Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Youth Day at Lambeth Palace

Archbishop Rowan welcomed around 80 students aged 15-18 years to Lambeth Palace for a day of sharing and discussion, reflection and worship, and a barbecue lunch.

The theme of the day (‘Help, my friends think I’m mad!’) looked at what it means to be a Christian in an increasingly secular environment. In his opening remarks the Archbishop talked about science and faith, women bishops, and whether being a Christian means giving up on common sense.

The full transcript of his remarks is available here.

Reports of the day have appeared:

Telegraph Christians must confront their own ‘disgust’ over homosexuality, says Archbishop by John Bingham

Guardian Williams: Christians need to confront shame and disgust over homosexuality by Ben Quinn

The paragraphs relevant to the press coverage are these:

…Then there’s sex; a matter of constant interest to pretty well the whole human race, including not only issues about what you do sexually, but also about gender – about men and women. You’ll have noticed that in the Church of England at the moment we’re in the middle of what looks like a pretty complicated argument about women bishops. I’m speaking as somebody who really very much wants to see women bishops as soon as possible. Like most of you, I am used to a world in which men and women share in decision‑making and discussion without any big issue. I really long to see a time when bishops, as a group, can be like that and feel more like other groups. It is something I am very committed to. I share the frustration of a lot of people, that we’re tangled-up in trying to get the maximum support for it in the Church of England and every move in one direction makes other people move away. It’s like one of those terrible games you get in Christmas crackers sometimes where you have to get the little silver balls into holes – you always get two of them but then the other one goes off somewhere else.

That’s an area where we are in the middle of quite a lot of tangles. Same with same‑sex marriage, where once more we’re used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the Church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it. What’s frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience. So whatever we think about it, we need, as a Church, to be tackling what we feel about it…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 7:07am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

And there you have it. He is looking for the solution which makes everybody happy and there s no such solution - only a principled and sensible choice which he failed to make.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 7:39am BST

Apropos of RW's recently-reported comments on Islam and the nation state (not yet covered by TA, but extensively remarked in the Observer), it might be worth passing on this post by Ben Myers, who claims that in fact Archbishop Rowan's point was *the exact opposite* of what the Observer reported. I'm not familiar with the essay he mentions, but his argument sounds persuasive to me (and much less surprising than the reported claims given the Archbishop's previously-expressed views on the subject).

If this is true, it just confirms my belief that the media has never really *got* Rowan Williams. He's just not the kind of man they can understand, and perhaps he in turn is not very good at communicating with the media (if it were so it was a grievous fault!). But by all accounts he's a great communicator with prisoners, atheists, the poor, children, and the sick. This recent speech (like RW's famous "letter to a six-year-old" - also on Ben Myers' blog) leads me to think that Rowan is best at speaking to those who most need to hear him, and if we Anglican sophisticates are not "getting" him it is perhaps no fault of his.

Posted by: rjb on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 8:36am BST

While he and the Church scratch their heads , hundreds walk away. The sooner he goes the better.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 10:59am BST

He's back! Where has Rowan Williams been all this time? I guess facing those young people who will be The Church into the future, the Archbshop of Canterbury realises that there can be no more fudging on these important issues by the C. of E.

I'm glad, personally, that ++Rowan is not waiting until he returns to academe before sloughing off the mantle of presumed Primus-inter-pares responsibility for the evidenced intransigence
of the conservatives in the Church of England.

He has it in him to yet redeem the years of his struggles with the House of Bishops and their need to 'protect' us all from the 'onslaught' of the modern world. His own insights into gender and human sexuality could well be utilised in the opportunities that may be opened up to him to help in the reform of the Church - in the direction of the Inclusivity of the Gospel, with which, one suspects, he would be more at home.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 11:35am BST

"[E]very move in one direction makes other people move away."

Yes. That is the nature of politics.

And the challenge of leadership.

It was Dr. Williams's job to figure out which moves would make the least number of people move away. He has failed at this.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 12:07pm BST

The reason TA has not highlighted what the Observer "reported" is because this "new" book is a collection of previously delivered addresses, and not something new. You should be able to find the essay mentioned on the Lambeth Palace website.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 1:01pm BST

Are we seeing in the ABC's comments to these young people the resurgence of the old Rowan, who once spoke for the outsider with the news of the Inclusicve gospel. Just asking and wondering?

Fr John

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 4:43pm BST

This thread raises some interesting topics.

Rowan Williams is a staunch advocate of the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people (whatever that means) at all levels of British society and within the Church. His personal views have not changed as this report demonstrates.

When he was Archbishop of Wales he frequently ordained partnered gay people despite the fact that the declared, official, or at least historical position of the bishops here in Wales, dating from the time of the Higton fiasco, was anti gay. He argued publicly when challenged in support of Jeffrey John's position as explained in Permanent, Faithful, Stable.

