely mistrusted maybe he should ignore the speck in the government’s eye and consider the beam in his own.

Bishop Nick Baines has more about the interview here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 1:44pm GMT | TrackBack
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There is a widespread perception that religion is “a bit fishy". No wonder - assume you've seen the report of Nicky Gumbel's recent Downing Street antics.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1235410/Let-pray-evangelist-stuns-No10-party-guests.html

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 5:10pm GMT

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams.
Overall, the legislation is bad? What's with that qualifier? There's provisions he likes?
And he doesn't think there can be any kind of consensus reached between

Posted by: peterpi on Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 5:41pm GMT

Sorry, Simon, I hit the wrong button.
So, the ABC doesn't think any consensus can be reached between biblical traditionalists and gay bishops, but he wants unity.
Based on the fact that he's taken forever to say anything about Uganda while denouncing LA at warp speed, and he's condemning Uganda through third parties, like reporters, I suspect his unity will be reached by going soft on certain African positions while shoving the Americans out into the cold.

Posted by: peterpi on Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 5:49pm GMT

peterpi wrote - "Based on the fact that he's taken forever to say anything about Uganda while denouncing LA at warp speed, and he's condemning Uganda through third parties, like reporters, I suspect his unity will be reached by going soft on certain African positions while shoving the Americans out into the cold."

But I wonder how much support, among Provinces of the Anglican Communion, will be left for Archbishop Williams after they compare the Gospel of Christ, to the increasingly warped sense of values of Rowan Williams.

Uganda + Los Angeles just might be the straw that metaphorically breaks the back of the current Anglican Communion, and the result will be less of Rowan Williams shoving the Americans into the cold, and more one of Rowan Williams being given the cold shoulder by most of the non-Central African Provinces, who won't care what he does, or does not do.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 11:29pm GMT

"I suspect his unity will be reached by going soft on certain African positions while shoving the Americans out into the cold.

- peterpi on Sunday -

peterpi, umlike you, I would doubt very much whether the ABC will achieve any sort of 'unity' by 'going soft on certain African positions while shoving the Americans out into the cold' - if only because his power to put TEC out of the Communion might prove ephemeral. The Archbishop of Canterbury, on his own, simply does not have the legal canonical authority to do such a thing.

To apply such a sanction, the other 'Instruments of Unity' (ACC, Primates & Lambeth) would have to be involved. Also, TEC is a Church in it's own right - is connected to the Anglican Communion by it's ties of friendship to other Independent Churches of the Communion. There is, at present, (as far as I can discern) no legal sovereignty
existing within the Communion which can dismiss a Province from continuing membership. Of course, a future 'Covenant' - established without consent of all Communion Partners, could change all this.

Indeed, if there were legal redress against some major offence committed by a Communion Partner, then perhaps those provincial archbishops who refused to attend the last Lambeth Conference, in favour of attending the GAFCON palaver, might have been the first candidates for removal.

GAFCON rebels should have been the first to go!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 8:45am GMT

A 'supermarkets ombudsman' - for goodness' sake!!
Just goes to show how - with their seats in the Lords - just how wrapped up in the establishment our bishops are.

You only have to visit Canterbury cathedral - as I did recently - to know that there is a huge discrepency between the worship and applied Christianity in the city.

Firstly, a large garish nativity outside the south door conspires with the usurping of Advent with idolatry and commercialism.

Secondly, walk through the precincts during the main Sunday Eucharist and you will only see large expensive cars, not an old banger to be seen, meaning that the congregation have largely come from outside the city. If they had walked to the cathedral they might have stumbled across the several homeless people residing in the subway under a roundabout or under Westgate Towers, near where I was staying.

Thirdly, Pitcher was lucky to find ABC in residence - the palace is normally left abandoned. Time to start applying the Gospels to local action. Give over the palace (and the other mansions on site) to the homeless.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 3:22pm GMT

Now, now Hugh, not all of us denizens of Rich Snobby Low Church are quite that disconnected, as I'm about to pounce on a rumor of a gay couple being politely told that they would be more comfortable at St. Across-the-streets than at the parish where I sing.

