Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rowan Williams speaks

Updated Monday morning

Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke at the Edinburgh international book festival today.

Charlotte Higgins has a comprehensive report in The Guardian: Rowan Williams tells ‘persecuted’ western Christians to grow up.

Christians in Britain and the US who claim that they are persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling “mildly uncomfortable”, according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade.

“When you’ve had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely,” he said. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. ‘For goodness sake, grow up,’ I want to say.” …

Asked if he had let down gay and lesbian people, he said after a pause: “I know that a very great many of my gay and lesbian friends would say that I did. The best thing I can say is that is a question that I ask myself really rather a lot and I don’t quite know the answer.” …

Other papers concentrate on just one topic each.

Hannah Furness in The Telegraph ‘Persecuted’ British Christians need to ‘grow up’, says former Archbishop Rowan Williams

Scott Roberts in Pink News Rowan Williams: My gay friends think I let them down as Archbishop of Canterbury

Ekklesia Ex-archbishop feels he may have let down LGBT people

Update 1

Catriona Webster in the Cambridge News Western Christians who feel persecuted should ‘grow up’, says former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

Update 2

Rowan Williams has clarified some of his remarks in a letter to The Guardian.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 15 August 2013 at 9:05pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Not to worry Dr. Williams, your Anglican Covenant campaign was soundly defeated in the dioceses of England and sidetracked-to-oblivion least, we don't have to worry about being persecuted or prosecuted (too much) at Church. Our sisters and brothers in Christ who happen to be LGBTI human beings are safe from you now.

Ease up on yourself, we don't want you to feel ¨thick skinned¨ anymore just because you let me/we/us down.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Thursday, 15 August 2013 at 11:05pm BST

He was an institution man, and not only that but justified his 'Church first - Church always' approach via inventive high Catholic theology that focused on bishops like himself. He asked gay people to sacrifice themselves: pray for them, he said, but pray even more for the Anglican Communion. He asks when he could have been more constructive. Well, on those terms, never. He was obsessed with the Covenant and saw to it that the propaganda was all one way, but wiser people lower down saw through it and inflicted the defeat that institution men like him need.

I wrote to the then Bishop of Lincoln John Saxbee how he could attend Lambeth 2008 on the basis that attendance meant being in favour of the Covenant (when Saxbee was against). He replied he could because Williams was trying to maximise attendance by those who'd boycott it. Thus Saxbee assumed Williams didn't mean it. So at the heart of this was institutional jockeying, an absence of truth, power-play, and it and he (Williams) were undone by it all.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 1:09am BST

We should just "grow up."

Here are examples where our gay teens didn't get the chance to grow up.:

Rowan Williams thinks teen suicide is "mild discomfort?" What an outrage against humanity that man is.

The murder of gay activists in Africa, Russia, and gay people on the streets of New York is "mild discomfort?" Let alone the beatings. That isn't persecution?

As an adult, my experience has been to lose jobs despite excelling in my field. I'd be homeless, or horrifically impoverished if I didn't have family. So for those without means, this discrimination isn't "mild discomfort."

I have been through two major depressions because of the horrific treatment via jobs and CHURCH.

For those of us at the end of our ropes with mental illness inflicted by church, the message from a religious leader is "grow up?"

It is good that I'm personally in a better place now. But back in the day, these words from Williams may well have been enough to push me over the brink.

Because we live in the first world our suicides and depressions and lost jobs (including church jobs) don't matter?

I bet I've spent more time in the Third World on missionary work than Williams. I know what persecution looks like in both settings. It's horrifically wrong in both. Interestingly enough, a lot of gays seem to be in this compassionate work.

Please keep an eye out for your gay friends who may be hurting right now, this is another agony, another message that we aren't loved by God.

Williams statements are miserably lacking in compassion. Truly the attitude of a very privileged person living in an isolated bubble thinking thoughts that bear no relationship to reality, humanity, and the work of Jesus Christ with outcasts.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 3:11am BST

Here's good assessment of the persecution of LGBT persons in the US, many being the Western Christians that Rowan Williams characterizes as merely suffering "mild discomfort." Scroll to the bottom to see the people killed and assaulted.

Would Mr. Williams like to talk to the families of Mark Carson, Matthew Shepherd, et al? Would he explain that their murders were "mild discomfort" because they didn't happen in India or Uganda?

I wonder how he would comfort the families of the teenagers who killed themselves because local Christians revoked anti bullying policies designed to protect LGBT teens? Would he explain to these families that their grief is "mild discomfort?"

What would he say to runaway children who've left to escape abusive homes because the church told their parents that their kids were an abomination? Especially the kids who get whisked away and exploited in the child prostitution biz because they have no protection?

What does he say when people lose jobs? Our social safety net is nothing like the UK's. Losing employment based health insurance can be a death sentence.

What does he say when LGBT persons are barred from their partners hospital bedside because they aren't "family," most excruciatingly, when we're barred from our partners death beds? Or when we face financial ruin because of health issues where straight couples would be covered?

What does he say to people suffering depression? Does he say "grow up?" Or does he only say that to gay people suffering depression?

Has that man every uttered the Good News to anyone other than upper middle class white people who belong to the same club? How could someone so lacking in empathy and compassion be allowed any leadership position in a church? Is he a sociopath?

Between the Ugandan Archbishop and Rowan, I have had enough of these soul crushing displays. Someone gave me the authorized biography of Desmond Tutu, and I'm going to sit down and read about courage, hope, faith, and the firm belief that all people are created in the image of God and must be treated accordingly. Rowan is sitting on the dust heap of history, he just doesn't know it yet.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 5:32am BST

Cynthia, I think you've seriously misunderstood what Williams was saying. The people he was telling to 'grow up' were western *Christians* who claim they are being 'persecuted' (including, implicitly, those who say that it's 'persecution' when they get prosecuted for homphobic behaviour). He was contrasting this with places where Christians are in danger of their life because they are Christians.

Williams does not say *anything* about gay people needing to grow up. He does shilly-shally about the question of whether he's let them down, when the answer's clearly yes, but he is not saying negative things about them in this speech, whatever he's done in the past.

Posted by: magistra on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 7:58am BST

I was fortunate to be present at the Edinburgh Festival, and heard both from Rowan and Julia Neuberger who were excellent, and honest with each other.
First I would reiterate what Julia said. it was much easier for the Liberal Reformed Jews to come to an inclusive decision on Same sex marriage. As an aside she said many of the Rabbis were Gay anyway. For Rowan he had the Anglican Communion, and the Lambeth Civil Service. But this does not let him off the hook. He looked very sad, and I believe it is hurt he will live with for a long time, as so many of us have had to do in our life. Hoping for love and truth to prevail about us.
Afterwards I spoke to him, as he signed my partners book. A very sad man, in my view longing to escape the past of his tenure as Archbishop, and get on with his Christian Aid work.