He was famously reported saying he had done so (on one occasion) while touring Australia in the run-up to the last nomination to Canterbury. The Daily Telegraph, who were fiercely promoting Nazir-Ali's cause, immediately ruled him out as a possible successor to Carey and have never been happy at being proved wrong.

The new bishop of Monmouth promptly and without consultation sacked all the gay partnered candidates for ordination when he arrived from Reading.

And it was with some vigour that he first defended Oxford's appointment of Jeffrey John to the job at Reading and several times gave TV interviews supporting Jeffrey and telling us all how much dog excrement he had received etc etc.

Then there was a moment when everything changed.

I was told that this came about because a bishop from Pakistan had told him that if he went ahead with consecrating Jeffrey then there would be Christian blood on the streets, I have never read the bishop of Oxford's book to know what he says happened - Jeffrey was told nothing - other than his resignation was required and when he almost immediately tried to retract that resignation - he was outmanoeuvred by the Lambeth staff.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 5:54pm BST

This address to the young seems to me to be using an opportunity to send out a wider message that recently he and York and the bishops have made a mess of things on women bishops and on gay marriage, but there is no suggestion that another chance to act would be any different.

He seems to regard it as inevitable that an simpler ethical choice that he would prefer is impossible as he decides to do the bureaucratic work of confusion-causing. He doesn't seem to realise that he could actually make a difference: that he is in a position of influence to make a difference.

Imagine a Church under pressure of survival in some State oppressive situation and he would be making compromises he thinks could be made 'while the Church sorts its mind out on these things', as the Church structure comes before the people that are its members.

Actually, as the State becomes, in social terms if not economic, more benign and inclusive, the Church despite such opportunity finds it necessary to resist 'while the Church sorts its mind out on these things', as the Church structure indeed comes before the people that are its members.

This whole approach is why now, it is not silver balls, but, actually, people who are walking away, because if you keep sacrificing people in order to maintain the Church, they will eventually get the message.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 6:17pm BST

The backlash over Jeffrey's treatment was ruinous. The liberal press joined the conservative opposition and rubbished/misread/ignored everything Rowan subsequently said.

There was an attempt to blame it all on "advisors" and it was certainly true that Jeremy Harris was telling people Jeffrey would not be a bishop a long time before Jeffrey was told.

All this has to be set in the context of Rowan's public position on the Iraq war - which as TA contributor Jonathan Jennings will remember too well was whipping up a whirlwind as this report from a few months later shows

And all this before Gene!

After Gene and Lambeth Commission and Windsor Report the position of lesbian and gay people within Anglicanism was descending to an all time low (culminating in B033!) - as Fred Hiltz from Canada intimated. Rowan had withdrawn into the role of Archbishop of Canterbury where opposition to illicit wars was gone and support of gay clergy was recast as a desire to see the place of gay people made safer in a world that still routinely killed them. Hence the Dromantine Anathema.

Rowan swapped his priority for gays as "fully included in the Church" for "trying to keep them alive". At least I believe that was his genuine intention.
It's difficult for us in the west to imagine how blasé global south bishops were about the routine mutilation torture and murder of gay people in their cultures. My Archbishop tells chilling stories from meetings with other bishops, and that darling of the "orthodox" Greg Venables told me they (Primates) didn't even have a shared vocabulary to begin discussing homosexuality.

I would set this most recent comment - to young people - in that context.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 6:44pm BST

And just as Rowan backed off supporting gay people's "full inclusion" in the hope of keeping them and the Anglican Communion alive. So he has steered a devilishly dangerous course over the women bishops issue in an attempt to keep the CofE from fragmenting along the lines of TEC.

For while Gene was for many the last straw, a sizeable number who could not support women's ordination were seeing their continued position within TEC moving from "honoured" through "tolerated" to "outlawed". We are seeing the same responses to the present General Synod proposals argued out in threads here at TA.

Rowan is not just trying to appease those who in conscience cannot accept women in Holy Orders, he is trying to stop giving the AMiE alternative episcopal oversight mechanism any nourishment or provoke an ACNA style split.

Though it's interesting to note that at the ACNA's recent meeting the whole issue of WO welled up and the full panoply of opinions was represented in the gathering. According to commentators there was agreement that WO was a second order issue which will come as rather a shock to some "orthodox believers" in the USofA!

So Rowan, having staved off the gay issue,-family-and-sexuality-issues/human-sexuality/lesbian-and-gay-christians,-general-synod-debate-2007.aspx
hoped he might finesse the women's issue too.
He really does believe that if the unreformed Catholic wing are not pacified they will do a great deal of harm to a Church already creaking and looking dishevelled.

