Comments: The Tab meets... Rowan Williams

This is a good start. A healing acknowledgement of the hurt. I hope he comes around on marriage, but perhaps in time.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 15 October 2013 at 5:21pm BST

"things move on" but the Church doesn't.
Acknowledgement maybe, repentance not.
Even the South African Dutch Reformed Church has repented over Apartheid. Is it too much to hope that once day the Church of England might repent over its attitude towards LGBT people rather than just acknowledging that it is 'wicked' to quote his successor?

Posted by Fr Paul at Tuesday, 15 October 2013 at 8:01pm BST

"I’m a bit hesitant about whether marriage is the right category to talk about same sex relation, and I think there is a debate we haven’t quite had about that."

Same-sex couples have SO MOVED ON from your hemming&hawing. *Perhaps* there are discussions to be had re the future of the institution of marriage *as a whole* (why are so few heterosexuals availing themselves of it?). But really, Rowan, this sort of [gonna say it] Concern Trollery aimed *at* LGBTs? No. No way. Marriage equality NOW!

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 15 October 2013 at 8:59pm BST

"Even now it can be unconsciously patronising and demeaning"

Yes, former ABC Williams, it is. And, as far as I'm concerned, you were part of that. It was sooo much easier to put GLBT people and their concerns and issues with the Church in the corner closet, while you tried to make nice with the arch-conservatives. It was so much easier to tell TEC (USA), to shut up and sit down to appease the same arch-conservatives, and where did it get you, really?
I realize being ABC these days is a balancing act, but you always seemed to tilt towards one faction.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Tuesday, 15 October 2013 at 9:45pm BST

Dr. Williams keeps missing the point when trying to make himself understand his cowardly behavior (he was wrong when facing down those who would outcast others at Church)...dead wrong, in Uganda at the All-Africa Bishops Conference in Etebbe, Uganda and dead wrong when pushing his pompus anglican curia plot in the lgbt blood drenched waters of Jamaica at ACC meeting. Two wrong, or more, don't make a right. Period.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Tuesday, 15 October 2013 at 11:13pm BST

>> Finally, there’s a quite well known story doing the rounds about a conversation you had with a student in Sainsbury’s…is it true?

I wonder if he and his wife are the Sainsbury's sort.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 12:59am BST

By "the church" I think he means "me and other church leaders".

Posted by Linda Woodhead at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 7:14am BST

By "the church" I think he means "me and other church leaders".

Thank you, Linda, that point is worth making and will need to continue to be made in the coming discussions around Civil Partnerships etc.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 8:02am BST

I don't recall seeing Lord Williams of Oystermouth seated on the benches reserved for peers in the House of Commons when the Equal Marriage Bill was being DEBATED.
He did literally poke his head round the door to catch the brief contribution from his successor and then vanished when the Lords spent two days with some 100 speeches DEBATING the second reading of the Bill ........ Nor was he anywhere to be seen during Committee stages .........
I believe that the Church of England Synod did not debate either the principle or letter of the Bill but as he had ultimate control of that agenda he only has himself to blame. The CofEs lack of DEBATE did not stop it opposing the Bill at every stage.
Williams would do well to consider the statement of Welby who told The English Synod how during the DEBATE the views expressed by his Church were "utterly overwhelmed" at every turn.
Rowan Williams' remarks are cringeworthy.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 8:35am BST

What is so amazing is the way that Lord Williams manages to distance himself from any of this behaviour. He had the chance to redress the balance and he chose NOT to. His actions added to the 'patronising and demeaning' behaviour and one may also dare to say the 'violence' against LBGT people. In his own Province he never once acted with the sort of integrity he is now calling for.

Were he to repent, many would forgive. When he reportedly speaks this way, many will simply be angry and sad.

Posted by commentator at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 9:02am BST

Given that Sainsbury's is by far the closest supermarket to Magdalene, Randal, I'd imagine he and his wife probably shop there much of the time. As do most Cambridge students. There's a Waitrose and a Tesco Express in the Kite, but it's a rather along way from the colleges, and I doubt even Dr Williams' harshest critics could be unmoved by the mental picture of the man tottering on a bicycle down East Road, groceries slung precariously around his handlebars...

Posted by rjb at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 9:52am BST

Does everyone here forget the 'poisoned chalice' given to Rowan after the collusion of his predecessor with some of the vociferous African Primates - on their rejection of homosexuals in the Church? I suspect that Rowan may not have fully understood the extent of the burden he would be carrying in his new post. His task, as he saw it, was to keep the Communion together under his watch, by maintaining contact with everyone.

However, some of us have prayed that, on his return to the less stressful field of academe, Lord Williams might in some way try to reverse the balance of power in the Communion, by resuming his advocacy for Women and the LGBT community. In this interview, he has partly answered my prayer. After all, he could have refused to give an interview!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 10:18am BST

Fr Ron
what possible relevance can Rowan Williams's views have to anyone? There is a difference between changing your opinions over the years and forgetting them for a few years while you actually have the chance to make a difference and then reverting to them again when it's safe again.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 11:08am BST

May I point out to Fr Ron that Lord Williams was an archbishop before he came to Canterbury. He knew what the job entailed. Everywhere else there is constant reference to his high level of intellect, please do not now decide that he lacks the ability to understand the job he chose to accept.
When Lord Williams arrived at Canterbury he took extraordinary steps to distance himself from all his former allies in the debate about sexuality. He took tactical decisions to prepare the way for the actions that he already had in mind. It was his misfortune that the then Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, decided to conduct the selection of two of his suffragans by an open interview procedure. That procedure produced two men of great character, one of whom Lord Williams betrayed. He has continued over time to betray that man again and again. Only when Lord Williams has the courage exhibited by the former Bishop of Liverpool will the Church of England be in anyway cleansed and the voice of Lord Williams be once again worthy of a hearing

Posted by Commentator at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 12:39pm BST

Martin is entirely correct, we've debated plenty. I can't speak for other websites but TA was abuzz the whole time with passionate and erudite debate. At the end the debate petered out because all had been said and there were two thirds majorities in both Houses of Parliament. In so far as there ever is a debate on this issue it consists of a common sense equality position and a negative religious backlash with lots of scaremongering which the CofE press operation clearly engaged in. The CofE did all it could to enter into the debate at the time RW was ABC but on the wrong and losing side.

I could also mention the actions of his ecumenical friends in the RC church at the time including Christmas Eve fulminations. So debate there was plenty.