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 8:37am BST

Our former Archbishop may have all the failings you list. But he was plainly not intending the challenge to 'grow up' to be addressed to the vulnerable community you speak for and belong to. Quite the reverse. He is saying to people being mildly inconvenienced 'there are people out there who are being seriously persecuted'.

But - 'What an outrage against humanity that man is.' Please. This honours no one.

Posted by: David on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 8:44am BST

I just guess with Rowan it was not given to him to play a heroic role in such matters but simply to hold together an Anglican Communion disintegrating in his hands. He did this with moderate success but was aware (probably) he wouldn't get many thanks from history. Sometimes we are so overloaded with great men and women of history, the people who just hold things together tend not to get much praise.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 11:06am BST

It's easy to get the wrong end of the stick when emotionally involved and hurting as Lgbti Anglcians are and do.

Yes, my reading is that Williams is speaking out about those Christians - a handful of anti-gay MPs, a few peers like lords Dear & Singh; former archbishops of Canterbury, and of Rochester, and those bodies ('Christian Institute'et al), which love to go to Court,claiming their Victim Status. ("If we cannot use the law to oppress lgbt it leaves feeling marginalised, and indeed victimised.")

So "grow-up !" is indeed a good retort to them.

I have to say, I usually find Cynthia's comments informative and inspiring.

Although I have been forthright in my criticisms of Williams, over the years, I do think that his vocal predecessor, and the various disloyal breakaways (the Gafcons, the Focas, 'Anglican Mainstream; and various wealthy Evangelical cabbals (excuse oxymoron) at home and abroad,

ensured that Williams never stood a chance, lacking the serpentine touch as he does. He was no match for them, or for the toxic situation created by Lambeth 1.10 - the Church's own 'Section 28' 'moment'.

Does anyone recall L. 1.10 anymore ?

It is has now been overtaken by moral discourse and pretty much sunk without trace * !

* except for the trail of devestation left in its wake -shipwrecks tend to be like that ....

Posted by: Laurence on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 12:30pm BST

Thanks for ¨interpreting¨ for us the words of Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and what they may have meant.

It seems few are able to understand him, now as before.

We *western* hemisphere types are trying as hard as we can to stop the abuse, the discrimination, the marginalizing, the outcasting and the real bodily ongoing danger to LGBT people in Uganda, Nigeria and England, in and outside of Church, and beyond Church.

Perhaps Dr. Williams would like to join in this active/real mission of equality questing? Admitting ones errors to God and other human beings would certainly be a step in the direction for healing the 10 years of shotty/morally compromised leadership at The Anglican Communion.

Join us, Rowan Williams, in saving the LIVES as well as the souls of Heterosexual and LGBTI people worldwide. Make NO exceptions this time. We all must be held accountable for our REAL actions...that would include you.

Thank you

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 2:04pm BST

While I too think Cynthia misunderstood, her central point stands. Rowan Williams let down lgbt persons because he never saw us Church, and therefore, as often prosecuted and persecuted members of Christ's own Body, prosecution and persecution often done by fellow Christians, including by Anglican bishops. In his tenure as ABC he spoke more than once publicly of our need for conversion but he never countenanced that it might be the rest of the Body that needed an attitude adjustment toward those who are lgbt members. He had an opportunity to humanize us, and he chose the institutions of Church over us, even when those institutions actively sought our outlaw, imprisonment, and death through governmental means. I consider him a great theologian of the Incarnation who could not see Jesus Christ in his lgbt siblings.

Posted by: Christopher on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 3:21pm BST

David, I got it first from the Guardian, which for better or worse, does look like he's addressing the vulnerable. It wouldn't be surprising if the Guardian misrepresented him.

Regardless, I'm afraid that the context is Rowan tried to leverage TEC into excluding me and my LGBT brothers and sisters. And to do so to be in unity with human rights abusers in Africa, where LGBT people are being killed and facing real persecution. The abuse has been noted and condemned by the UN and Amnesty International.

It hurt then, and it hurts now.

I can answer his question. Yes, he let his gay friends down. But worse, he let down vulnerable people who probably aren't as protected as his gay friends.

At best, he operated out of a very narrow perspective, apparently without entering into any dialogue. Did he listen to anyone who could tell him that we have 1500 hate crimes per year, or the role of the church in exacerbating bullying for gay teens, in addition to all the other vulnerabilities I've mentioned? At best, his is a sort of ignorant arrogance.

If the Guardian did him a disservice, then he should forcefully come back and make his point. The only thing I want to hear from him at this point is "I just didn't know the extent of the suffering and hurt, and I'm very, very sorry that I added to it."

I'm not going to hold my breath for that. I can't afford to, I need to stop the bleeding, apply the bandage, and pick myself up and get on with things. And be grateful that my church had a more compassionate and loving response in the face of the hate.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 4:07pm BST

Given that Lord Williams is one of the smartest, most intellectual, and most spiritual men to occupy the See of Canterbury in memory, perhaps one might take another look at the strategy of the failed Covenant.

Could it be that it was his attempt to placate the troubled fringe, knowing that ultimately the CofE would turn it down?

I have always said that he would never allow the Episcopal Church, first daughter of Anglicanism, to be expelled. He left us with our membership and status intact. The Communion was still more or less in one piece when he moved to Cambridge.

The real battle is between the right wing Americans, with their fellow travelers in Africa and elsewhere, and liberal Epsicopalians and their allies among mainstream American Protestants. The US religious right is dwindling, as new generations reject the culture war.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of the Episcopal Church in the US. Do you remember that John McCain, when running for President on the Republican ticket in 2008, said that he was no longer an Episcopalian, but had joined some evangelical group. This was a unfortunate attempt to appeal to his "base." Well, his son who like his father and grandfather is in the military, was just married a few weeks ago here in San Francisco. Guess where? Grace Cathedral with the Dean, the English Dr Jane Shaw, officiating. Senator McCain and his wife were present.

I think the posters on this site are often too pessimistic.

Posted by: Andrew on Friday, 16 August 2013 at 9:35pm BST

I thank Cynthia for posting examples of the persecution of LGBTI persons. But I believe Dr. Williams was referring more to the cries of "persecution" we hear from right-wing christianists who are thwarted when they try to persecute others, or enact into law their own fears and prejudices.

A good example will be Brian Brown, of NOM, now weeping publicly because the California courts have yet again upheld the right to marry; or Mr. Lively, who has for years traveled around the world (Uganda, Russia) promoting hatred and anti-LGBT legislation - and who now may be subject to a legal suit for doing so (see Doubtless both will feel "persecuted" too.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 12:32am BST

One cannot but think that ++Rowan was inordinately influenced by conservative elements in the Church of England - and those now known as the GAFCON Primates - to back down on his own conscientious beliefs about gender and sexuality. The evidence of his seminal publication 'The Body's Grace', written before his election to Canterbury, had given the LGBT community hope for enlightenment on the contentious issues that had dogged the Communion from the time of George Carey's acceptance of the demands of certain African Primates for a Gay-Free Communion.