From where he sits these matters look somewhat different. I have to acknowledge that even if I find his choices (or lack of them) unpalatable.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 7:43pm BST

Remember, none of this stand-off in the Anglican Communion began with Archbishop Rowan Williams. It was already in train (and escalating) under the covert leadership of the soon-to-be Gafcon Primates. All, of course, during Rowan's predecessor, George Carey's watch.

Rowan can hardly be blamed for his reluctance to preside over the severance of the Gafcon Provinces - whose vociferous opposition to homosexuality has tarnished the eirenic features of Anglicansim around the world. As Primus-inter-pares, he was not the 'Top-Dog' such as the Gafcon Primates are used to in their own situation of governance.

The fact that the rest of us in the Communion have hung together as long as we have is, I submit, more to do with Rowan's desire for Unity, than his willingness to risk presiding over the Communion's breakup.

That the Communion is now divided into 'Inclusive' and homophobic Provinces is entirely at the feet of the Gafcon Primates, whose reluctance to enter into the modern world has provoked Schism.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 12:12am BST

"It's difficult for us in the west to imagine how blasé global south bishops were about the routine mutilation torture and murder of gay people in their cultures. ... they (Primates) didn't even have a shared vocabulary to begin discussing homosexuality."

So, let's speak THEIR language. I think most Global South bishops would be familiar w/ fire&brimstone: TELL THEM that the Divine Judge will send them "where the fire never quencheth, and the worm dieth not" UNLESS they start speaking up in defense of the Imago-Dei-Made-LGBT!

God is not mocked, and these genocide-complicit bishops ARE mocking God. Preach the Gospel! [Per St Francis, use words only when necesssary]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 3:46am BST

I'm sick and tired of Rowan's flip flopping on full inclusion of all gay people and women in all positions within the Church. Words can either heal or deeply wound people who are EXCLUDED. I do not see a great deal of backbone in Rowan's history as Archbishop of Canterbury. There is a huge disconnect here and there is a very big "back story" behind Rowan Williams playing politics with real human beings lives. He has failed as a leader. I am deeply disappointed in his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury. He has not always taken the high road and it has hurt him in the end. It is time for him to leave the stage.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 3:57am BST

If that's the "old" Williams, it's really no better than the "new" Williams! A lot of hot air and prevaricating and rationalizing. If he thought his actions would help gays and lesbians, no matter what part of the world they live in, then he has absolutely no ability to grasp reality at all. Gays are going to be killed in places like Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda no matter what, and the idea - which is bewildering, absolutely, breath-takingly, insanely bewildering - that joining in the rejection somehow helps "preserve" them is beyond belief. The AC has never had that sort of influence, in the first place, so I'm left to conclude either arrogance or complete divorce from reality.

As long as "kill the gays" has gone on in the First, Third, and all other Worlds, how was adding to the rejection, or, the very least, the disregard going to help?

Perhaps, if he had actually involved more than a handful of ecclesial elite in his decision making, someone could've pointed out this glaringly obvious problem to Williams.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 5:24am BST

Mark,I think the promised deaths were just indiscriminate killings of Christians by "angry mobs" - not specifically gay people.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 8:09am BST

I have been asked what precisely I mean when I say:

"Jeffrey was told nothing - other than his resignation was required and when he almost immediately tried to retract that resignation - he was outmanoeuvred by the Lambeth staff. "

I certainly believe that Jeremy Harris wanted to push through with this, but it was not without Rowan's knowledge, he was the main player throughout.

Stephen Bates records that Rowan was told by his staff that Jeffrey had withdrawn his resignation and he replied ‘It makes no difference’ and went ahead anyway.

Just in case I gave the impression that Rowan was an innocent dupe - at the heart of it the manoeuvring to ignore Jeffrey was really his decision and his decision alone.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 9:30am BST

Smoothing the path to a Cambridge afterlife?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 10:57am BST

The same applies in those countries to Christians, I'm afraid. It certainly won't help them to paying-the-danegeld/negotiating-with-terrorists agenda. It doesn't matter whom they are threatening to kill, the result is the same, the conditions are the same, and the utter, unbelievable insanity of the position adopted and its reasons for being adopted are the same.

You want to accomplish something, then make an effort to at least get goodwill from a secular arm that *can do something*. The stupidity remains the same regardless of the target of the threat.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 11:03am BST

Morning prayer includes prayer for the church - so using the CofE website for that office I also turned to TA for info. Discovering +Rowan's words to those young people made me aware again of how much he is willing and able to invite, engage and converse with the next generation. I, and I hope we, shall miss him and access to what he says when he moves out of this role.

Posted by: Peter Addenbrooke on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 10:51am BST
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