Somehow the strains of Howell's "Spotless Rose" being sung by a privileged choir of men and boys seems to break forth in it's pathos of sweet sadness and pain of the present time of advent's labors. But your point is well taken, as my dear friend Erika pointed out with her relaying of a folk tune of Mary's pain of joy at the impending birth, that it was and is a gritty time of sadness, expectation, and hope for all mankind. One can only pray that the Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar drivers will eventually get the point.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 6:36pm GMT

Answering a question while being interviewed is not quite the same as making a public statement denouncing the Ugandan bill, is it now? What could he have said? " I refuse to comment" would have drawn more headlines than "Overall...it is of shocking severity."

Sad times for us all but at least the bill is now unlikely to be passed in its present form - but that has little to do with the intervention of Canterbury, I suspect.

Posted by: sue on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 7:25pm GMT

Hugh, I am sorely disappointed in ++Rowan these days, and I appreciate the emotion behind your post, but I feel you are painting with too broad a brush in your attack upon the witness of Canterbury Cathedral. To begin with: lots of people (probably the majority of the congregation at any given service) come to the Cathedral on foot or by bus. I used to walk down from the University or (later) from my apartment a few blocks outside the Westgate, and was on speaking terms with some of the homeless people along that route. Yes, some wealthy people arrive in their expensive cars and park within the precincts, and thank goodness they show up; the Cathedral and its ministries certainly need their donations.

I didn't find the annual nativity display garish or inappropriate, let alone idolatrous. It has an important part in the annual St. Nicholas Day celebration, wherein St. Nick arrives in festive procession and is greeted at the Cathedral Gate by the Dean and the Archbishop. The event draws people of all ages and religious persuasions (or lack thereof) into their Cathedral and into the season of Advent. A couple of years ago I heard a provocative Advent sermon by one of the retired canons. He thought we should stop whining about the commercialisation of Christmas and appreciate that despite the downside it also has the effect, in a time when few people in Britain are at all religious, of helping to keep Christmas alive and its spiritual meaning available. Wrapping the mystery of the Nativity in a festival that incorporates ‘pagan’ elements such as decorating trees and giving parties can be a way of transmitting that mystery more and more widely. The gifts we give loved ones at Christmas are after all not an end in themselves but symbols of the great Gift of the Incarnation. Maybe we should worry less about the commercial world contaminating Christmas and instead see the possibility that Christmas could bless the world, even the world of commerce.

As for the Archbishop’s residence, your description (“it is normally left abandoned”) seems to imply some sort of neglect on his part. A more accurate statement would be that the Archbishop has two official residences, one in Canterbury and one in London, in line with his dual responsibilities (diocesan and national), and goes back and forth between the two.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 8:59pm GMT

Thank you for this Mary Clara. Very inspiring and encouraging it is too :--

He thought we should stop whining about the commercialisation of Christmas and appreciate that despite the downside it also has the effect, in a time when few people in Britain are at all religious, of helping to keep Christmas alive and its spiritual meaning available. Wrapping the mystery of the Nativity in a festival that incorporates ‘pagan’ elements such as decorating trees and giving parties can be a way of transmitting that mystery more and more widely. The gifts we give loved ones at Christmas are after all not an end in themselves but symbols of the great Gift of the Incarnation. Maybe we should worry less about the commercial world contaminating Christmas and instead see the possibility that Christmas could bless the world, even the world of commerce.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 9:53pm GMT

Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 8:45am GMT,
I was being mostly metaphorical in talking about shoving TEC out into the cold. I realize that, in terms of real power, the only people the ABC can literally shove out the door are those in the CofE itself, and even there, I presume there are checks on what he can do. Although +Jeffrey John comes to mind.
But, the ABC does seem to have decided, in my humble opinion, that some form of enforcement of Anglican Orthodoxy with a reinforced hierarchy is the way to save Anglican unity, that Africans don't threaten that orthodoxy, but that liberal provinces do.
With regard to Uganda and gay people or people who are "different", autos da fe have a long tradition in Western Christianity as a means of enforcing orthodoxy ...

Posted by: peterpi on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 10:19pm GMT

The larger religion and citizen frame going for 'advocacy' ...is?