Being a person who had regard for what he may have seen as the needs of the Institution, and with the pressure of what is now being called the GAFCON sodality to back-peddle on issues of sexuality, he may have felt the need to sactrifice his own views to what he perceived as the 'Will' of the Church.
This may be a case of the triumph of 'cultural cringe' where Justice gives way to pragmatisim.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 1:01am BST

Andrew, Rowan took Americans off of committees as retaliation for our inclusion. He treated both +Gene and ++Kathrine quite shabbily for the same reasons. He applied all the pressure he had available to get the Western Churches to exclude LGBT persons in order to be in "unity" with human rights abusers in Uganda.

It is most sobering to have a religious leader on the wrong side of Amnesty International and UN Human Rights.

I don't believe that Williams held the communion together, I think he fractured it further and did the Communion no favors by coddling Uganda.

I suspect that if GAFCON leaves, most will be back inside of 20 years - when the right wing American money dries up. There will be little to replace it, as you say, the next generation is done with the culture wars.

Here's the question, where were YOU when Civil Rights was happening in the US, when apartheid was being dismantled in South Africa, when women and male supports fought to win women's equality, when LGBT people struggled to claim their spot as Children of God? Where were YOU? What did YOU do? Did you lift people up? Did you stomp on the oppressed? Were you neutral?

Rowan stomped. It's most unfortunate.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 6:45am BST

'The risk of being reduced to an NGO, another woolly, well-meaning liberal thinktank or ambulance service – that's not a fate I would relish for my church, he said'

Is this a mild warning to Justin Welby about becoming do-gooders re Pay Day Loaners or a warning about the dangers of being sidetracked from the Church's central mission? Or is he saying something else? I wondered at first if it was a gentle swat towards Justin but am now not sure.

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 6:48am BST

One can feel a bit sorry for Rowan. Had Pope Francis used the phrase "my gay friends" the media would have been all over him (in a positive way). Rowan utters the phrase and it serves as a further reminder of the years he was the ABC. I think history will prove a kinder judge. I think he still has a role to play (if he wants to) in helping his successor adapt to the revolution he has identified. The CofE is in a delicate position and there's a sort of make or break moment in coming to terms with same sex marriage. There is therefore still ample opportunity to either thrill or disappoint.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 5:31pm BST

"There is therefore still ample opportunity to either thrill or disappoint."

Of course there is! We're Christians. We live in hope. Reconciliation and Redemption Are Us (an American reference).

No matter how hurt and angry I get, or anyone else gets, we live in that hope. Even I believe there's hope for Rowan, he needs to get out more, and listen rather than talk. Perhaps that is the story of our common journey, listening to each other's stories is where the action is. Stories are the stuff of the Holy Spirit and of Revelation, and ultimately, compassion.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 10:31pm BST

He did keep the Anglican communion together, and in that sense could have been the best person at the tiller during those troubled years. Yes, there were some moments when one's heart sank: Tanzania; Bp Robinson at Lambeth.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 10:39pm BST

At least, former archbishop Rowan Williams is not afraid to admit his mistakes. We've never heard a word of regret for his mistakes from the architect of the current mess in the Communion - Lord Carey!

One feels that Rowan was dragged unwillingly into the fray, whereas his predecessor was a willing co-author of the disaster - from which GAFCON was raised up on wings of misplaced enthusiasm for division that need not have occurred.

Rowan deserves credit for his personal integrity against overwhelming odds. He never actually
repented of "The Body's Grace", and he is now probably regretful that he did not grasp the nettle at the time of the Jeffrey John debacle.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 1:52am BST

"He did keep the Anglican communion together."

That remains to be seen.

I would say that he raised false expectations among conservatives. And we do not yet know how that mistake will play out.

Now that UK law is becoming more liberal on LGBT issues, the CofE is choosing between its culture and its communion. It will of course choose its own culture--as it should.

Then the question is how will the Global South react.

It would have been one thing if Williams had been forthright, from the day he was installed, about how little power he has over other Anglican provinces.

But the Covenant got the conservatives' hopes up--got them hoping that Canterbury will enforce doctrinal purity among supposedly wayward provinces.

What will happen when those hopes are conclusively dashed?

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 2:57am BST

"He did keep the Anglican communion together"

Really??? Proof please??? It didn't look that way from over here (the States). And if African human rights abusers were kept in at the expense of our LGBT people, then that's a pretty gross injustice. We have 1500 hate crimes per year and too much LGBT teen suicide (exacerbated by "Christians").

Did Rowan keep it together over the bodies of our dead teens?

That's exactly what it looks like. Because all of the perpetrators feel affirmed in their hate by the church, and the likes of Rowan Williams fed their affirmation.

If marginalization of LGBT persons, including children, was the price of keeping human rights abusers in the Anglican Communion, the price was way too high.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 6:17am BST

Father Ron Smith wrote, "He never actually repented of "The Body's Grace"..."

Well, actually, in that infamous August 2006 interview with Dutch evangelical newspaper Nederlands Dagblad, he was asked why his writings in The Body's Grace seemed so different than his recent actions. He said, "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."

This was the same interview when he said that Americans were "rushing" the issue.

Go read his interview. He disavowed The Body's Grace.

I wouldn't doubt that he would try to disavow that disavowal, now. Until an interviewer or crowd needed him to disavow his disavowal of his disavowal... of course until another interviewer or crowd needed him to disavow that & etc.

We are talking about Rowan here. The parable of the scorpion asking the frog for a ride across the river applies here.

Posted by: Dennis (formerly in Chicago) on Monday, 19 August 2013 at 3:38am BST

I fear some of us are missing Cynthia's point. Williams rightly tells spoilt rightwingers to stop whinging about their persecution simply because they are being challenged, but he is apparently blind to the manner in which his leadership was complicit in the real persecution of LGBTI people worldwide. His "gay friends" are the tip of an iceberg that seems only now to be coming into his line of sight.

Posted by: Andrew T on Monday, 19 August 2013 at 10:02am BST

RDW held a view that same-sex relationships had a certain potential for good, Christianly speaking. At the time this was regarded as radical, as the quote above indicates. I suspect he thought he was being sympathetic with a new development in the church's life. But was he ever in favour of something now called 'marriage equality'? The answer is a clear No. Not then, and not now. Where he may have miscalculated--he could certainly be asked--is that what he regarded as a generous and well thought-out position would in time come to be regarded as offensive, patronising, and 'not nearly good enough.' RDW has never been in favour of 'marriage' for SS couples.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 19 August 2013 at 11:23am BST

Williams's opinions no longer matter. And as for our varying variations on them ....

