Comments: Rowan Williams interview on TV

"Once again, words have consequences, policies have consequences. What, in 10 years' time, are people going to be able to say about a system that tolerates this?"

I agree, ++Rowan Cantuar.

. . . which is why I find this [reporter's para] "starkest public warning about the impending schism in the Anglican Communion over sexuality . . . aiming his remarks at the American Church" so very *disturbing and distressing* (I'd say "disappointing", but frankly, the ABC's starting become predictable :-( )

So, is this it? We in TEC "reverse its liberal approach to the ordination of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex relationships" at GC, or else no Lambeth '08 for us?

What if we didn't care?

Or better yet, what if we DID CARE, enough to come to Lambeth responding to *Christ's invitation*---and generously overlooking the rudeness of His (putative) followers?

The idea that the AC can just disinvite/disfellowship/excommunicate us, and we'll go away . . . hmmm: methinks some folks just don't understand how *rowdy* the Holy Spirit can be! :-D

[Was it just the interviewer who linked these two *entirely different* issues together? Gitmo, about which TEC has NO say (despite our decrying it)? And the "gay issue", wherein the AC is trying to *take away* TEC's say??? >:-(]

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 7:16pm GMT

Someone tell the Archbishop that the answer was given a long time ago:

"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:35)

For "life" read "Anglican Communion" --- only by by risking the Communion by remaining true to the gospel will there be anything left worth having.

Posted by Tobias S Haller BSG at Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 8:43pm GMT

Tobias Haller said:
"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:35) For "life" read "Anglican Communion" --- only by by risking the Communion by remaining true to the gospel will there be anything left worth having.
But it would be just as possible to do this exercise replacing the word "life" with "sexual fulfilment." and that would lead to the directly opposite conclusion.
One of the things that it seems to me people of any shade of opinion don't appreciate about the ABC is that ++Rowan belives very strongly that the unity of the church is one of the fundamental truths of the gospel.
There's a very strong argument for pointing that unity towards one that is inclusive of gay and lesbian Christians, and also the unalterable fact that to point it in that direction currently fractures other existing unities between diverse races and cultures within the church. The fact that his personal theological opinions have argued for the former must make him suspicious of moving in that direction (is he satisfying his own interpretation rather than the church's?) when he feels strongly he is in an office ("by divine providence" as the tradition has it) which calls him to deepen unity.
I think there are too many on both sides of this argument who have entirely ceased to listen to anyone who disagrees with their position, irrespective of their ecclesial calling, spiritual integrity, or theological depth. As a result one can almost predict who has posted which message to this blog, because there is so little interaction.
But this kind of arrogant dismissal of Archbishop Rowan's integrity, combined with such a shallow appreciation of his vision, is one of the more disturbing symptoms of a church in which everyone thinks they know God's will, but no-one is willing to consider the possibility they might be wrong. Even that doughty, argumentative (and in my view self-righteous) conservative protestant Cromwell knew better: "Consider, I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, that you might be mistaken"

Posted by Doug Chaplin at Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 11:11pm GMT

I encourage everyone to listen to the discussion between Ed Stourton and Ruth Gledhill on the "BBC Sunday" program. The Archbishop's remarks are being "spun" various ways; however, this discussion does a good bit to clarify his meaning. "Can we agree to disagree?" is there identified as the crucial question before the Anglican Communion. I believe the Archbishop is right to say that the costs will be very great if we cannot agree to disagree but must separate from one another.

I would add that "agreeing to disagree" is a choice each of us must be willing to make and keep on making; the question before the Communion is whether we have the will to continue on in awareness of all our disagreements. I believe we should continue, though it is often difficult and painful to do so.

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 11:16pm GMT

"Self-righteous" is, as self-righteous does, Doug. ;-/

"But it would be just as possible to do this exercise replacing the word 'life' with 'sexual fulfilment.'"

This conflict has *nothing* to do w/ "sexual fulfillment": precisely NOTHING.

There's a saying among African-Americans: "God didn't make no junk." *That* is what TEC is standing for---the Gospel we will NOT abandon, regardless of whether the ABC, or anyone else in the AC, chooses to kick TEC out for it ("Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod": something else African-Americans say/sing).

"you might be mistaken"

I'm certain, Doug, that both I and my beloved Church are mistaken about a good many things (Lord have mercy!)

But still: "God didn't make no junk." There we stand---we can do no other.

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 4:50am GMT

I'm not entirely sure (dear J C Fisher - sorry don't know what the initials stand for) why my saying that Cromwell seems to me self-righteous should be taken by you as an accusation and hurled back. Perhaps it's because everyone in the current debate likes to start with an accusation, and is uncomfortable with anything less polemical.
I simply disagree that this conflict has nothing to do with sexual fulfilment. I think it has a great deal to do with the modern cultural conception that sexual fulfilment is absolutely essential to a flourishing life as part of teh cutural background to why this has become such a burning and divisive issue. I simply note that that individual sexual expression that harms no-one else is seen almost as a fundamental human right.
While I can see what you're saying with your "God didn't make no junk" quote. I simply don't think it works. What does it mean, that God is actively involved with the creation of each individual? It seems to me that posits a much higher level of divine intervention in specific circumstances than I am happy with, that it does away with any sense of evolution in a way that would make a fundamentalist very happy (each person a special act of creation) and that it assumes the way we are is essentially the way God means us to be, which both throws out the dominant understanding of humans as created and fallen, and raises far too many awkward questions about each person being "the way God made me" irrespective of being differently abled / disabled, suffering from significant illness, or having a major psychological disorder.
I think there's a much stronger case to be built on the way in which God seems intent on calling so many gay and lesbian people to faith and ordination, but our conservative sisters and brothers would then say that that calling is also a calling to celibacy.
I've not yet heard a really compelling argument by either point of view, merely a cumulative case. But I feel the "God made me this way" implied in your slogan is a particularly bad argument. Please convince me otherwise - or that I've misunderstood what your slogan means.