Maybe believers have themselves to thank for the strong hunch that religious thinking will all too predictably serve up something slightly fishy as its witness to Jesus as Lord of life in our modern era. Clues? All about us? ... proposing pseudo-science as the religious answer to real science in the evolutionary controversies drummed up? Ditto, for a range of other topics which vary from climate change to sexual orientation. The sign that betrays the power of the common call for scrutiny is the religious dream that faith lies beyond critical scrutiny? So, never fishy?

Rowan Williams has helped our suspicions along, obviously. If Los Angeles is fishy, just as New Hampshire was fishy; what indeed is NOT then fishy about Rowan Williams? Really quite astonishing stuff. How easily RW takes his own utter good will and ethical intentions completely for granted, beyond say, critical scrutiny in Los Angeles or New Hampshire when it comes to queer folks?

Yet.

Would RW not have stood by, while fishy religion prevented the new British civil partnership laws?

Just as he hopes some fishy business will set no go areas for women bishops?

Rowan says he is shocked by the new Ugandan laws, his immense social and religious distance from real, live queer folks in Uganda or Africa speaking loud, loud, loud volumes to dwarf his words?

RW still sounds like just the sort of fellow who will whisk away to a 'secret underground eucharist' of closeted British queer folks, while he judiciously and mildly consigns a duly elected bishop of New Hampshire to the Lambeth marketplace stalls.

His habits speak tons of bad news, about where we are, and where we are not at all likely to be, in the new fangled Anglican Covenant.

RW is still a sore spot, still disappointing. He fits right in with suspect politicians and advocacy journalists, after all. Again, he fails to speak up for a big tent in which Los Angeles and Uganda are key tests of quite different Anglican discernments. His advice, his thinking, his sense of hot button Anglican things is sadly just too automatically fishy - smelly fishy?

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 10:30pm GMT

How entirely pat that this RW interview helps shift us from focusing on the plight of queer folks in Uganda, to fussing about whether religion can ever be fishy enough to occasion intelligent and ongoing scrutiny across its manifestations, especially as to public policy and law in the citizenship squares?

Isn't that call to switch focus just a bit, well, fishy? Also, isn't this focus change exactly a bad and typical habit of the USA religious right, most especially among Dominionists? Those We are not yet asking for the death penalty for gays, folks?

I long for the far distant day in which RW will turn that famously keen scholarly intellect ... which so far glares hotly upon things alleged to be fishy smelling in New Hampshire or Los Angeles, upon his own traditionalist Anglican motives and notions when it comes to queer folks. Why, if RW paid better attention, he might smell out Dominionist influences and strategies, operating in his very own Anglican-British side yards?

The multiple lines of religious influence between the USA religious right and Uganda are simply too many and too nefarious and too obvious to be left out of consideration. Dominionist leaders-thinkers, galor.

See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wilson/rick-warren-mentor-tied-t_b_382480.html

See: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/12/4/134435/084/

Remember that little IRD plan to skew, sink, or subsume the Anglican Communion globally?

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 10:46pm GMT

A further word to Hugh of Lincoln: You perceive a “huge discrepancy between the worship [at Canterbury Cathedral] and applied Christianity in the city”. Well, there should be a gap. Worship is meant to teach, inspire and strengthen all the baptised to go forth and address the serious social problems and personal catastrophes that will inevitably afflict the created world. The homeless folk sheltering under the roundabouts and city gates of Canterbury are I believe mostly in need of treatment for alcoholism or addiction to street drugs; some are mentally ill. They deserve help and there are local agencies and individuals trying to provide it, but the undertaking is fraught with difficulties. Just to “give over the [archbishop’s] palace (and the other mansions on site)” to the homeless would probably not be effective. (And these other mansions by the way are not standing empty, but serve as full-time residences and offices for Cathedral clergy and staff.)

You saw homeless people in Canterbury; did you wonder, though, about what you didn’t see? Perhaps many have already been helped out of addiction and homelessness, or at least helped through the night, by local people, some of whom get their inspiration from regular attendance at church. My own approach to the folks in the underpass, on park benches and city gateways was certainly affected by my participation in Cathedral services, which kept me alert to the people Jesus would seek out, and perhaps strengthened my backbone to speak up on their behalf. One evening I followed a hunch to go back and check on a young man I’d seen lying on the ground in a hidden corner of the park by the Westgate. When I found him barely conscious I made a nuisance of myself with the gatekeepers, the police, paramedics, and the lad’s own father to get help for him. Had I not done so, he could well have perished that cold night (he was not only drunk but diabetic).