Posted by: Laurence on Monday, 19 August 2013 at 2:40pm BST

Thinking Anglicans? Perhaps Reading Anglicans would have understood Rowan Williams rather better: the Cambridge News makes it absolutely clear who he was talking about. I can't think why he felt the need to apologise. But he is in fact quite a humble and self critical man; despite all his errors ( and who's free from them?) I know no one who's met him who hasn't liked him. He's not upper middle class oriented, Cynthia; he's Welsh lower middle and we're not classy in Wales.
While I share many of the criticisms made of Rowan as ABC I'm really appalled by the tone of some of the contributions above. Yes he failed to walk in your shoes; have you tried walking in his? No he is not responsible for attacks made on gay teens in the USA. On the other hand we are all responsible for what we say about others, so perhaps a little more justice and charity might be in order.

Posted by: Helen on Monday, 19 August 2013 at 10:46pm BST

I would like to be more charitable. But the problem is that Rowan didn't listen to us and our problems. Without listening or meaningful dialogue, he prioritized human rights abusers above our well being. His proclamations seem utterly disconnected to reality, including the reality of suffering.

How does one get through to someone this dense, this sure that his privileged bubble is the story? He needs to see the suffering.

It isn't that hard to walk in his shoes. I have a number of leadership roles, clearly in more humble circumstances. But some of my roles involve children. And there is something very clarifying about that. There's a requirement for balance and fairness, and to protect the vulnerable. You see them get hurt and that hurts, and calls for an affirming response. It takes about 7 positives to undo a negative.

It is naive to say Rowan had nothing to do with the LGBT teen suicides. If the narrative is that Christians insisted on removing any anti-bullying protections, then the Christians were in the dominant position using Scripture, Tradition, and the example of current world church leaders to affirm their hate. It isn't a direct role, but he was on the wrong side of the narrative, and he fed it to some degree.

Regardless of his birth, he has privileged status now. And it seems like a classic Ivory Tower existence. How nice. For those of us who live in the real world, with it's suffering, we need leaders who get compassion and the Good News of Jesus Christ and who proclaim it to all, most especially to the outcast, like Jesus.

Sorry I can't be more charitable. I was one of the ones crushed by his actions and I won't be silenced. We learned that silence = death. No more. I owe it to the next generation.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 3:15am BST

For the record, the gay Americans I've talked to took Rowan's comments the same way I did. It's inevitable in the context of how we were treated. Also, sometimes there are big differences between British and American English. We each think something is clear to any English speaker, but it isn't always the case.

But interestingly, his letter to the Guardian is a nice gesture, but he still doesn't get it - "I realise in retrospect how offensive the words might sound to those who suffer bullying for their convictions or whose faith presents them with real and painful dilemmas in their professional lives."

The problem isn't so much those being bullied for their convictions, the problem is those getting bullied because of who they are, of who God created them to be. The problem is being vulnerable to hate crimes, which are too common. In fact, they seem to be increasing. Rowan is not showing any empathy or compassion.

He seems to be closer to defining his target audience. It seems to be those who are losing the arguments in the culture wars. And perhaps some Christians who are feeling isolated in an increasingly secular UK. Reading the Guardian blogs is enough to discourage any believer!

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 7:47am BST

Thank you Helen. Your challenge is absolutely right. Reading Andrew Goddard's acclaimed biography 'Rowan Williams: his legacy' reveals just what an extraordinarily wide ranging and costly job RW undertook on behalf of the church as ABC and the personal faith of transparent depth that somehow sustained him through this largely thankless task. Flawed? Who isn't? But the measure of his legacy is not for reducing to a single issue - however much we hoped and (still) need something different here.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 7:55am BST

RDW in the Guardian is *again* not talking about SS related matters. He is talking about those who are or feel persecuted for being Christian.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 8:32am BST

I think it was always obvious who RW was criticising, and his comments may have some impact on the silly people who allege 'persecution' by the liberal state. Indeed, his comments could include those silly people who claim that equal marriage is an assault upon marriage.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 8:58am BST

"RDW in the Guardian is *again* not talking about SS related matters. He is talking about those who are or feel persecuted for being Christian."

Only that in Britain the only time Christians scream loudly that they are being persecuted is when they are prohibited from discriminating against gay people.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 9:09am BST

"I'm really appalled by the tone of some of the contributions above."

For years I was appalled by Dr. Williams's lack of leadership, his own willingness to discriminate (Jeffrey John, Gene Robinson), and his eagerness to sacrifice the diversity of the Anglican communion on a supposed altar of institutional monolithicity.

None of that worked. Much of it was a disaster for the Church of England and for the Communion.

And now, ironically enough, Pope Francis is asking "Who am I to judge?" Which suggests that the whole Williams maintain-the-Communion project was built on a wrong premise: that Rome would never change.

So during the Williams years, Anglican people and provinces were thrown under the bus for the sake of a mistake.

Just because Dr. Williams is retired does not mean he can escape the potentially appalling verdict of history.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 12:54pm BST

Further to Jeremy's comment I'd like to point out that it may be possible to agree that a group of people has to be treated as second class and that their physical abuse in many countries has to be accepted as part of a major Christian unity project.
But it is a little much to expect those so treated to see it like that too.

Those without a stake in the game may take a longer and more moderate view.
Those of us directly and personally affected by the church's appalling treatment of gay people have the right to be more than a little critical of one of the main orchestrators of the current situation.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 3:57pm BST

Exactly, Jeremy. And Erika, Rowan makes it clear that he was including US and UK Christians. And he has yet to make it clear that he understands that LGBT's are a vulnerable population and that he made our lot worse.

Rowan was the discriminator in chief of the Anglican Communion. And for those who blow it off as saying he was merely imperfect on one issue, the issue was human rights. It's pretty bad to be on the wrong side of human rights. It's pretty bad to contribute to a narrative of suffering.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 5:02pm BST

I have to say that I find Cynthia's comments about Rowan Williams deeply deeply offensive - and (in my view) deliberately completely misunderstanding what he was seeking to say. I am also appalled by the tone of some of the comments above - I had previously assumed that Thinking Anglicans was a website which encouraged a civilised and moderated discussion of difference - but it would seem it has now changed. I too could tell my story of being treated in a dehumanising and demonic way by a church related organisation (Church Mission Society - which treated me as a third class sub-human being) - in my case because I am a married woman. But I don't think the TA discussion board is the place to do it.

Posted by: Clare on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 7:39pm BST

This rushing to judgement by some contributors does nothing to enlighten anyone about what Rowan actually did.
Cynthia, have you actually read what Rowan said- outside the pages of the Guardian I mean? You still don't seem to understand who he was talking about. And no, you have not walked in his shoes until you make some effort to understand the choices he faced- which you may well disagree with but which you, even in your pain, ought to consider. Yes Rowan wanted to keep the Communion together. Has it occurred to some of you that he would have no leverage whatsoever over the more aggressively anti-gay bishops in the Communion unless he did that? (It may well be true that he had a forlorn hope, but he was hardly to know that; hindsoght is a wonderful thing.)
I thought the treatment of Gene Robinson at Lambeth was insulting, but not inviting him may well have been the price of others coming, and Rowan thought it of paramount importance that everyone stayed in the conversation (I didn't notice TEC bishops boycotting Lambeth in sympathy by the way, so perhaps KJS understands more than you do). I do know that one thing affected Roan deeply: Christian Moslem relationships in some countries; at least one African bishop told him that a more general Anglican acceptance of TEC's policies (which probably most of us agree with) would place the lives of Christians in danger from Moslems, whose view of homosexuality is even more negative than the traditional Christian one.

