Saturday, 8 September 2012

Telegraph interviews Rowan Williams

Update (Saturday 9.15 am) The Anglican Communion Office has responded with this Correction to The Telegraph article.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has responded to an article in today’s The Telegraph newspaper that inaccurately stated: “The Anglican Church is drawing up plans… that would see the introduction of a ‘presidential’ figure to take over some of the global role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

“The opening paragraph of this article is mischievous,” said Canon Kenneth Kearon. “There are no such plans. The Archbishop of Canterbury simply said in the interview that he could see that in the future there might be some reflection on how the administrative load associated with the Anglican Communion might be better shared.

“The Anglican Communion has several decision-making bodies, one of which is meeting in a few months’ time. Nothing like what this newspaper has suggested is on the agenda.”

The Telegraph today has a major interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

John Bingham and Benedict Brogan My job is too big for one man, says Archbishop of Canterbury

The outgoing leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans suggested a form of job share after admitting that he had failed to do enough to prevent a split over homosexuality.

Dr Williams said a new role should be created to oversee the day to day running of the global Anglican communion, leaving future Archbishops of Canterbury free to focus on spiritual leadership and leading the Church of England…

Benedict Brogan Archbishop of Canterbury interview: I don’t think I cracked it

…Does it worry him that, of the three main party leaders, two are atheists, and the third - David Cameron - says his faith comes and goes like “Magic FM in the Chilterns”? Doesn’t it make them unreliable allies against those secularising forces? “It does give me some concern. That means we have, as people of faith, to encourage our own folk to be a bit more willing to go into politics, and get their hands dirty.”

Nothing illustrates better the insensitivity to minorities than Mr Cameron’s wish to legalise gay marriage. Dr Williams is critical of the “embarrassment” the Prime Minister has caused the Church. A “very inadequate” consultation overlooked the legal position of the Churches and marriage. By opposing the change, however, the Church attracted accusations of homophobia, and for good reason, he thinks. It has been too – he says “lily mouthed” before correcting himself: “We’ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams: Church ‘wrong’ not to promote homosexual equality (audio recording)

In his last major interview before he steps down later his year, the Archbishop reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to same sex marriage and warned it would lead to a legal “tangle”.

But he added that the Church had been “wrong” in the past in its approach to homosexuality.

“We’ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that,” he said.

Dr Williams was speaking as Faith in the Public Square, a collection of his lectures dealing with subjects as diverse as human rights, secularism and multiculturalism, is published…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 7:12am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

I note he says only that the church should have supported moves for civic equality, saying it should have recognised the difference between the rights of citizens and ethics. In other words no recognition that the church should change its own behaviour towards gay and lesbian people, no recognition that gay relationships can be holy too.

We can expect nothing to change, therefore. All we ever get are words, no actions.

Posted by: sjh on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 7:35am BST

The Hurd Report's summary of conclusion can be found here:
First few pages here:
I believe was followed by at least two CofE reports on resourcing the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to do their jobs effectively.

I can see nothing new in this interview.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 8:53am BST

Let us pray that more practical heads will prevail after +Rowan leaves office. Yikes! Rowan's recommendation is that we upend 1500 or so years of tradition and have a Primate of the Anglican Communion who will be free to engage in the day to day administration of the Communion. In Rowan's scheme, the ABC would continue to be primus inter pares but have no actual role in the Anglican Communion. What an amazing idea. No doubt that this could lead to electing the Primate of the Anglican Communion by the Primates. That way, the Anglican Communion would renounce its historic comprehensiveness to become a confessional body led by an uber bishop. The benefit, presumably, would be that the pope would have someone to negotiate with when he has some free time from meeting with his lawyers and maneuvering his tanks onto Canterbury's lawn.

I don't think most of us share Rowan's vision. If the new ABC can manage the dialogue in his own province without trying to foist his half-baked ideas on his Church, he will do well. If he can act in good faith with all of the major interest groups in his Church and moderate their conversations, he will do well. If he can do the same thing when gathering the Communion leadership bodies with a firm commitment to comprehensiveness, he will be a hero.