Still, maybe the debate hasn't properly taken place inside his own head. I do hope he finds the time to do so, but if he side stepped the debate when it was actually happening it suggests some avoidant traits. The only thing stopping him debating this is his own mind. He may not find many debating partners though, we've all sort of moved on from that now it's the law of the land.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 12:49pm BST

I just wish that Dr Williams would go away and do his soul searching in private, and only re-emerge when he has caught up with the rest of the world.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 7:10pm BST

Martin Reynolds, thank you for informing this under-informed Yank that Rowan Williams's current title is Lord Williams of Oystermouth.
I had to Google Oystermouth, and discovered it's in Wales, near Mumbles.
With full respect for the Welsh people, and my new understanding that Oystermouth is a corruption of a perfectly proper Welsh name, sort of like Texans renaming the Purgatoire River the Picket Wire River, nevertheless, I bet a lot of us feel our MPs -- or, for us Yanks, our representatives and senators -- all seem to come from Mumbles.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 8:20pm BST

It is a least possible (and would be typically sensitive and courteous) that Lord Williams is being careful in how, as the previous Archbishop, he now expresses his opinions in public on issues the church is still working out its policy on. He had own experience of coping with a predecessor who exercised wide freedom to do just that on sensitive matters. What's more, frustration though it is to watch, I think he is right.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 17 October 2013 at 6:20am BST

"Fr Ron - what possible relevance can Rowan Williams's views have to anyone?" - Erika B. -

Well, Erika, maybe Lord Williams' views were sought by an interested student body in a significant English University. I think that alone is important enough for the Church to take notice - especially as some of its behaviour lately has alienated the young, the future of the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 17 October 2013 at 10:48am BST

David Runcorn reminds us in a timely manner that Lord Williams is kind to old ladies, children and small animals, he is especially kind to Justin Welby.

What we recall here is how he threw gay people as a group under a bus when it seemed politic, and betrayed individuals who had shown nothing but loyalty, time and time again.

If Williams was, as you suggest, being "careful" then we would have no cause to complain, but here he is being disingenuous and on recent occasions he has been deliberately unhelpful to us in an attempt to bolster his successors outpourings.

Rowan reflects that his time as ABC will be seen as overwhelmed by questions of sexuality. I believe that had he stayed true to his principles this would have been less so, the sad thing is that I believe he sacrificed gays in an attempt to extricate himself from this judgment and only succeeded in making it so.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 17 October 2013 at 11:29am BST

Fr Ron,
yes, students decide to interview a new well known figure who joined their university for their publication. That's neither here nor there.

And yes, some of us here are apparently still interested in what Rowan Williams has to say. Although once his views were reported in the national newspapers, now I've only come across this on TA and in the Pink newspaper where it attracted few comments.

But, really, his moment of influence has come and gone and he has done with it whatever he saw fit to do with it. The ones who will now alienate people or not are the current crop of bishops and the current Archbishop of Canterbury. Because they are the ones who make the policy that will influence people's actual experience of church.
I genuinely do not understand what relevance his views can have now for the future of the church.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 17 October 2013 at 9:58pm BST

'Rowan reflects that his time as ABC will be seen as overwhelmed by questions of sexuality.I believe that had he stayed true to his principles this would have been less so'.
Very hard to know what possible evidence you have for this claim Martin Reynolds. All the signs are the subject would have been volatile and painfully divisive led in any direction at this point in the life of the church and society.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 17 October 2013 at 10:23pm BST

Rowan Williams is no fool and he knows he failed.

This quote - not in Simon's extract - is striking: "It may be culturally a bit difficult for some people to say ‘I’m a Christian’, partly because people will then say ‘Oh, you’re some sort of homophobic, misogynistic reactionary are you?’ which isn’t very encouraging."

Rowan Williams' three great failures were: his failure to extricate the Church of England from homophobia, his failure to get the women bishops legislation through, and his failure to pass the Anglican Covenant. Of these, only the third did no damage with the public. But his leadership, and lack of leadership, and failures of leadership, helped link the Church of England to the evils of homophobia, misogyny and reaction which he rightly recognises as serious threats to the future of the Church of England.

Posted by badman at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 9:45am BST

Justin Welby, not someone I admire greatly because he voted for the fatal amendment, nevertheless managed to stand up and condemn homophobia and to apologise to gay people for how the church had often behaved towards them.

And no international outcry followed, no Primates condemned the lax attitude of the CoE, no mention of any tearing of the fabrics of the Communion.

It was always possible to be cautious about gay equality while being very very firm in condemning homophobia.
There may be many possible reasons for why Rowan did not do this and why he, possibly inadvertently, fuelled it with crass comments about TEC, about how the Americans ought to run their church, about how Mary Glasspool's consecration was "regrettable" etc., while making no comparative noises against anything truly appalling coming out of Africa.

But let's not pretend, David Runcorn, that he was mere tragic Greek figure who had no other choices. He does not deserve that level of exoneration of any culpability for the state the Communion and the CoE are in.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 10:19am BST

First I'm told I am commending Lord Williams for being kind to old ladies and small animals. Now, Erika, you suggest I want to exonerate him as a tragic Greek figure (which Greek you do not make clear). I intend nothing of the sort.
I am quite clear that Lord Williams, at a particular time in the life of the church, carried the burden of leadership on our behalf. He is now judged by how he discharged it. That is as it should be. I have made clear in other comments that, like others, I wish he had done some things very differently.
However I think those being led are also responsible. I see very little willingness to consider that aspect of recent history in our church. We focus endlessly on leadership and have merciless expectations on those who do it (and fail). Organisations can be actually unleadable at times in my experience.
So for what it is worth I think we need a discussion, alongside leadership, on what responsible 'followship' might look like and require of us.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 2:46pm BST

"Bogged down" indeed. I'd say he still is.

As for responsible followership, it often involves showing the supposed "leaders" which way they ought to lead.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 4:11pm BST

apologies if I misunderstood you.

As to leadership and followership, did we not have that discussion in the context of the debates about the Covenant, when a group of people within the Anglican Communion and within the CoE wanted a much more centralised and structured and international system of leadership, whereas the majority of us preferred the existing system and leaving the power of making national decisions with national church governments?

And I think the main criticism levied against Rowan Williams is not so much his style of leadership but the fact that he had publicly held one set of opinions before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, that he then disappointed everyone of those who had trusted in his opinions and who discovered that his words and actions while in his new role were not merely a watered down version of his private beliefs (which could be understood), but a complete 180 degree reversal of them.
And now we are seeing that he is, apparently, rediscovering some of his previous views.

It's that... what I call an astonishing lack of personal integrity, although others may have more charitable words for it... that is the real tragedy of Rowan Williams.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 4:47pm BST

"Organisations can be actually unleadable at times in my experience. So for what it is worth I think we need a discussion, alongside leadership, on what responsible 'followship' might look like and require of us."

Rowan punished TEC for inclusion and didn't speak up against human rights abuses in Africa. That is not a problem of an "unleadable" organization. The more authority he tried to assert, the bigger mess he made of it. His leadership became about power and unity at the expense of conscience.

"Followship" in the 21st Century has to be built around consensus. Even a consensus to disagree. We don't need an Anglican Pope violating our conscience in TEC. Since Bonhoeffer and other major figures of the 20th Century, we know that we all must exercise conscience.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 5:55pm BST

Of course Lambeth wanted to centralize power at Lambeth.