While there are always issues regarding spending priorities, worship (the Cathedral’s main job) is not a waste! Remember how Jesus defended the woman who had spent all she had on costly oil to anoint his feet, against the disciples’ grumbling that the money could better have been spent on the poor. “The poor will always be there,” and worship prepares our hearts to welcome and care for them.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 11:03pm GMT

Actually, Jeffrey John could have refused to withdraw. In my view he should have done exactly that, but then some people have these ridiculous views about Williams having 'authority' , even though such a weak, spineless buffoon possesses none and could never possess it no matter how hard he tried.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 11:50pm GMT

Thank you, Mary Clare, for reminding us all this Advent, of the importance of worship in our realtionship to the God who saves. The answer of Jesus to his critics on this issue should always serve to remind us of our priorities: "The poor you will always have with you.." - this is a fact of human existence. However, althouh Jesus did always emphatically remind us of our duty to our neighbour (which we must never neglect), the first Commandment was: "To love God with all your heart and soul and mind and trength", then, having done that, to concentrate more objectively and lovingly on the Mission of the Gospel to ALL -including....."

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 9:43am GMT

Mary Clara brings a bit of realism to this site. But I don't think one should quote "the poor you have always with you" in a defeatist sense. Rather it means, "if you want to help the poor, you have plenty of opportunities -- go and do so!" And I don't think the Gospel forbids us to aspire to a world free of poverty (or free of war). Nor should we oppose the first and second commandments of love, as if one had priority over the other.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 2:22pm GMT

I appreciate your comments Mary. While there, I heard the life stories of some of the men I met sleeping rough during the cold, wet nights in Canterbury.

Lee: normally to be found under Westgate Towers or on the High St next to the River Stour; evicted from his parents' home as a teenager; never held down a full time job; never completed his education; now aged 28, abandoned by the system; on a waiting list for Porchlight - a local charity for the homeless.

Barry: separated from his wife and forced onto the streets

Kevin: just been given a terminal cancer diagnosis; was not even aware of the local hospice - Pilgrims

Far from being alcoholics, drug addicts or mentally ill as you suggest, these are just ordinary guys down on their luck. Could happen to any of us.

Every day, thousands of people pass by - on the other side of the road - representing all sections of the community: the churches, universities, schools, colleges, shops, tourism and local government, and the best that these guys can muster is a handful of coppers, or 5p coins in their caps if they're lucky, just enough to get a cuppa somewhere.

Far better for busy shoppers to fund a night's stay in a local hotel for one of these poor men, rather than panic-buy presents their families will not appreciate, and which make a poor substitute for true love.

And all this in a pilgrimage city...

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 4:40pm GMT

"Nor should we oppose the first and second commandments of love, as if one had priority over the other."

Indeed, it has often been said that if we do not follow the second (to love our neighbors as ourselves) then we cannot truly be following the first.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 5:06pm GMT

I'm with Hugh. Our cathedrals, magnificent as they are and much as I sincerely love them, are shrines to authoritarianism, pomposity, bossiness, careerism, snobbery, etc. etc. (OK, I live in Durham). Many of our bishops are fools or knaves (OK, I live in Durham). There is a dreadful, shocking, gaping gap between such structures and their environments (Durham is pretty rough). There is a dreadful, shocking failure of love. As someone said, 'We protest.'

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 6:59pm GMT

'Far from being alcoholics, drug addicts or mentally ill as you suggest, these are just ordinary guys down on their luck. Could happen to any of us.' (Quote)

I guess we mustnt forget that 'alcoholics, drug addicts or mentally ill'people are also 'ordinary guys* down on their luck'.

Could happen to any of us ...

* of all genders

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:57pm GMT

Actually, Jeffrey John could have refused to withdraw. In my view he should have done exactly that, but then some people have these ridiculous views about Williams having 'authority' , even though such a weak, spineless buffoon possesses none and could never possess it no matter how hard he tried.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 11:50pm

I agree. Having received the Royal Assent no-one could have prevented him from taking his post.