Frankly some of you are simply demonising Rowan in a way that makes me want to say, echoing him to a different audience, "grow up". "Main orchestrator of the current situation"? read some history Erika. "Discriminator in chief"? Rubbish: this is on a par with some of your other comments about Rowan, Cynthia - and perhaps you could name one single teen suicide for which you feel he bears responsibility.As for "Anglican people and provinces thrown under a bus" indeed- who exactly Jeremy?
I usually sympathise with many of you, and yes I do realise Erika that if you are personally involved, you feel strongly. However, I also feel that that can be used as an excuse, and that some contributors are pretty close to doing that. Of one thing you can be absolutely sure: if Rowan says that he is thinking whether he let gays down, he really is involved in the deepest self examination. Maybe he has something to teach some contributors here.

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 9:43pm BST

As a postscript to my comment above, contributors convinced of the wickedness of Rowan Williams might care to check out the website below, where Rowan urges sanctuary for gay asylum seekers. He has also condemned the anti-gay rhetoric (and worse) of some African bishops, but I can't lay hands on the exact quote.

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 11:20pm BST

Sorry you're offended, Clare. But a number of gay Americans did take offense, and his clarification did not acknowledge the suffering of LGBT people. (I don't think Rowan was clear enough, and I do think that occasionally there are problems of American and British English not lining up as we expect).

Human Rights have never been achieved without people speaking out about the harm that abuse causes. Can you think of one? Domestic violence? Apartheid? Civil Rights?

I'm offended that Christians interfered with school anti-bullying policies. A practice that lead to epidemics of teen suicides. And the Church, including the Anglican Churches have fed into the narrative that oppressed them. I'm offended by the murders of gay activists in Africa. I'm offended by the repression of gays in Russia. I'm offended by hate crimes such as the murder of Mark Carson in NYC in May.

Apparently Rowan is quite right, there are people who need to "grow up." Growing up means facing the reality, including the reality of suffering, and the reality that our actions and policies can cause pain to others. Offended by my words and not these horrific acts and our contribution to them?

It isn't the fault of gay Americans that Rowan wasn't clear on this. His words will always be measured by his actions. Many of us LGBT persons have gone through bad patches walking the black dog. Rowan kicked us when we were down. Most unfortunate.

Are you sure that the truth isn't more offensive than my words? I have no doubt, Clare, that you've suffered discrimination, most women have. I'm sorry about it and wish you much better.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 11:32pm BST

Yes, Helen, when Rowan Williams finally realized that Anglican leaders in Africa were fostering a climate that encouraged the murder of gay people, he at long last spoke up.

In the ninth year of his archbishopric.

Of course by that point he couldn't do otherwise and salvage what little moral authority he had left in England.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 1:15am BST

Lord Williams continues to manipulate by using his academic persona and casting himself in victim mode. Twice in his life he chose to be an archbishop, of Wales and of Canterbury. He is one of the most ruthless clerics you could ever experience. He makes very considered choices as to whom he 'consults' or commissions with tasks. He engineers the answers he wants, where ever possible. He has 'risen' from his humble, middle class background and is now enjoying (as he has before) a splendid life style, a comfortable income, and positions of significance.
Should one not admire his skill rather than pity him his 'suffering"?

Posted by: commentator on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 7:56am BST

I am afraid Cynthia that I found your initial comment about Rowan Williams 'What an outrage against humanity that man is' ... totally unacceptable. Untrue, profoundly offensive, and I am afraid so misguided that it undermines most of the rest of what you say.

It was very clear to anyone who read Rowan's comments and who had followed the concerns he had expressed in his archepiscopate that what he was doing was contrasting the appalling and difficult situations in some parts of the world where Christians are a persecuted minority eg Pakistan with the situation particularly in the UK where some right wing Christians (encouraged in fact by Rowan's predecessor) regularly cry 'persecution' over certain government policies. As Rowan rightly implies to compare the two situations is ludicrous. And I am afraid I don't think your misunderstanding is due to the difference between US and UK English. I think it was due to the fact that some Americans who would like to think of themselves as liberal, are actually so insular and blinkered that they end up sounding to many of the rest of us as bigoted as those who they seek to oppose.I think the way Bishop James Tengatenga has been treated recently by Dartmouth College a prime example of such bigotry. That is also the view of a number of TEC church leaders who I deeply respect.

Posted by: Clare on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 8:12am BST

Clare, I'm surprised that you believe that Thinking Anglicans is not the right forum to discuss the hurt people suffer at the hands of other Christians.

To me, one of the hallmarks of liberal theology is that it looks at the effect lived out theology has on real people's lives. Sometimes, what sounds pure and simple and true in theory turns out to be hurtful and damaging in real life.
By their fruit shall you tell them, we are told. That has to be the ultimate test for everything we do and believe.

How can we account for the effects of our lived beliefs if we are not supposed to talk about them?

I have always valued Thinking Anglicans precisely because it is one of the very few forums where it has been consistently possible to assess the impact of theology in real life.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 8:20am BST

Lord Williams' fondness for ambivalence was a function of his intelligence and humility.

But I think his own reported comments here recognise that he must account above all for his actions. Where did he leave undone those things that he ought to have done and do those things which he ought not to have done...

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 9:04am BST

Well who would be a leader?
This is merciless.
Much harder to accept is that one of the most significant factors in the success or failure of leaders are the impossible and contradictory needs and expectations of the 'followers' they inherit with the job. That's us.
I find myself pondering what 'growing up' means as a follower in such a conflicted church.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 9:13am BST

IMHO the most telling comment on RW's archiepiscopate is to be found here:

Posted by: Veuster on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 11:56am BST

You are absolutely right Clare. Rowan's comments were perfectly clear, and I suspect Cynthia knows it: it's been pointed out often enough. But it's easier to blame this demon figure of her imagination, Rowan Williams, than admit her mistake, because otherwise she might find herself having to apologise for her wholly unacceptable language.
Cynthia's egregious verbal diarrhoea aside, what strikes me about Rowan's dettractors here is the blinkered nature of their judgements and their sheer arrogance! Have none of you read Jesus' warnings about judgement? Rowan is being judged on his record on one thing alone (without any sense either of the context in which he acted), and personal comments are being made by people who clearly have never met him and know virtually nothing about him. Like you, I'm critical of his handling of issues pertaining to LGBT people, and indeed women bishops. But he has made and continues to make a huge moral contribution to this country, and those of you who doubt it might just start with reading his Wikipedia entry to remind you that there are other issues on which a Christian might expend some energy. He has recently been appointed chair of Christian Aid, and as a supporter of CA for over 30 years I'm delighted.
He stands head and shoulders above his critics here, which is perhaps one reason why he has been so bitterly attacked. Just one example: when he is misunderstood or feels he has not spoken in the way that he should have, he apologises. Cynthia, we're waiting.