To add to my prior comment, sometimes responsible followership requires that we resist coups d'etat.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 7:51pm BST

"As for responsible followership, it often involves showing the supposed "leaders" which way they ought to lead." - Jeremy -

Indeed, Jeremy. And this is precisely what happened in the Church of England General Synod that voted against the Anglican Covenant.

However, sadly, sometimes a few souls can wreck the intentions of the majority - like the last vote on Women Bishops in the C. of E. But, I guess that's the problem associated with only the conservative followers seeking office in G.S.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 18 October 2013 at 8:24pm BST

Jeremy: 'responsible followership often involves showing the supposed "leaders" which way they ought to lead'
I agree but the key words here are 'responsible' and 'showing' - the latter being a rather benign word for the process of debate we Anglican have ben locked into . And no group of followers ever thinks they are wrong do they?
Furthermore if there are four or more groups of followers, all passionate convictions, all 'responsibly' trying to tell the leader theirs is the right way to go ....?

Fr Ron: 'I guess that's the problem associated with only the conservative followers'
Do you really mean that only conservatives make bad followers?

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 19 October 2013 at 7:42am BST

Unless someone can show otherwise, +RDW was never a proponent of same-sex marriage. He has been clear on that point. Those in favor see no principled distinction between Christian charity toward Gays (his consistent view) and same-sex marriage. He does. Anyone is free to disagree, but he has not been inconsistent on this particular point.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 19 October 2013 at 2:19pm BST

Lord Williams says: "I’m a bit hesitant about whether marriage is the right category to talk about same sex relation..."

Hmm...why not? In what category would the archbishop suggest if there is to be equality?

Lord Williams: "We have to face the fact that we’ve deeply failed a lot of gay and lesbian people, not only historically but more recently as well."

As others have said, there is no acknowledgement of personal responsibility. It's "the church" over and over. As head of the church, it seems to me that Lord Williams might acknowledge that he played more than a small role in the failure over the last 10 years.

Posted by June Butler at Saturday, 19 October 2013 at 2:47pm BST

'As head of the church, it seems to me that Lord Williams might acknowledge that he played more than a small role in the failure over the last 10 years.'

I rather suspect that Rowan never thought of himself as 'head of the church'.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 2:43am BST

the problem is that the church's idea of consistency denies gay people any form of relationship and any official roles in the church.

And as long as a straight people take it upon themselves to tell gay people how they must live, regardless of anything gay people themselves say about their lives, that position is homophobia pure and simple.

A wholehearted blessing of Civil Partnerships and opening up all Ministries in the church to civil partnered people would address that problem and would make it at least credible that the only objections are to same sex marriage.

You cannot in all honesty apologise for the church having been homophobic while insisting that you will not change your thinking and your policies on how gay people should live and be regarded in the church.
That is just intellectually dishonest.

Posted by June Butler at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 10:16am BST

David Runcorn,
what should a liberal following that is absolutely opposed to treating gay people different have looked like? What did groups like Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church do that they should not have done? What did they not do that they should have done?
You seem to think that there has been poor followership. I would be grateful if you could explain a little more what you mean by that.

Posted by June Butler at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 10:19am BST

"denies gay people any form of relationship" -- again, just to be clear, this is not the position of +RW. He does not believe marriage is 'any form of relationship'.

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 1:16pm BST

Actually Rowan did speak up against human rights abuses in Africa and said they had "no place in Anglicanism" (I'm sorry I can't give the exact reference.) I certainly wish Rowan had done certain things differently. But judgement ("lack of integrity" etc.) is dangerous (there's a gospel quote somewhere about that!). One thing that is clear is that Rowan did not think he had a right as Archbishop of Canterbury to impose his own views. From a British point of view this appears mistaken: he was, after all, chosen to some extent because of his expressed views. But he viewed the role of ABC as much larger than RW, and so thought his responsiblity to the whole church demanded that he should take the whole church with him- an impossible task- and he knows he failed. His last sentence is probably true and therefore rather sad.

Posted by Helen at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 1:18pm BST

there is no full relationship that is sanctioned by the church that gay people could enter into. Sex is officially reserved for marriage and gay people cannot be married. So by definition, the church expects gay people to live reduced lives compared to straight people.

I do not recall RW to have lobbied for civil partnerships. On the contrary, I recall him having lobbied against a celibate civil partnered priest and prevented him twice from becoming bishop.

So for him, clearly, marriage is not allowed for gay people and even civil partnerships are so suspect that those who have registered them find that the ministries of the church are suddenly closed to them, even if they follow the church's rule of gay celibacy!

Whichever way you look at this, there is no way of pretending that RW is in any way gay friendly, that he understands the plight the church's position on gay relationships puts people in, far less that was is willing to do anything about it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 3:29pm BST

no-one was expecting Rowan to impose anything. He did try - he tried to impose his ideas on how the church should be run on the Americans, completely ignoring or not understanding their church polity. And he did try very hard to impose the Covenant on a reluctant CoE. But let's leave that aside for now.

He did not have to impose gay friendly policies on the Communion - that would have been impossible anyway. And, yes, I accept that on one or two occasions he said human rights abuses had no place in Anglicanism. He did not see the link between anti gay theology and human rights abuses. He did nothing to improve the lot of gay people in his own country either. Could he have invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth? Could he have desisted from calling Mary Glasspool's election "regrettable"? Should he have supported a Covenant that was explicitly designed to reign in liberal churches by making them accountable to homophobic ones? Could he have treated Jeffrey John more fairly?

Ultimately, we have to evaluate (not judge) people by what they did and what the outcomes of their actions were. And by those yardsticks I believe he fails on every single count. I am happy for others to disagree, of course. But as a civil partnered woman and a member of Changing Attitude I cannot evaluate him any differently.

And I will stick with what I said. To have held one set of views, to have then worked very hard for the other side while one had any influence at all, and then to slowly revert to one's previous views later is, to me and maybe me only, a lack of personal integrity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 3:40pm BST

Ms. Baker, well and good but not my point, e.g., +RDW did not change his mind ("he had publicly held one set of opinions before he became Archbishop of Canterbury"). No, he has been consistent.

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 7:58pm BST

consistent based on what, though? Most of us, when we first heard that he would become the Archbishop of Canterbury, evaluated him based on what he wrote in The Body's Grace and based on the strong friendships we knew he had with gay people.
Those indications seemed to suggest that he was in support of gay relationships, recognizing their value. In those days, gay marriage was not on the table and no-one even talked about it so he could not have had an opinion on it.

But we did think that, following George Carey's strongly anti-gay period as ABC that resulted in the Windsor report and in the famous Lambeth Resolution, Rowan would help to move the church more towards the centre, at the very least. I suspect (although I don't know for sure) that his less anti-gay stance and his sophisticated theology at a very difficult time for the CoE were one of the reasons he was elevated to the role of Archbishop of Canterbury.

His actions and words in office were not consistent with his previous writings nor with the quality of the friendships we knew he had cultivated until then.