And a word of simple advice to the next ABC. Have a little respect for the Church that you wish to talk to. Learn the simple basics of this other Church's polity. It would take about 5 minutes to understand that the ABC can talk with TEC's House of Bishops "till the cows come home," without affecting legislation in our Church. Our House of Bishops does not act independently of our House of Deputies in making critical decisions for our Church. Our representatives, including our Presiding Bishop and the President of our House of Deputies, have made this point with Rowan many times. He remains strangely tone deaf on this matter. His remarks about speaking earlier and more often to our House of Bishops has a flavor of triangulation about it. Once more Rowan offends one of the provinces in the Communion while hardly trying.

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 10:25am BST

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, makes me dizzy with his poor management skills and hot and cold ¨compassionlike¨ twist and turns for LGBT people and heterosexual female clergy spiritual directives at Church.

Please Sir, fade into the sunset of your promising retirement and leave us alone to regroup, heal and love oneanother...ALL one anothers (it´s not that complicated for some of us who have been quietly loving EVERYONE for lifetimes).

Posted by: LeonardoRicardo on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 11:24am BST

I just think that this is all rather sad. 'If only I had done this or that things would be different'. But there seems to be an element of self delusion here too. Does he really believe that by going to the USA earlier he could have done anything to prevent the election of Gene Robinson. Somthing like that was going to happen anyway. In this he put the unity of the Anglican Communion before doing what is right, but his appeasement has had no effect anyway (parallels with the 1930s?) and in this and other areas he obviously regards his time in office as a failure. It's such a shame that what started in such optimism ends in such a way.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 1:43pm BST

Every parish priest bemoans the fact that in addition to pastoral work there is the boiler to tend, the roof to fix, the plumbing to look after. There are financial concerns as well as pastoral. It would be lovely to "divide" the work -- but this is a profoundly disincarnational view of ministry; as if one can attend to "spiritual" affairs without getting involved in the reality of "the flesh." So while I understand the impulse and the regret and the annoyance, and sympathize, I have to steel myself -- and urge a similar steeling -- against the gnostic tendency to turn from the hard administrative realities of being a leader in the church. Take a look at Gregory the Great's sermon on Ezekiel, "The Watchman," for a hint as to how the "founder" of Ecclesia Anglicana bemoaned but managed it!

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 3:24pm BST

At the Communion level, had Rowan simply done the job he was given (preside at some meetings, invite bishops to Lambeth, convene the Primates, represent us all in some conversations) it wouldn't have been half so arduous.

Instead, taking a lead from his equally authoritarian predecessor, he chose to upend Anglican ecclesiology and establish himself as a miniPope, meting out supposed discipline to recalcitrant Provinces by means of his authoritarian Covenant.

Perhaps the next Archbishop of Canterbury will actually read the job description and follow it instead of rewriting it to fuel his own ego.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 3:44pm BST

To remedy the millennial plague of antisemitism the churches have done a lot of doctrinal innovation. To remedy the millennial plague of homophobia, it seems that full recognition of same-sex marriage is one of the requisite steps.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 4:04pm BST

If there's one thing that Rowan Williams seems to attract even more than passionate accusations of betrayal, it's newspaper corrections columns. Every news story about the Archbishop seems to be followed up by an irate call from Lambeth Palace or Church House pointing out that the Archbishop did not in fact say what it is reported that he said.

A friend of mine who went to university with Rowan Williams reports that as a young divinity undergraduate, Rowan would casually take down his lecture notes in Latin. Likewise, I sometimes wonder if Rowan gives interviews only in Koine Greek or Old Church Slavonic. It would certainly account for the fact that much of what he claims to have said appears to get lost in translation.