Posted by: Helen on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 9:05pm BST

Helen, here is a link to an epidemic of LGBT teen suicides that was caused by local Christians forcing the school system to remove anti-bullying protections from LGBT teens:

This was reported because Bachmann was one of those tea party Republicans, it has happened in a number of school districts. I didn't say Rowan was directly connected, I said that he contributed to the narrative that gays must be excluded, i.e. we are not created in the image of God the same as straights. Those "Christians" most certainly used the Bible and the example of the major churches and church leaders to support their bigotry. Rowan was most certainly on the wrong side of that.

For the record, I did speak out against Dartmouth's unhiring of the Tentatenga and there are people in TEC lobbying for his reinstatement. Dartmouth is not a TEC institution, so don't conflate that.

"Well who would be a leader? This is merciless."
It needs to be for people on the wrong side of human rights. There isn't much history of them coming round to the right side without confrontation. I wish there was.

For this: "so insular and blinkered that they end up sounding to many of the rest of us as bigoted as those who they seek to oppose." Erika said it best: "Further to Jeremy's comment I'd like to point out that it may be possible to agree that a group of people has to be treated as second class and that their physical abuse in many countries has to be accepted as part of a major Christian unity project.
But it is a little much to expect those so treated to see it like that too."

You are asking way too much of gay people to accept our suffering as for the greater good of the Anglican Communion.

And those who say but Rowan supports gays in x or y writing, his actions were discriminatory. He took Americans off of committees, he discriminated against our +Gene and your +Jeffrey.

I'm sorry if I misunderstood Rowan at first, the Guardian was not that clear, the follow ups were clearer. But he still won't take it to the step of acknowledging our suffering and his role in it.

It's some of the CoE members who are insular in that some really, really do not want to reflect on the causes of suffering perpetrated by the church. As far as I can tell, the Americans on the blog are rather traveled, educated in social justice, and we are closely connected to the lessons of our errors in Civil Rights, and the lot of Women, Native Americans, and LGBT persons. I don't know about others, but work in the Third World changes one's perspective and one learns that tolerance for inhumanity is part of the problem.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 10:18pm BST

"He stands head and shoulders above his critics here, which is perhaps one reason why he has been so bitterly attacked"

Some of us criticising Rowan here have been personally and deeply affected by the church's stance on homosexuality and the way he handled the debate. There are people who have been refused ordination, who have had to lie about their relationships, who have experienced years of bullying, who have been removed from their posts as parish priests, who are still being denied PTO. The pain goes deep and it last for years and years and years. There are people here who have needed therapy, have suffered from depression, people who have really paid the price for what seems to others to be just a debate about abstract theology.

It is very hard to be dispassionate and objective when this has happened to you and to join in with the general admiration of people who can manage to be just a little remotely critical of his handling of lgbt issues because they didn't affect them personally.

And some of the people who comment here have personally known him and known him rather well. It is not all throwing stones from the back benches. Many of those who once knew him and trusted him have since become his strongest critics. Precisely because he has had a very personal and lasting impact on their lives.

A little understanding would be helpful.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 10:50pm BST

Looks like all the hoopla may be moot, according to the current ABC, who, like Marvin Martian, warns us that we are about to disintegrate.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 12:20am BST

"He stands head and shoulders above his critics here . . . "

How is this statement true? In what way can you verify it?

If it is true, which I doubt, should he not then be held to a higher standard?

You seem to want sympathy for your hero, without giving it to others. How are you modelling the behavior you require.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 4:36am BST

That said, the man is no longer in office. We can applaud that decision, if nothing else, repair the damage he has done, and let him fade.

This constant worrying of the old bones of the Williams regime is self-defeating, and the whole dredging up of this interview by the media smacks of the sort of divisive, showboat "reporting" that has destroyed the U. S.'s ability to unite.

A better question is, why are we being told these things? What purpose does this interview serve? Is it even news from an ecclesial perspective? I think not.

Let it go. Let him go. The more you hold on, the longer he hurts you.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 4:41am BST


I support your ideals of an inclusive Christianity caring for those who are oppressed or downtrodden in the world, but if I'm understanding you correctly, you have a very different idea of what the (Anglican) church should be in society. You think it should be a purified church, a place in which there is no room for (or at least no respect given to) those who are misogynistic, homophobic, racist, unconcerned about the poor, etc. A radical core of people at the forefront of social justice.

The problem is most people don't live up to those ideals. There are gay people opposed to women priests; there are women priests who are homophobes; there are poor black people who are homophobes (there have been problems recently in Haiti). There are liberals who are racist, and part of their racism is often dismissal of other cultures as having inferior moral values to the West. A church in which all but the most morally correct of congregations and leaders are to be denounced is going to be a small and select church. It may have a powerful effect on society (as the Quakers have done), but it's going to be small.

TEC may want to become a church like that; the Church of England isn't a church like that and it isn't going to become one. It includes the (polite) racists and homophobes and the complacent middle classes along with the campaigners for social justice and, at its best, it tries to push everyone slowly towards more loving behaviour towards all kinds of minorities. It doesn't expect its members to sign up to an agreed statement of human rights any more than it expect them to sign up to an agreed statement of doctrine. It tries to keep the waverers and the half-hearted in and change their mind by example. It's not a heroic church, but it contains a lot of people who do good work in their communities even though they still have prejudices. Tearing that down in order to build something newer and better is not the English way, even if it may be the American way. And US attempts to reshape the world to be a better place have not been entirely successful, to put it mildly. If you're going to argue for respect for cultural differences, it has to be a two-way process.

Posted by: magistra on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 7:06am BST

I am glad to read your apology, albeit grudging, for misunderstanding Rowan Williams.

I am also grateful to read your assertion that you are what I would call a proper liberal, rather than a pseudo liberal.

However 'by their fruits you shall know them'. When you have apologised clearly, succinctly and without qualification for the language you used about Rowan Williams ('What an outrage against humanity that man is' ... language that is only appropriate for Hitler, Stalin etc) then I might be willing to believe that you are not the dangerous bigot you appear to me, on the basis of your posting, to be.

I use the word 'dangerous' deliberately. In the UK, the country with which I have the closest long term links, though I do not live there at the moment, there has been a recent spate of 'teen suicides'. Some of the victims may have been gay, some certainly were not. The common factor however was that their suicides were provoked by bullying and vicious language that took place on various forms of electronic media. It seems to me that one thing that is really important for those of us who claim to care about the welfare of young people is that we should set an example of moderate tone and measured language , in our own use of such media. In that respect I feel you have signally failed.

Posted by: Clare on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:07am BST

Dear Friends on this blog,

I want to address you as such because I love reading this blog and find a great deal to think about among the comments it attracts.