Posted by June Butler at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 9:22pm BST

You focus too much on leaders Erica. The Primates as a body had reached a decision on the Windsor process which Rowan as ABC tried to get TEC to adhere to. TEC had signed up to Windsor , but its interpretation was different from others (and the process of electing bishops would in any case have made Windsor impossible to implement ). It wasn't imposition of his views, so much as an attempt, possibly misguided and certainly tactless, to implement Windsor.
As for imposing the covenant, that's really rather silly. Yes, he felt strongly about it- he wasn't alone in that- but it went through due process and was rejected. So?
I don't agree with some of Rowan's actions any more than you. do, but "evaluating" a person and his integrity seems to me to be full of pitfalls.

Posted by Helen at Sunday, 20 October 2013 at 11:56pm BST

"Fr Ron: 'I guess that's the problem associated with only the conservative followers'
Do you really mean that only conservatives make bad followers?" - Posted by: David Runcorn -

NO. I'm sorry, David, for not making my point clear. What I meant was that it would seem conservatives are in the majority of those seeking to bring their view to the Synodical bodies of the Church. Sadly, most people leave it to the movers and shakers whose interest in in the status quo.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 12:48am BST

Apologies, I had not realised that June Butler was still logged on TA from my computer when I posted my last comment to cseitz above.

well, yes, our evaluations are always full of pitfalls, even of the motives of those closest to us. That's why we're not meant to judge them.
Nevertheless, the alternative is to have no conversation about them or to allow only that level of criticism that others agree with.

You said earlier that you did not think Rowan had the right to impose his views. And I agree with you, speaking of imposing anything is silly - the polity of all the Anglican churches will not allow it.
But if we use the language of imposing, or trying very hard to persuade, then we have to accept that he did what he could ... for those who oppose gay rights and gay equality in the religious and the civil sphere.

Whether we focus too much on leaders is an interesting question. It's one that genuinely fascinates me, because we know that the majority of local churches in this country is accepting of gay people, quietly or visibly. And yet, that seems to make no difference. The situation for gay priests has become harder in the last 10 years, priests have to disobey their church to bless the gay relationships they undoubtedly bless, gay bishops are still closeted, there is still duplicity at the heart of the church. It is still acceptable for churches to run programs to "help" people who want to "change" what they call same sex attraction. Gay people have no actual rights in the church and are only being treated nicely if their local congregations happen to be nice. If your priest tells you that your stalker was sent from God to teach you that you should give up being a lesbian, you have nowhere to complain. All you can do is leave.

Do leaders matter? It probably depends on what a gay person wants. If they just want to be accepted in their churches, have their babies baptised and be a full member of their communities, then leaders do not matter so much, provided they are lucky to have an accepting local church.

But if they want to become priests, if they want their relationships blessed and be truly full and accepted members of their national church then leaders have an awful lot to answer for.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 10:07am BST

and while I agree that the Covenant went through due process and was rejected, we also have to remember that this was largely due to the No Anglican Covenant group that was quickly set up by interested people from all across the Anglican Communion, that made sure that dioceses were given comprehensive information on the reasons not to support the covenant.
The official information given to the dioceses in preparation for the discussion was woefully one-sided and unbalanced.

Those dioceses who had not been given the information provided by the No Anglican Covenant group overwhelmingly voted for the covenant, those who had been given the opportunity to read the arguments against it rejected it.

This was not a due process conceived to enable dioceses to make balanced choices but one in which the supporters tried very hard to ensure that the opposing arguments were not heard.

Anyone interested in reading up on this can find the whole process documented on Thinking Anglicans.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 10:30am BST

"consistent based on what, though?" Very simply, his view of Christian marriage.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 12:50pm BST

Actually, Erica, I didn't say that Rowan didn't have the right to impose his views; I said he didn't think he had the right, and there's a big difference. It's relevant to the issue of leadership. The ABC is primus inter pares; to what extent any ABC would have been able to negotiate the various minefields he inherited is questionable. The Covenant, for example, was recommended by a panel set up at the request of the Primates, not invented by Rowan. And it is my understanding that it was Synod that voted to send the Covenant to the dioceses.
One of the problems for the ABC, which is hard for most of us to grasp, is the tension between the world Anglican role (which I suspect a lot of people would like just scrapped), and that of an archbishop with British responsibilities. It's an impossible balancing act, I'd say.
The alternative to evaluating individuals and their integrity (and I can't see much difference between evaluation and judgement myself), is surely to criticise the action, not judge the person. And of course to carry on strongly speaking out about the effects of policies on individuals.

Posted by Helen at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 1:51pm BST

June Butler
Thank you for your question.
I actually used the word 'followship' not followership as I am feeling after a relationship that is more participatory than just following.
I did not say there was 'poor' fellowship so much as a lack of willingness to make followship part of the discussion at all. I feel that the context in which the last Archbishop exercised leadership remains a neglected part of this discussion. Without the wider context everything rests on the abilities or failings of one man. Lord who can stand? Followship places very real constraints on what even the best leaders can achieve. So I was feeling that so far, as someone wrote above, we 'focus too much on leaders'. A whole painfully complex period of social history needs evaluating in more careful terms than one leader's personal integrity or lack of it.
I hope that clarifies.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 3:54pm BST

there is this narrative about Rowan that says "he held certain personal views, he put them on the back burner because of his understanding of his role as ABC, and his prime goal was to hold the church together".
I used to believe that but over the years I came to change my mind. This is not how he acted at all.
He spoke out about gay matters fairly frequently - always in favour of those who were opposed to gay inclusion.
He spoke out about the structure of the Anglican Communion, but he did not respect the systems of governance TEC and others have in place. Instead, he publicly opposed their moves towards gay inclusion and then tried to change the structure of the Communion so that they would be more easily stopped, or find themselves outside the Communion framework.
Reading the TA coverage of the Covenant process, and in particular what Rowan said about it at the time and the words he chose to talk about those who did not agree with it, is quite instructive.

I do not see this weak Rowan who had to hide his opinions. Or this meek Rowan who just followed processes set in place by others. I see someone who had very firm opinions, voiced them and acted to get them accepted by all. Forcefully so, if the Colin Slee memo is accurate.
To the point that at the end, we wondered whether he had genuinely changed his mind about gay people and whether he was genuinely wishing the Anglican Communion could become a more centrally run church instead of a loose grouping of independent national churches, more akin to how the Catholic church is run.
He now appears to change his opinions again, or rediscover some he previously held, or allow his real opinions to come through. It’s hard to tell.
But there now seems to be this “church” that is quite independent of him and that did not always treat gay people with kindness. One day, he might follow the example of others who have in recent months changed their minds about gay inclusion and who have apologised for their own role in that.
If he does, I will take everything back I said about integrity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 4:47pm BST

thank you for your answer to the question that I accidentally posted in June Butler's name.