If only he had ...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 8:59pm GMT

" Nor should we oppose the first and second commandments of love, as if one had priority over the other." - Spirit of Vatican II -

At the risk of splitting hairs, VII, I would venture to suggest that, in suggesting that the first part of the Law involved the duty of loving God; Jesus was making a subtle distinction. I think he was possibly saying that; to love God first was the right and proper way of enablement to properly love our neighbour. I don't know whether you would agree, but I proffer this for your (and others') consideration - as we look forward to another celebration of God's taking upon God's-self our common humanity.
"O come, O come Emmanuel!"

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 9:55pm GMT

Mary Clara and Spirit:

Yes, worship (and indeed praise) ought to be the source and summit of the Christian life--where even our action for peace and justice originate. It is never useless, and it is actually central to our faith. This is an argument that has been made by the Westminster Catechism, Ignatius of Loyola (in the Spiritual Exercises), David Ford and Daniel Hardy, and yes, Rick Warren.

I often flip the Johannine question around: How can you love the neighbor whom you do see unless you love the God whom you do not see?

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 11:46pm GMT

It's a little illogical to critcise cathedrals because there happen to be homeless people in the same town. Cathedrals aren't there to care for the homeless. BUT they must be part of a wider structure which does care for the homeless. So, criticise the church at large, or the diocese in general, rather than the cathedral in particular. Otherwise it's the same as saying that the British Museum or the National Gallery or the National Theatre or The University of London shouldn't exist while there are homeless people in London. Cathedrals do what cathedrals do. It's not realistic to ask them to do something else instead. They provide something as valuable as food and shelter. Actually, at their best, they supply and inspire people who will go out and be involved in social care and welfare and activism.
This is not to say that I disagree with the view that some of them are hotbeds of authoritarianism, pomposity, bossiness,careerism, snobbery, bullying, greed and neglect.

Posted by: toby forward on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 9:20am GMT

"Could happen to any of us ...

* of all genders"

Perhaps Advent reading should include Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London"
[think that title's right - I'm inclined to muddle titles]

For something more recent about those in need of our charity, try "Take This Bread" by Sara Miles. How open commmunion [gasp!] turned a 40+ year old atheist single mom into a Christian. And oh yes, she's gay.


Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 1:22pm GMT

Hugh, I appreciate hearing about some of the men you encountered in Canterbury's streets. I wasn't by the way putting addicts and alcoholics in a different category from the rest of us, or writing them off, but noting that the homeless usually have multiple problems and need more than one kind of help.

Spirit -- yes, I agree that we should not interpret Jesus' comment "the poor you have always with you" in a defeatist sense; I hear it rather as realism, pointing to the fact that there is never a complete humanly-devised fix to the world's problems. We may come up with an apparently perfect solution for the problems of the homeless in our town today, but by tomorrow morning it will reveal its limitations and/or be partially obsolete. We should aspire, and try, to wipe every tear from every eye, but in a world of change there will always be new sources of suffering; we simply can't keep ahead of it, or keep up with the sheer quantity of problems that afflict our planet.

Ren, you've summed it up beautifully. Worship, praise, ADORATION of God is intimately linked to recognition of our human limits and makes those bearable, liberating us to love and serve the neighbor. I like your ‘turnaround’ and will remember it.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 4:20pm GMT

I've argued elsewhere that our cathedrals should be funded by the state so that they can remain centres of pilgrimage, worship and heritage for future generations, in return - of course - for an end to discriminatory practices.

At the moment cathedral fundraising is dominated by the need to keep the building going with huge capital appeals and shops selling tat, when congregations are excellent opportunities to raise money for local causes.

It's no good charging people to enter the House of God - especially on Sundays - when there should be no barriers to worship.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 11:29am GMT

Interesting idea, Hugh -- having the Cathedrals funded by the state in return for an end to discriminatory practices. Do any of them already receive public funding? In any case the maintenance costs are massive, and I should think the cultural and historic value of the cathedrals warrants public support.

At Canterbury Cathedral there is no admission charge for daily or Sunday services. I would assume the same applies elsewhere, but I may be wrong.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 4:59pm GMT
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