Posted by: rjb on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 5:09pm BST

It is not a stretch to think Rowan wants to establish an Anglican Magesterium when he proposes that we construct half baked imperial models of being Church. Rowan needs to open his mind and heart and LISTEN. He continues to veer toward a Roman Catholic model of Church and that model is decaying at a rapid pace. I hope Rowan Williams is stopped in his efforts to foist the Roman imperial model of Church on the Anglican Communion. I still maintain it would not be a surprise to see Rowan Williams "received" in the Latin Rite Church in the not too distant future. He is enamored by all things Roman. It would be nice if the ABC would put on his "listening ears" but I fear it is far too late as he has apparently bought the Roman imperial model for the hierarchy and the governance of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps the best thing Rowan could do for the Church at this time is to keep his mouth shut.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 5:15pm BST

In the audio Telegraph interview the reason Rowan gives for not accepting Gay Marriage is that this would involve "a doctrinal change".
Way back in 1993 Rowan's immediate predecessor - Dr. Carey in giving evidence to the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee as they considered the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood was asked the following question
"Would you agree with many in the Church of England that hitherto it would have been reasonable to regard this issue as a fundamental doctrine of the Church of England? We are dealing here with a fundamental doctrine."
In response Dr. Carey said:- "We are dealing with a very important doctrine. I would question the word fundamental."
Note well that Dr. Carey did not question the word "doctrine", he questioned the word "fundamental".
If two successive Archbishops regard "ministry" and "marriage" as doctrines of the Church of England - how is it possible to change one and not the other?

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 6:42pm BST

Despite criticism of ++Rowan - especially with regard to his 'alleged' statement about the need for help in the administration of the duties of the titular Head of the 'Founding Province' of the world-wide Anglican Communion; I have some sympathy for his position.

From the time of his seminal essay on 'The Body's Grace', it ought be obvious where Rowan's basic sympathies lie - with regard to the Church's treatment of women and gays. However, since that time, he became Archbishop of Canterbury - a position that carries its own responsibilities, both perceived and imagined.

Suborned by the reactionary anti-gay establishment and the strident sola-scriptura lobby of the precursers of GAFCON and ACNA; Rowan has been 'cribbed, cabinned and confined' into the strait-jacket of a quasi-Victorian Anglicanism. He was drawn into the supposition that global Unity was more important for the Communion than Provincial cultural pragmatism on justice issues.

His predecessor had already made the bed, and ++Rowan, despite his own best intentions, was forced (by the expectation of others) to lie in it!

Focused on ecclesial Unity, and being at heart a 'Catholick', ++Rowan has felt the responsibility (with Saint Paul) for 'all the Churches' - as Primus-inter-pares - to keep them in conversation while seeking a way of possible convergence. Not, in itself, a bad motivation for a P.i.P, but, sadly, no longer the best way of operating in a world where Justice is being sought for ALL people.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 10:41pm BST

There is a big difference between Rowan and a parish priest. As a parish priest, I have of necessity had to learn far more than I ever expected or wanted to know about boilers, masonry and plumbing. In his role in the Communion (not being in the CofE, I will not comment on his administrative role in England), he has in many ways taken upon himself a nuts-and-bolts role, involving himself in the internal affairs of other provinces and trying to remake the structure of the Communion, that his predecessors did not.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 11:07pm BST

"Dr Williams is critical of the “embarrassment” the Prime Minister has caused the Church."

Shouldn't the names here be reversed?

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 8 September 2012 at 11:28pm BST

Rowan's views on homosexuality took a dramatically conservative shift after he became Archbishop of Canterbury. It's generally assumed that his private views have not changed, and his public views are a result of the political pressures on him. However, there has also been an increasing centralisation in his thinking - the Anglican Covenant was too easy to see as a trojan horse for an Anglican Magisterium, and now this latest nod towards what could be described, fairly credibly, as an embryo Anglican Papacy.

I wonder if as a result his views on the core issue have shifted as well? Does Rowan now believe that it simply cannot be right for a small part of a minority communion, which is, after all, what the Church of England is, to take any decision of significance unilaterally? But then how would the Church of England's impending consecration of women Bishops, which he supports, have been achieved without what were initially unilateral decisions by other parts of the Anglican Communion.