I'm not sure I fully comprehend the question of followship. We follow Christ in the context of the structures and liturgies of our individual national churches. When new topics arise we try to get to grips with them, individually and corporately, and eventually, there will be a new policy we can all more or less fit in to.
Part of that is to decide just how important a particular topic is, whether it really is a make or break issue.

Clearly, for individual national churches the status of a significant minority among them is of vital importance.
But for a Communion of widely different national churches it should be possible to have local solutions. Just like we do for any other contentious issue such as women priests, accepting the death penalty etc.

The key question for Rowan's term in office was whether the CoE's and other Western churches’ slow path towards inclusion mattered more than holding a Communion together that was torn apart largely by one group of people being unwilling to let others do what they felt right in their national context and insisting that everyone has to do it their way.

And maybe that is the biggest difficulty with the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. IF one single issue is elevated to a first order make or break issue, then it becomes impossible to keep vastly different churches together. And the only question can be whether it should be attempted at the expense of the continued suffering of a significant minority of your own fellow Christians in your own church.

But it is quite impossible for any of the other churches to follow that path, unless they are the ones who set the rigid agenda in the first place.

And so it does become a question of leadership. It becomes a question of tone and of nuance. Pope Francis is not changing the RC doctrines on gay people but he IS changing the way the church engages with the issue. Justin Welby is no less anti gay in his actions than Rowan Williams was, but he is also trying to change the tone of engagement. And suddenly, calmer tones are possible without the Communion screeching about torn fabrics.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 4:59pm BST

"One of the problems for the ABC, which is hard for most of us to grasp, is the tension between the world Anglican role (which I suspect a lot of people would like just scrapped), and that of an archbishop with British responsibilities."

Yes, I would like it scrapped. After his real efforts to force TEC to throw me, my LGBT brothers and sisters, and our women clergy (at least our bishops) under a bus, I am not interested in an Anglican Pope. In addition to tactless comments and boorish behaviour toward our Presiding Bishop and Gene Robinson, he removed Americans from various committees. I don't know what the situation in the UK is with bullying, hate crimes, and teen suicide - our situation is dreadful and it is fueled by "Christians." We don't need an ABC on the wrong side of that narrative in our culture.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 5:10pm BST

"consistent based on what, though?" Very simply, his view of Christian marriage.


An archbishop's job isn't to vindicate his personal view, but that of Anglican Christians, whose view of marriage is contained in our liturgies which do not preclude same-sex couples.

Posted by Geoff at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 8:49pm BST

i resigned the priesthood in 2009, (because I had to) but (by God) I nearly did several years earlier when Abc RW shafted Jeffrey John the first time. For such an alleged academic, he never seemed to grasp that we might not all want to align ourselves with the churches of Uganda/Nigeria etc in their attitude to LGBT people. And he seemed puzzled that we did not all want to sign up to the Covenant, which would have given such churches licence to 'discipline' Gene Robinson and TEC etc. Not to mention his ludicrous views on 'Sharia Law' a few years ago. Perhaps he's not so bright after all?

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 10:27pm BST

So +RDW's views on marriage are at odds with the liturgies of the CofE? That's a new twist.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 10:28pm BST

I think it is silly to say that Abp Welby condemns homophobia as his predecessor did not; in fact he did condemn it, quite often. Welby is reassuring to Evangelicals because he speaks their language, and his condemnations of homophobia are actually anodyne, since they fit into a general evangelical rhetoric. Unsurprisingly he is firmly against gay marriage, to a degree that his predecessor never was.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 5:33am BST

"So +RDW's views on marriage are at odds with the liturgies of the CofE? That's a new twist." - cseitz

The Common Worship rite for marriage states that it is for "the delight and tenderness of sexual union and joyful commitment to the end of their lives. It is given as the foundation of family life in which children are [born and] nurtured and in which each member of the family,in good times and in bad, may find strength, companionship and comfort, and grow to maturity in love."

Not one characteristic of marriage listed is unique to heterosexual couples, so those Anglicans who insist that marriage can only be for such must do so on some basis other than "lex orandi." And yet in GAFCON et. al's Newspeak, those who affirm that classical Anglican principle and are not trying to rewrite liturgical history are somehow the "revisionists."

Posted by Geoff at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 5:37am BST

June, Erika,

In exorcism, it is taught that one speak directly to demons other than to get their name - after that, they spin lies based on technicality and doublespeak, bringing confusion and despair to those seeking to bring light.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 5:49am BST

I don't doubt that Rowan is consistent in opposing marriage equality. But just to focus on marriage is very narrow and meaningless.

To evaluate what this opposition actually means we have to know what it is he supports, not just what he opposes.

Does he offer gay people a valid, marriage-like alternative to marriage, or is he simply saying that they must remain celibate and lonely and, preferably, in the closet?

As long as there is no valid alternative on offer, talking about opposing marriage equality is a smokescreen. The subtext is the same old "I make the rules by which you have to live and those rules dictate that you must never lead a full partnered life".

And then Christians wonder why the church is widely considered to be homophobic!

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 9:34am BST

"to focus on marriage is very narrow and meaningless." -- this statement probably explains a lot about differences of view.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 1:20pm BST

I don't think it explains anything other than that we seem to be answering different questions.

I have heard enough about what Rowan and now Justin Welby are against, about what other groups within the church are against.

What I would like to hear is what they're for. What are they offering gay people? What do they support?

The question is not "marriage equality - yes or no." The question is "if not marriage equality - then what?"

The church will stand or fall by the answer to that question.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 3:56pm BST

you know as well as I do that for many of you this isn't about marriage at all.
Otherwise you would have supported our relationships until now, you would have joyfully welcomed the advent of Civil Partnerships, you would even have campaigned strongly for them. You would be blessing them officially. But now you would say "sorry, guys, we've been with you all along, but as it happens, we can't get our heads round this marriage equality thing. To our minds, there just is this real difference."

Only, that's not what happened. People have been fighting every single small step of the slow acceptance of homosexuality in society and in the church. Barely have they lost one fight, starting with decriminalisation, before they latched on to the next step. And so you have fought gay adoption, gay parenting, Civil Partnerships - absolutely everything that normalises and stabilises our relationships.

Now there is nothing left but marriage equality, and you're still fighting that.

For some of you, it may indeed be about marriage. For the majority it's just the same old battle under a different name.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 5:46pm BST

"you know as well as I do that for many of you this isn't about marriage at all" -- of course it is.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 9:07pm BST

If there's one thing this thread proves, it's that Rowan Williams' views still matter! Ironic that. I agree with one of the contributors above: that no "narrative" of RW's time at Canterbury is adequate without the context, and TA posts are not very enlightening on that.
Since this is "Thinking" Anglicans, could we have a moratorium on that tedious metaphor,trotted out here yet again, "throwing under a bus"? It generates a lot of heat, but precious little light. Also I can't think of anyone less likely to throw anyone else under a bus than RW. Surely describing what he actually did is sufficient.