Posted by Doug Chaplin at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 2:22pm GMT

I honestly thought that "agreeing to disagree" has been the American church's position all along -- The Episcopal Church can't honestly say that they believe that the approval of the election of Gene Robinson to the episcopate was wrong & repent of the decision, because that would be a lie. TEC also is not demanding that other Anglican churches follow their lead on LBGTQ issues (or the ordination of women, for that matter).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 3:46pm GMT

Doug,
You misunderstand me on practically every level. First, I think the unity of the church to be vitally important. What I am saying is that you cannot preserve that unity by making it an end in itself. The church exists for a purpose, as a sacrament: which is a sure and certain means -- not an end in itself. When a sacrament becomes an end in itself it becomes an idol. This is reflected in the traditional Anglican attitude to what were percieved as abuses to the eucharist. If I can paraphrase, the church is not by Christ's intent or ordinance to be lifted up, carried about, or adored.

+Rowan appears to be recognizing that a split is coming, and that it will take a long while to heal. I think he is correct. At this point, the most effective way to minimize the split will be to hold fast to the Gospel, rather than attempt political expediencies after the fashion of Chamberlain. I don't see that as bad advice. This is what I was attempting to communicate in my paraphrase of Scripture.

As to your other comments, I don't think it is possible to substitute "sexual fulfillment" in the verse I cited. And it seems very odd to me that this is what you reduce the matter to.

Finally, if I'm not mistaken Cromwell spoke those words as he was about to be executed. Pity he did not bring some epistemic humility to his earlier career. I am perfectly willing to admit I may be mistaken on the subject of sexuality; and I am willing to stand at the altar with Archbishop Akinola. The converse is not true. So who is the problem, when it comes to sacramental unity?

Posted by Tobias S Haller BSG at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 4:31pm GMT

Tobias,
Sorry to have misunderstood you on this. I think many of my points were aimed more generally than you.
A very significant question in relation to what you say is what is the unity of the church sacramental of? There are, clearly, various answers.
The one where I assume there would be the highest level of agreement is that it is the unity of the Blessed Trinity - the high level of agreement is due in part, no doubt to the fact that the statement doesn't easily cash out in specific actions.
Another thing it may be sacramental of is the power of grace to unite those who would naturally at a human level be divided.
Another is the unity of people of every "tribe, race, language and nation" in which we might sensibly include culture.
The most controversial, because it cuts to the heart of this question,and which I hinted at in my reply to you, is the inclusion of gay and lesbian people pointing towards a unity in God's future where sexual intimacy (which is sacramental of God's love)is transcended in a deeper intimacy of all to all, and all to and in God.
If the unity of the church is sacramental for all of these things, then someone who like Rowan (or as you say like yourself) must surely hesitate before simply plumping for one at the expense of the others.

Posted by Doug Chaplin at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 6:05pm GMT

Thank you Doug, for this further clarification. I think we are in a better place of understanding now. The question you raise is important: what is the sacramental "essence" of the church. My suggestion is that it lies in acceptance -- which need not indicate approval; for Christians "to accept one another as Christ accepted us" -- while we were yet sinners. There is no place for one part of the body saying to another, I have no need of you: and I think I've been hearing that a good bit: originally a bit more from Nigeria (as alluded to in the interview: "One can get to Christ without Canterbury") but also sadly from some liberals too of late -- though I would say this is a somewhat understandable reaction to being called an apostate heretic!

I've reflected a bit more on this at my blog, in particular what I sense as our current impasse (for +Rowan) who seems to have adopted the liberal well-meaning, if we only keep listening to each other we'll come to agreement. My response is that we may never come to agreement, but the great wisdom would lie in staying together, in a sacramental union, for better for worse, rather than calling for a divorce!

Posted by Tobias S Haller BSG at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 9:00pm GMT

Thanks, Tobias, and I've also checked your blog posting as well. In general, I think we see the staying together as both desirable and something to do with the essence of being church, although from somewhat different perspectives.
I disagree with your assessment of ++Rowan, though. I think what he's saying is not "If we listen, we'll all agree." But that "If we listen, we will understand each other at a deeper level. If we listen as Christians, we will listen with charity: the starting presumption that the person speaking to me is a fellow-Christian with their own integrity. And if we listen in this way, and seek to understand in this way, we may find a new way either through our disagreements, or of living with them in faith."
I wouldn't disagree that individual comments - especially those framed in response to reporters seeking and publishing sound-bites - sound more like your interpretation. However, in the context of his general theological writings, sermons and other statements, I'm bold enough to say that I think my interpretation is actually nearere the truth of his views. His problem with reporters is that he is either too nuanced to be understandable, or too anodyne to represent the depth of his views. He still, regrettably, hasn't quite found his media voice, but then again, he hasn't had the best circumstances to find it in.

Posted by Doug Chaplin at Monday, 6 March 2006 at 10:34pm GMT

Doug,
I think you are right about the more nuanced view of Rowan's hopes, though I suspect, given his own views, he hopes as well for an eventual coming together of minds as well as coexistence of bodies!
And yes, he is ever so much better with prepared speeches and addresses than in interviews -- although he has a welcome wit, he seems too subtle for his own good at times.

Posted by Tobias S Haller BSG at Tuesday, 7 March 2006 at 12:03am GMT
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