Comment on this post has been pretty lively! But it worries me too. A sub-debate on whether we know ++Rowan well enough to condemn him raises the immediate question: how well do we know each other? To look at a couple of posts at random and reading the names of Clare, Helen, Cynthia, Jeremy, Erika... How well do you know each other, how well do you know where each is coming from? Be passionate for justice, be passionate for fairness all round. But please show each other forebearance, respect ... and love, for a Christian blogging community is surely called to be a neighbourhood.

As an ex (and deprived) minster, this site is too precious to me to see it descend into acrimony. And it's too valuable as a forum for Anglican discourse and apologetics. Please remember that a wide range of readers (non Anglicans and non Christians included) come here to find out what a thoughtful (Anglican) Christianity might look like. Commend it to them, and the things you care about most deeply will be heard even better.

In love and in Christ.

Posted by: ExRevd on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:12am BST

'Cynthia's egregious verbal diarrhoea'

That seems to me to cross a line.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:30am BST

John, I agree with you and apologise for having let that phrase slip through. This thread has been a challenge to the moderators. Perhaps it's time to move on to other topics.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:37am BST

If Simon will let me post one last comment:
Over the years I have come to know a number of contributors here very well. Through Changing Attitude, through Facebook, telephone conversations and personal meetings.

I do not know Clare, Cynthia, Helen and Jeremy and I have not been speaking for them.
I have been speaking for the whole group of people who often comment here, very critically. Because one thing I've learned is hurt people can occasionally lash out in frustration. It's all they sometimes have left.

The problem is that this is not an equal debate. Those who discriminate with the official backing of their church hold the power. A power that has a very real effect on the lives of those discriminated against, while the lives of the discriminators remain untouched.

And while I agree with Magistra that we must respect all people (not their views, Magistra!), and that it takes gentle nudging and time to develop a social conscience and an awareness of human rights, this does not extend to respecting institutionalised discrimination.

There can be no respect for the official position of the CoE and for the views of those in power who create and perpetuate it.
The only question is what tone the debate should take.
And I agree that it should be polite, partly because that's the only way it will ever be successful. You cannot mediate or persuade if you wrongfoot your opponent.

But, please, be aware of the place some of us here are coming from. A little understanding would help.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 9:36am BST

With all due respect Simon some of Cynthia's phrases invited it. I do not normally express myself in that way , and I hope I will not have cause to do so again. For me, and clearly for others, John, the line was crossed a long time before. Criticism is one thing; condemnation of the kind that has been expressed here quite another.

Posted by: Helen on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 10:10am BST

I am afraid that I will have to agree with some of the above posts, and say that I feel Cynthia's comments have reflected very badly on the TA blog, lacking in grace and objectivity.

If this is what 'liberal' Anglicanism looks like - and I have encountered the unpleasant side of the CoE - then I want no part of it, ever.

Posted by: Tristan on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 10:36am BST

'"Anglican people and provinces thrown under a bus" indeed- who exactly Jeremy?'

I'm surprised this question is necessary.

The provinces are TEC and Canada.

The people include Jeffrey John.

And Gene Robinson, who on Rowan Williams's watch was not invited to Lambeth because he is openly gay.

And more importantly, the closeted gay bishops and priests in the Church of England, who cannot be named or numbered because they remain in the closet.

In part surely due to leaders such as... yes, Rowan Williams.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 1:11pm BST

I'm not even a Christian (although I am in a same-sex relationship with a member of CofE clergy), I can't stand Rowan Williams nor his complete inability to get his arse off any fence that's going but I agree that describing him (or anyone else, for that matter) as 'an outrage against humanity' was disgraceful.

I do wish she would consider withdrawing and apologising for that particular remark which, I hope, was written in a flash of - quite justifiable - anger.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 1:29pm BST

Erica You have twice asked for 'a little understanding'. Of course, but please let it be two way. When I express concern at the language used of ++Rowan this is not evidence that I am insensitive to or ignorant of the pain of Gay and Lesbian people. The reason is that I, like others here, find this sort of language unacceptable for Christians to be using of one another in a public forum like this - whatever the subject.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 1:30pm BST

I have long noted that two kinds of liberalism will end up at war with one another -- one going back to Rousseau and one to Locke. For the former, the hijab is but one way to express oneself, while for the latter it must be eliminated root and branch because it is wrong. We are seeing this in the present case. One group of people are so sure of their cause and of their perceived aggrieved condition this must override all else -- even in this case a basic grasp of what was in fact said. My own sense is that this will be the next chapter in western Anglicanism. The Lockian liberals will demand justice all the way down and call it 'Christianity.' For the rest of us, it is simply unclear what kind of Christianity this in fact is.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 2:00pm BST

So sorry to have offended so many people. I have been engaged with another human rights issue here at home.

My frustration is certainly personal in the LGBT area. But in this other case, that is not LGBT related, the frustration is that a moderate group won't even acknowledge the documented suffering of a incredibly vulnerable group. It's impolite. People of particular political persuasion might be offended.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News to All People. Which Gospel is being practiced defending human rights abusers, such as those in Africa, or defending those who coddle the at the expense of vulnerable people (Rowan).

We are not commanded to practice the Gospel of Keeping Everyone, Especially the Dominant Class Comfortable at All Times. And you can Love Your Neighbour while you are telling them their moral compass is way off and they are hurting people.

Some of you are offended by the wrong things. It is the inflicted suffering that is offensive, not the cry of pain, or the truth of the suffering.

Sorry you had an ABC on the wrong side of human rights who actually took discriminatory actions. The tolerance of that is part of the problem.

But now we know the truth. Most people seem to think that the gays "need" to carry the suffering for the larger good of holding human rights abusers in the Anglican Communion.

That's enough John the Baptist for one week.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 3:13pm BST

I completely agree that offensive language is offensive regardless of who makes it and that it should be avoided at all cost. I also agree that it should be challenged when it is made.

I am not excusing outbursts, but I am trying to explain the root of some of them. It is easier to forgive an outburst or even to shrug it off occasionally, when we understand what level of deep frustration could have caused it.

In principle, I find emotive language from those who are at the receiving end of discrimination easier to understand and to forgive than the same language from those who either discriminate or who stand on the sidelines as observers.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 3:33pm BST

"Some of you are offended by the wrong things. It is the inflicted suffering that is offensive, not the cry of pain, or the truth of the suffering."

I still think there's a misunderstanding here. People have not been offended by you pointing out suffering but by the words you used to do it, and in particular by one rather drastic comment with regard to Rowan Williams.

Would you not agree that there is a difference between the views we hold and how we express them, and that the overly angry and critical expression of justified criticism can be as shocking and harmful as the polite expression of horrendous and damaging views?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 4:09pm BST

> I feel Cynthia's comments have reflected very badly on the TA blog, lacking in grace and objectivity.

Rowan Williams' archiepiscopate was lacking in grace and objectivity, and that is far more serious than making an unfavourable comment about someone.