Posted by Helen at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 9:36pm BST

I think his views matter in the same way that coming to terms with how your parents brought you up matters. It's important to keep working it through until you find a perspective that allows you to grow through it and move on.

They do not matter in any real sense. The church will not change its policies or approach to gay people because he now says or doesn't say something.

And while I agree that clichés can get boring, I would allow those who have genuinely hurt by the church some leeway in how they express themselves.
It's a little bit much to expect distance, objectivity and calm from people for whom this is much more than a tricky theological problem but whose very lives have been dramatically altered because of how the church deals with them.
I don't know if you count among those people. But I know only too well the emotional roller coaster before each long awaited conference, the almost physical sense of unbelief that someone whom one had trusted has once again said something unbelievably crass or unhelpful, the struggle to know how to respond, how to remain objective, not condemn them too harshly - when everything inside you screams because you know they are talking about you, that they so clearly have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, yet continue to inflict more pain as if it didn't affect any real people.

Most of us manage to keep rational for most of the time. All of us sometimes don't. A few clichés here and there are quite harmless compared to the effort that goes into writing politely in the first place and not allowing oneself to be dragged down by bitterness and hurt.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 9:27am BST

"For a Communion of widely different national churches it should be possible to have local solutions."
Curiously enough, I think the Covenant was designed to achieve that. It was seen as excluding TEC, but in fact TEC, in the "outer circle", as it were, would have been free to pursue its moral policies of inclusion, to which I hope, in the end, the British churches would have signed up. This is not to say that I regret the failure of the Covenant in Britain: it would have trapped us in the inner circle, unable to develop without consensus which was highly unlikely to come.

Posted by Helen at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 9:56am BST

The Covenant text says:

3.1.4 In addition to the many and varied links which sustain our life together, we acknowledge four particular Instruments at the level of the Anglican Communion which express this co-operative service in the life of communion.
I. We accord the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the bishop of the See of Canterbury with which Anglicans have historically been in communion, a primacy of honour and respect among the college of bishops in the Anglican Communion as first among equals (primus inter pares). As a focus and means of unity, the Archbishop gathers and works with the Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meeting, and presides in the Anglican Consultative Council.
II. The Lambeth Conference …
III. The Anglican Consultative Council …
IV. The Primates’ Meeting …

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below. –

(4.2.8) Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption. –

See more at:

Any church on the outer circle would, according to this, no longer be invited to Lambeth, not be part of the ACC and of the Primate Meeting.
This is the most solid exclusion of any non-adopting church I can think of.
In actual fact, TEC was already removed from representation in some committees (my American friends may remember precisely which ones, or Simon might know where the link to that is on TA).

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 2:37pm BST

This is raking over old ground because I think the wretched thing is dead, but from what I remember of RWs talking about it, he did envisage 2 "circles" as it were. The actual text was designed by a team, including the present bishop of St Asaph ( though CinW and the Archbishop have always been very doubtful about it). It's tougher than I thought, certainly, but still includes words like "may" and "provisional". I think it would have been impossible to implement exclusion, and isn't that what the GAFCON churches complained about?
I appreciate pain and anger, but this is "thinking" Anglicans. My objection to phrases like "throwing under a bus" isn't that it is a cliche (the most overused on this site!), so much that it is misleading. Facts alsways speak louder and more effectively. RW didn't throw women clergy and bishops under a bus. So what exactly did he do?

Posted by Helen at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 4:46pm BST

"Since this is "Thinking" Anglicans, could we have a moratorium on that tedious metaphor,trotted out here yet again, "throwing under a bus"? It generates a lot of heat, but precious little light."

What light would you like? "Throwing me and my LGBT brothers and sisters under the bus" is short hand for:
1. RW actually taking Americans off of committees in "punishment" for TEC's inclusion of me and my LGBT brothers and sisters;
2. RW's exclusion of our bishop, +Gene Robinson, because he is openly gay and was elected with that full knowledge;
3. RW's boorish behaviour toward's our Presiding Bishop ++Schori
4. RW's refusal to even meet and discuss the issues;
5. RW's comment that the election of our +Mary Glasspool was "regrettable;"
6. RW's attempt to pass a covenant that would give the ABC the strength to censure TEC for the liberation of me my LGBT brothers and sisters.
7. RW's attempt to get us all in "unity" with human rights abusers in Uganda and Nigeria where my LGBT brothers and sisters are suffering horrific abuse, including MURDER.

In short, the "tedious metaphor" is short hand for my pain, and the pain of my LGBT brothers and sisters. I'm sorry that someone on "Thinking Anglicans" would think that the actual suffering caused by RW and exclusion would somehow be irrelevant. The phrase "throwing us under the bus" is tame compared to the suffering caused by those who would institutionalize homophobia to be in unity with those who are influential in passing laws inflicting prison terms, if not capital punishment against LGBT persons.

But sure, let's not let anything as untidy as that truth be written here.

If you have an alternative metaphor for all the suffering, I am eager to hear it.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 5:24pm BST


There seems, in some quarters, to be this absolute insistence that we all be *nice* when we are talking to or about people who have - basically - waged war on us as human beings. We're supposed to be *nice* and not mention that they have done evil things. We're supposed to be *nice* and look for the small kindnesses they've done rather than the global injustices they've perpetrated. We're supposed to be *nice* and say that their inability to express opposition to the status quo of injustice isn't cowardice, but rather a shining example of self-sacrifice. We're supposed to be *nice* and say that it was self-sacrifice, and not sacrificing others to keep oneself in power. All because they met or knew this power-monger at one time and thought he was *nice*.

Others of us - who apparently don't have brains, because we're not "thinking," you see - remember that niceness is the enemy of fairness.

This frequently gets combined with an attitude of "How dare you ignorant colonials question your betters!?" and makes it positively vitriolic, as we see.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 5:26am BST

Thank you, Erica and Cynthia , for your last few posts but they do illustrate why I am continuing to struggle with this discussion thread.
Once again the social and personal context and experiences of LGBT communities within this recent era of global Anglican leadership are graphically outlined. I do not doubt it and have longed shared in such stories through person friendships and ministry. It is shameful. It needs to change.
But we need some consistency here. When some of us point out that RW’s leadership needs understanding in a wider social, political, global ecclesial context this is resisted. It is somehow heard as absolving or making special pleading for him, or making him some kind of tragic victim – or, more often, ‘you have not heard the pain that is the consequence of his actions’. I have actually. And I can well understand how close to the surface it may be in these kind of forums. It must be very costly. But it is not being insensitive to that pain to say that is not the discussion we need to have.
Leadership happens in history. Policies and strategies are attempted responses to highly competing and actually irreconcilable issues. That is the kind of church we are at the moment. That is what leadership involves on our behalf. I am trying to understand not what RW said or did exactly – but why. What strategy, however flawed, was being employed to negotiate ways through powerful, passionate and competing interest groups in the communion? What was the intention – if not the outcome - behind the way he led as he did? What other options were possible for him with hindsight?
That discussion is yet to happen. And I am wondering why it is proving so difficult.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 8:12am BST

we may agree to differ about Rowan's intentions with the Covenant. What would have come into effect is the Covenant as it is written, and that is the document Rowan strongly supported and tried to push through. One must assume that he understood what it said.
And point 4.2.8 is very clear that if TEC had not signed the Covenant and become part of the outer circle, it would not have been able to be a part of the Instruments of the Communion. No perhaps or maybe about it.