As an aside, I'd also note that he seems to be moving in a direction less like the Orthodox and more like the Vatican. I really hope he isn't confusing Catholicity with apeing Rome.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 12:36am BST

The Church of England under Rowan's stewardship "has not exactly been at the forefront of pressing for civic equality for 'homosexual people' [sic]".

Dr Williams you have a remarkable gift for understatement. John Major once said 'when the curtain falls you leave the stage'. Every time you open your mouth on homosexuality something inconsequentially silly comes out.

Some of us are struggling to remain part of a church that is actively opposing our civic equality and too far 'getting its hands dirty' in using dishonesty and scaremongering to oppose equal marriage. The struggle gets more difficult every time you take to the airwaves.

After so many betrayals there is nothing left of any interest to me. You have completed a long journey from what you used to believe. If you still believe the same things but have sacrificed your integrity for the sake of Unity then one can sort of admire that but it's also a bit repellent at the same time.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 10:43am BST

I'd like to see the evidence that RW was prepared to use the word 'marriage' to describe what others call his liberal (private?) views on homosexuality. Even the theological committee of TEC did not propose this, and it included some prominent liberals. RW's consistent position appears to be that same-sex couples can live Christian lives. Does that include applying the word 'marriage' to such lives? I do not believe one can find this view attributed to him. RW has many many failings, and many many who wish to point them out. But inconsistency on Christian marriage is not, I believe, one of them.

Posted by: c.r.seitz on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 1:16pm BST

CR Seitz, can you point to a specific use of the word "marriage" in these articles that gives rise to your question? I can't spot it. Most of the uses refer to the current English government proposals to amend the law here, which RW very clearly opposes.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 5:44pm BST

Jim, I agree that Rowan has made the job harder than it might otherwise have been, in particular assuming the mantle of "unifier" at a time of particular division. But as he took that task on as part of his vision of the nature of the job, it seems to me that there is still a suggestion that the spiritual and the administrative are somehow in separate worlds.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 6:52pm BST

I should have thought the point clear enough. RDW has not changed his views on marriage.

Cf "Rowan's views on homosexuality took a dramatically conservative shift...".

Posted by: c.r.seitz on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 7:47pm BST

I don't understand why Dr. Williams does not comprehend the obvious. The minute the AOC gets some real power as "head" of the Anglican Communion, then Canterbury will no longer be head of the Communion automatically.

It's sort of like being the monarch. The Queen can only remain the Queen if she steers clear of politics.

The Archbishop of Canterbury can remain first among equals only if he adheres to the "equals" part of the formula. If Canterbury tries to elevate itself, it will find its grip on power energetically contested.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 9:58pm BST

"how would the Church of England's impending consecration of women Bishops, which he supports, have been achieved without what were initially unilateral decisions by other parts of the Anglican Communion." - Gerry Lynch -

Gerry has his finger on the whole business of how the theological praxis of the Church of England has seemingly not kept up with that of some of the dispersed elements of the Anglican Communion.

Considering, even, Good Pope John XXIII's impetus at Vatican II for the ethos of 'Semper Reformanda', The See of Canterbury has become almost as reluctant as the Roman See in its opposition to the liberalisation of the significantly marginalised people of the Church.

If the whole Communion had been tied to the polity of the Church of England, in any sort of magisterial understanding of primacy, there would have been, for instance, no Women Bishops, and certainly no open acceptance of intrinsically gay people in the Communion.

Endemic conservatism is no guarantee of authentic Christian Mission in our world of today.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 9 September 2012 at 11:29pm BST

Rowan Williams has achieved what he set out to do - keep the Anglican Communion together. It's still wobbly, but in fact the Global South has not exited, and their communiques get more Anglican-friendly every day. I think that is quite an achievement which will be recognized once the different parties get over not having their particular agendas given center stage. I say, job well done.