Before he became ABC, Rowan Williams set himself up as a champion of homosexual people in the Church. No-one asked him to do so. It was his free choice. However, no sooner had he climbed on to the throne of St Augustine than he set about betraying those who had trusted him - the first and most ruthless betrayal being that of Jeffrey John.

From then onwards he did everything in his power to ingratiate himself with those who professed the darkest type of fundamentalist Evangelicalism, inviting to Lambeth bishops who wanted to hang homosexuals while barring +Gene Robinson, the duly and canonically elected Bishop of New Hampshire, in line with some strange Donatist heretical view.

I disagree with ++George Carey on many things, but regard him as an honest man. The same is true of ++Justin Welby, although I have fewer disagreements with him thus far. But ++Rowan Williams? All I shall say is, thank you, Cynthia, for speaking the truth.

Posted by: Veuster on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 7:04pm BST

There is a difference between intemperate language about third parties (in this case RW) and intemperate language in direct address. The language used in direct address of Cynthia was offensive, not because - or not particularly because - it was scatological, but because it was highly personalised and disrespectful.

cseitz: I didn't do philsophy at Greats and therefore know little about Enlightenment philosophy, but haven't you got Rousseau and Locke the wrong way round? And are you implying that you youself are on the 'liberal-pluralist' side? Personally, I'm not on your side (as presumably you know, if it interests you), but I do strive to maintain a place for people like you within the C of E (or the Episcopal Church of Scotland) or the Anglican communion, so long as your views are not 'vicious' (in a philosophical sense). Must admit it's an uphill struggle, both because my fellow liberals, mostly, don't accept liberal pluralism and because 'conservatives' like yourself seem reluctant to accept the bona fides of 'liberals'.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 7:42pm BST

"I agree with you and apologise for having let that phrase slip through. This thread has been a challenge to the moderators."
Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:37am BST

Yes, indeed. Straining at gnats while swallowing camels it seems to me.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:51pm BST

This comment list has certainly run 'hot'. I can't agree with some of the extremer comments and can understand people being offended, upset.

Nevertheless I think this is an important thread. Of course I don't want it to run forever.

Nevertheless we are working hard at trying to make sense of recent events. We who are engaged in this endeavour of meaning-making of course should forebear with one another.

My theory about RW is that he didn't embrace the heroic role. The Liberal conscience has embraced figures who lived in the heroic - Jesus overturning things in the Temple, Rosa Parks, great historic leaders, St Paul, Wilberforce.

We have so lionised the heroic we don't see so easily that not everyone can play this role. The unheroic can break our hearts, especially if we project the heroic onto them, want them to be great leaders. Maybe Jesus also did that (for some followers) by not leading an armed insurrection - the ultimate heroic for some.

And of course Magistra pointed out that the CofE is inherently unheroic unlike TEC, which is probably true.

The debate however is worth having, however painful it is. But that's just my view.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 10:08pm BST

May we be saved from overvaluing politeness.

Let's be honest here. Rowan is deeply disliked throughout the Episcopal Church. For too many years we dreaded seeing church news wondering what new insult he would pass on to our church. Whether he was lecturing our House of Bishops, claiming that our church had a deficient model of episcopacy. refusing our duly elected (elected! which is a thing he will to his shame never be able to claim) Presiding Bishop permission to wear her sign of office in the UK, refusing to welcome one of our bishops to Lambeth for the insignificant fact of being gay (and daring to be honest) (there is the rub, eh?), or refusing to have any contact with American Episcopalians while on a summer long stay with Jesuits in Washington DC, while being the nominal head of the communion - on and on and on, it was been a history of slights, insults, and petty games from that man. And not just to LGBT Christians or just to Americans. Does no one in the CoE remember the story of Rowan bullying a committee working to select a bishop? Is his boorish behavior so easily forgotten?

Perhaps Rowan does deserve everything said about him here, and more. Not just gay and lesbian Episcopalians, but also many other Episcopalian probably have a grief against that man and a wish to speak forcefully and honestly about him. Many are angry not because Rowan wasn't heroic or some such, whatever that means, but because of his deliberate insults and specific actions. By his fruits we know him, and know him too well.

I don't think English readers understand this anger - and this is critical not only for understanding some of what is going on in this thread, but also with any discussion about future relations between our churches.

Posted by: Dennis (formerly in Chicago) on Friday, 23 August 2013 at 5:40am BST

"The Lockian liberals will demand justice all the way down and call it 'Christianity.' For the rest of us, it is simply unclear what kind of Christianity this in fact is."

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I told you all we are of different religions.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 23 August 2013 at 7:35am BST

With regard to Dennis' comment about Rowan Williams (comparing him to KJS) 'elected! which is a thing he will to his shame never be able to claim' - Dennis is, of course completely wrong.

Rowan Williams was elected first as Bishop of Monmouth and then as Archbishop of Wales. (He was also 'elected' in a pro forma way as Archbishop of Canterbury - but I accept that is a different kind of thing.) If you are going to insult Rowan then please at least have the courtesy to get your facts right.

My initial comment on TA - after some time away from the site because I have been too busy with work - said that I 'had previously assumed that Thinking Anglicans was a website which encouraged a civilised and moderated discussion of difference - but it would seem it has now changed.'

I think that sadly my initial feeling was correct. Perhaps unlike some of the rest of you have I far too many constructive and positive things to do with my life to want to waste my time in future in engaging with folk who now mainly seem to use TA to air the massive chips that they have on their shoulders.

Posted by: Clare on Friday, 23 August 2013 at 12:53pm BST

Man, where to step in it here? Members of TEC and Canada (ACC) have justification for being both frustrated with and disappointed in the leadership of Dr. Williams during his time as ABC. In the case of TEC, I agree with the view that some of the folks from the U.S. have posted on this thread. In the Canadian situation the dynamics are somewhat different. The bishops of the Canadian church, in the main, were no where near proactive or assertive enough in challenging the ABC and the Communion Office on the issues of the day. But such is the nature of episcopacy in Canada where bishops still go to synods to hold court for their obedient servants.

Having said that, context is the often overlooked when it comes to the so called "World Wide Anglican Communion". However, The one common bias that may have been at work in Williams' approach to North America is a bias against western affluent societies. Williams is likely correct in noting that the claim of persecution is melodrama in the North American context. Religious traditions here function in democratic contexts with constitutionally secured civil rights on both sides of the border. The world looks very different here on the ground, than it doses, I suspect, in many other places. Unfortunately Rowan Williams leaves himself open to the criticism that the same democratic reality that makes "persecution" claims a hard sell here, is the very reality he failed to understand as at work in Canada and the U.S. with regards to the churches, their polity, and human rights for the GLBTQ communities.

But Rowan has left the building, time to for those of us who were unhappy with his role in the communion to let him go. A cooler day will come that will allow a better evaluation of the man and the times which were his particular context.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 23 August 2013 at 4:41pm BST