As for "thinking" Anglicans .. please don't let's assume that there are any people in the world who are purely rational, divorced from their emotions, capable of coming to purely rational conclusions and discussing those dispassionately. The few who exhibit such traits of coldness are psychopaths.

It is vitally important that thinking people realise that this is precisely not a theoretical issue that nice people can discuss nicely and come to different conclusions about without any consequences for anyone.

This is about the very lives of real people who have feelings. Shakespeare puts it most intellectually and eloquently when he says "if you prick us, do we bleed?"
Especially on a "thinking" site people often get lost in theology and abstracts.

This is a human rights issue and the passionate feelings people have about Rowan still are precisely because so many of us have experienced him as being prepared to disregard our very real existence and experience of our lives in favour of abstract theology and of preferring institutional unity.
We may be wrong about that, but without knowing that this is how we experienced him, this conversation cannot be understood.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 9:22am BST

And if this whole conversation had been characterised by genuine thinking that includes an awareness of the consequences of one's actions, then Rowan and many others who we assume not to be intrinsically homophobic would have had to say "I know the effects our theology has on lgbt people, I recognise the very real suffering it causes, I recognise that we are asking you to lead the kind of lonely lives we would not willingly lead ourselves. I also recognise that while we do not support homophobia, our theology is seized on by people who use it to support extremely homophobic legislation in their own countries and by those who bully, torture and kill gay people merely for existing. I know that and I regret it deeply. But it is nevertheless absolutely necessary that the church does not change its theology, because there is some greater good at stake... " and then go on to explaining what that greater good might be that causes people to impose suffering on others they do not have to bear themselves.

That is what a truly thinking engagement would have looked like. A genuine recognition of the situation and a spirited defense of why, despite that, the status quo had to be maintained.

Everything else is actually avoiding to think too deeply.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 9:35am BST

I think the conversation about Rowan's strategy and intentions is difficult because he himself has not given us many clues.

All sides in this conversation have spent year pouring over his words, trying to analyse why he said them, what he really meant, whether there was a long term strategy of getting unity as well as lgbt acceptance or whether unity was more important to him. Whether he acted according to his genuine opinions or his understanding of the role of Archbishop. Whether he changed his mind or caved in to bullies.

And I think that especially those of us on the liberal spectrum have been bending over backwards in the early years to interpret everything he said and did in a positive light. The alternative seemed incredible, considering what we knew about Rowan, about his intellect, his previous writings, his spirituality, his friendships with gay people.

You can see from my conversation with czeitz here (who didn't really offer any arguments but just brief statements)that all sides could easily claim Rowan for themselves.

For the conversation you are looking for, and which I agree to be vitally important, to happen, it would need Rowan to speak up clearly and to explain himself.
Maybe we know that this is a vital conversation and maybe that's why we got so cross when he seemed in this interview to be hiding behind "the church"?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 9:49am BST

leadership happens in history, that is true.
And not everyone is called to be an outstanding leader. That is also true.
It IS possible to be a Desmond Tutu, to be a Christopher Senyonjo, even in a deeply hostile environment.
Not everyone can aspire to that!

But is it really wrong to ask why someone with supposedly liberal attitudes towards gay people living and working in a liberal country in which no personal consequences will come to him if he speaks his mind does not find it in him to be at the very least even handed?
Not to be a beacon for gay rights all over the world, that may be asking too much. But to support the right of national churches to come to national conclusions? To speak out for the principle of conflicting theologies living side by side? Which is actually a time honoured Anglican tradition?
What made him think that an appeal to Anglican tradition would have compromised unity? What made him think that a forced unity with frozen out liberal churches was a greater prize than a continuing loose Communion of churches who want to be in communion with each other?

It seems such an easy thing to ask of someone, something that doesn't even require a great deal of courage.
What we're asking is why this was not possible.
And in the absence of even a hint of an answer from Rowan, questions turn into accusations and bitter responses.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 10:06am BST

another thought - watch what is already happening with Justin Welby.
Liberals were at first cautiously optimistic about him. Yes, he came from HTB but he has a Benedictine Spiritual Director and his first pronouncements as ABC were not to get drawn into the gay issue but to focus on social justice.
Coming at the same time as the new Pope, it seemed as if there might be a softening, if not of opinion then of tone.

There were comments about the stunning equality of gay relationships, his apology in the House of Lords, his condemnation of homophobia.
Contrast that with his vote for the fatal amendment, his statement that there were no intentions of blessing civil partnerships and now his unfortunate, to say the least, comparison of gay marriage with wife beating and adultery.

And watch liberal responses.
A group of us has already dismissed him as same old same old.
Another group of us is still desperately clinging on to straws, seeing tiny greens shoots where there had not been any.

What kind of leadership?
How can one follow? What kind of followship might be possible here? When, once again, we do not actually know what Justin really thinks and what course he is steering? How does one respond without abandoning one's own principles?

He could be the Gorbatchev of the church. The one who wants to reform a little without giving too much and who thereby unwittingly creates the space for others to come and complete the reform.

He could yet develop into a hard liner - already, his comments about his great personal cost seem to be at odds with the reality and who knows which way he might react when he's even more challenged over the coming years?
He could genuinely change and become more accepting.

How to respond, in the here and now?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 10:49am BST

Erica 'is it really wrong to ask why'? .. . of course - that is exactly the discussion I am wishing to have.
'It seems such an easy thing to ask of someone'.
Actually I think it is anything but. In fact I just do not think this is realistic. I have suggested before that for RW, so recently Archbishop (and still highly public figure), to speak openly at all on divisive issues his successor is now have to guide the church through is just not appropriate. Nor is it to do with courage. So I am hoping there will be other informed observers who can help us understand better.

But thank, by the way, for not assuming I just want everyone to *nice*.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 11:37am BST

Last word before I shut up for a while!
I think what's really going on is that too many people who are not accountable to their constituencies have the power to make decisions for others.
The church is ultimately suffering from antiquated structures that are deeply at odds with how our societies are organised and how we expect to live.

And when we discuss followship and leadership we must recognise that, in the West at least, we are not interested in following unelected unaccountable leaders, whether they are benign or not.

The whole idea that one group of people should have the right to make arbitrary decisions on behalf of others without taking into account what those others are saying about their own lives, and that those others then have to live by, is no longer acceptable.

Maybe that is the root cause of the tension.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 12:00pm BST

the easy thing to have asked was that he should at least have been even handed.

It is true, he should not become like his predecessors and keep interfering with what his successor is trying to do.