Posted by: Joe Mock on Monday, 10 September 2012 at 6:03am BST

"I think that is quite an achievement which will be recognized once the different parties get over not having their particular agendas given center stage".

Yes, and (taking the day of judgement literally for a moment), Jesus then asks them: "And how did you treat the least among you"? And the church will be able to answer comfortably: "We didn't think we ought to give their particular agenda centre stage, demanding nuisances that they were. We kept the church all neat, tidy and united, though, we think we deserve a pat on the back!"

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 September 2012 at 5:55pm BST

Rowan believes, and I agree with him, that in the end it is better to live through a crisis together than to split and stop talking. Others obviously think it better that each side go its own way so that the just in each party can keep feeling just.

Posted by: Joe Mock on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 10:49am BST

"Rowan believes, and I agree with him, that in the end it is better to live through a crisis together than to split and stop talking."

The Episcopal Church in the USA already tried that in the 1860s. The Church took no official position on slavery, an issue that split other churches such as the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Presbyterians into southern pro-slavery and northern abolitionist halves. The Episcopal Church remained intact and unified throughout the American Civil War, and did not exactly cover itself in glory.

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 9:02pm BST

"Rowan believes, and I agree with him, that in the end it is better to live through a crisis together than to split and stop talking."

That is a very worthy aim but Rowan's problem can be highlighted by the Lambeth conference, where groups of Bishops declared they would only be willing to come and talk if another, Gene Robinson, a duly elected American bishop, was not allowed to come and talk.

That was one of the key moments where Rowan caved in to bullies. He did it time and time again and consequently was not neutral but that acted against the interests of lgbt people and those for whom lgbt equality is obvious that it doesn’t even need to be discussed every single time.

I believe that he genuinely thought, at least initially, that it would be possible to bring everyone together, even if it cost lgbt people more at first, and that it would then be possible to heal wounds and to solve the situation together. But that turned out not to be the case. If the bullies didn’t get what they wanted, they threatened to withhold funds, to leave the church altogether, and they did indeed do that, in America first and now in England.

There must have been a moment, at some point, where he realised that the strategy wasn’t working, that he would never be able to genuinely solve the crisis.

And he had to ask himself whether it was better to give the bullies more for the sake of longer term unity, abandoning lgbt people for now, or whether it was better to treat everyone as justly as his faith demands.

I accept that it was a terrible choice to make. I believe he made the wrong choice.
And whether it was a wise choice in the long term remains to be seen.
Because all that has happened is that the whole problem will shift onto the shoulders of his successor.
Because whatever people think about the validity of lgbt people wanting equality or about the validity topic being given centre stage at all – it is an undeniable fact that the question will not go away and that it will have to be solved.
Whether it can be solved while retaining unity remains to be seen. It could well turn out that all Rowan’s repeated caving in did was to delay the split.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 7:58am BST

"Others obviously think it better that each side go its own way so that the just in each party can keep feeling just."

Thank goodness there's no sense of self-righteousness in the "unity-at-all-costs" camp, huh? No sense of superiority in choosing to sacrifice (others) to a false unity - just so you can keep feeling just.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 8:35am BST

Well, I can only call it as I see it. A split results in both sides being 'purged' of the "other", each convinced of it own rightness. I don't think, in the long run that helps anyone. I don't think Rowan was caving in to any one either; he was being true to his own vision, his understanding of his role. In a couple of decades people will look back at the lgbt turmoil and wonder what all the fuss is about: if we stay together, 'people' will include those who at this point oppose inclusion, or their children. If we split, it won't.

Posted by: joe mock on Thursday, 13 September 2012 at 6:27am BST

Joe, you might want to take into consideration that many of his critics have never proposed the Communion "split" or "stop talking." We simply think his proposals for managing the issues were utterly counterproductive and profoundly at odds with Anglicanism.

But if you'd rather argue with opponents you've created in your fevered imagination, by all means, fill your boots.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 8:51am BST
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