But informed observers have tried to make sense of Rowan for years. Until the man himself has the courage to explain his own convictions, we will get nowhere.
I'm not expecting him to meddle in church affairs from now on.
But his lack of accountability is shocking, as is the fact that in this church, in this Anglican Communion, he gets away with it, as indeed all unelected leaders get away with it, while those whose lives they affect can only stand by and plead or leave.

He should at least be able and willing to explain his past actions.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 1:42pm BST

Permit me to stay with this for a few last comments - and I am grateful for your engagement with me.
'his lack of accountability is shocking' ... again - what are his options? I imagine he has a confessor. A public enquiry? Once again I think this is just unrealistic - at least at this point in time.
'he gets away with it' - do you want him put on trial? Punished?
'unelected' - you make him sound self appointed.

As too accountability he is personally held to account for all and everything on these TA threads.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 7:02pm BST

I have clearly caused almost as much fury as Rowan. However, I'll have another go.
Cynthia, the metaphor "throw under a bus" refers grammatically to Rowan's actions rather than your pain. It tells me how you react, but it doesn't tell me about Rowan's actions. Fairness doesn't mean "niceness".
Mark, if you think others address you as an an "ignorant colonial", it's a pity: I think you're wrong. I happen to be Welsh, and for the record I prefer TEC and KJS to the CoE.
Erika's comparison of Rowan to a parent is enlightening: I have sometimes thought he was being put in the position of Daddy (shades of Sylvia Plath). We all have views about how our parents have behaved, but part of the process of growing to see them as human beings is to perceive the context in which they made mistakes and hurt us, though the process of forgiveness may take a very long time. This is not about being purely rational (nor indeed psychopathic!!), but about recognising the humanity of somebody else. That is what you rightly ask for, but it is also surely a duty everyone has, gay or straight.

Posted by Helen at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 8:20pm BST

Of course we're furious, Helen.

You're not helping that.

When someone's physically wounded, you don't help by standing there saying, "Oh, grow up! He didn't mean anything by hurting you like that! Stop all that moaning and bleeding!" Yet, here, you seem to think that it's helpful to tell us all how immature and spiteful we're being for expressing our deep psychological and emotional woundedness from that man's actions. Indeed, you seem to feel you have the right to tell us it is either a) imaginary or b) unimportant compared to your regard for Williams. You constantly talk about the process of healing and forgiveness for *him*, about understanding *his* mistakes. All the same mistakes you lambast and hector us about. Of course we're furious, and you don't think that that might be partially your work?

Let me ask you, since you've told me you're Welsh - could it be you feel a desperate need to make him better a pastor than he really was? Is that even a possibility? It seems you look at everything from your perspective alone, while berating others for the same. "I think you're wrong." So? I think I'm right, and the tone of talking down to a child that you take here simply reinforces that.

You might look at your own anger and motivations here, Helen, rather than simply telling others about what's in their eye. I rarely see you get quite so insistent or angry about other issues, so what's going on here? Maybe it isn't about *our* problems alone?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 25 October 2013 at 5:40am BST

To put it bluntly, Helen, David Runcorn:

You're not helping the healing, here. You're making it worse. The more you push, the more pushback there'll be. We *do* see him as being irresponsible, selfish, arrogant, and power-hungry. That's it. Telling us "Don't" is not helping. Stop. If you really want healing, let us do it. Stop reopening the wounds with the same words we heard from the man who did the injuring to begin with. This isn't fellowship.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 25 October 2013 at 5:46am BST

Helen asks why I compare Rowan to a parent and I think, Helen, you misunderstand me here.
What I'm saying is that the actual situation of gay people in the church is one of dependence on people who can decide their standing and their roles without any reference to the gay people themselves.
Policies are made about us without anyone talking to us. Committees are set up without any one of us on them speaking for our side. The Listening Process didn't happen in most dioceses, barely included any gay people in others and was filed away after being compiled in most.
Sometimes people meet with us in private, make sympathetic noises but also inform us with regret that they are not in a position to change anything for us and that they don't think anything will change for many years to come.
This paternalistic structure renders us completely impotent in as far as getting the church to take our own lives and our take on them seriously.
You know, to call that a parent relationship is almost too kind - no decent father would engage even with his toddlers like that in modern families.

And then we have a new ABC who is a known supporter of gay people, who has written positively about gay relationships, who has close gay friends.
And we have to watch over the years how this man changes before our eyes, how his theology becomes flatter and flatter, how he literally betrays some of his friends, how he betrays the cause of gay equality by siding more and more with those who make it their life's battle to oppose it. How he is even willing to change the governance structure of the Communion in order to enshrine this principle (the details Cynthia and I have now provided several times, no-one has as yet commented on them).

And you are seriously suggesting that it would have been impossible to include gay people more, that he could not have explained his change of heart/mind/action, that it would have been impossible for him to be at least even handed, that he could not possibly have been even ever so slightly accountable.

If that is really acceptable and accepted without questions by open minded people in the church, we're in deeper trouble than I realised.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 25 October 2013 at 9:10am BST

I must be misunderstanding what you're saying, because you seem to suggest that it's alright for us to ask questions of Rowan, but that it is not only ok for him not to answer them, but that it would even be wrong to do so and that we should instead rely on educated observers to make sense of him.

Is that really what you're suggesting?
That during his whole period in office he was wise never to explain himself?
That he was wise not to take us on his theological journey that changed him from a supporter of gay people to one who appeared to work against them?
That he was wise to ignore all our anguished questions about what was happening?

I have to say, it's not an approach any previous ABC adopted. We may not have agreed with Lord Carey but we knew exactly what he did and why he supported it.
There does not seem to be an intrinsic impossibility for a sitting ABC (is that the right term?) to be transparent about his aims, his motives and the theology that undergirds them.

What am I missing?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 25 October 2013 at 12:20pm BST

This conversation is in danger of overheating. Maybe it should go quiet for a while....

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 25 October 2013 at 3:20pm BST

Mumbles definitely exists. I often went there as child. It would sound like a cruel joke if Rowan was called Lord Williams of Mumbles as he has a quiet, unassertive voice.

But that's not the reason it's hard to understand what he means. He can speak about nine languages and he doesn't make sense in any of them.

We all thought he was a great guy when he was Archbishop Of Wales, gentle, kind and tolerant. Since he went to Canterbury, he has failed totally. He has shown no moral courage.

He was in a building right next to the World Trade Centre on 9/11, and barely escaped with his life. His remarks on the hijackers were not just forgiving. He spoke as if they had a valid point.

He caused a furore by saying sharia law would become 'unavoidable' as a parallel legal system in the UK. There are now Sharia courts operating in Wales, and probably in other UK countries too.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali says that Rowan is guilty of a 'cruel form of racism' which is 'all the more cruel for being expressed in sugary words of virtue.' But I think he just doesn't know what he's talking about, or how dangerous it is to appease bigots and violent oppressors.

Posted by Marianne at Monday, 8 June 2015 at 10:23am BST
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