Updated Monday evening
The interview of Rowan Williams, conducted by Alan Rusbridger editor of the Guardian, was analysed in some detail in the Church Times last week, by Andrew Brown. The column was headlined Man not born to be king. Andrew wrote in part:
…If the interview had a theme, it was not the warnings and denunciations contained in the news story; it was a portrait of a man who doesn’t want to be a leader, and doesn’t believe that leadership is even possible in most situations.
It is enormously refreshing to find an Archbishop who doesn’t believe his own propaganda. But I think it’s wrong of an Archbishop not to take advantage, at least intermittently, of the fact that other people do believe his propaganda, and want to. Equally, there is a danger that a man who does not believe his own propaganda will find himself repeating the propaganda of others. How else is one to interpret this exchange:
Rusbridger: “The Archbishop of Nigeria recently told Nigerian Muslims, in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon furore, that they did not have a monopoly on violence and that Christians might strike back. Coincidentally or not, the remark was followed within days by a spate of attacks on Muslims by Christians which left 80 dead.”
Williams: “Hmmm, I think that what he – what he meant was, so to speak, an abstract warning – you know, ‘Don’t be provocative because in an unstable situation it’s as likely the Christians will resort to violence as Muslims will.’
“It was taken by some as open provocation, encouragement, a threat. I think I know him well enough to take his good faith on what he meant. He did not mean to stir up the violence that happened. He’s a man who will speak very directly and immediately into crises. I think he meant to issue a warning, which has been taken as a threat, to have meant a provocation. Others in the Nigerian Church have, I think, found other ways of saying that which have been more measured.”
Giles Fraser had a column in the Church Times headed The Church needs some sort of leadership. Part of that reads:
…We know the Communion is in critical trouble. We hear Chinese whispers of meetings and phone calls trying to broker deals. Last week, I phoned Lambeth with a worry about a rumour. â€œTrust us,â€ comes the reply. OK, I have to; we all have to. And what I am trusting in, as much as anything, is the Archbishop himself. He might not like this over-investment in him personally, but there it is.
I donâ€™t want a fantasy archbishop on a white charger, a deus ex machina who appears to make everything well. But the mood among many ordinary Christians is one of apprehension: are we being sold out? After the Jeffrey John disaster, the worry is that the Archbishop allows himself to be bullied off the ball. Yet, despite all this, trust to keep on believing in this Church remains for many of us a trust in the Archbishop. Itâ€™s a trust thatâ€™s in need of a bit of help. And that, surely, is the essence of leadership.
In the original interview, there is this:
Rusbridger: And have you got a strategy for going forward as to how, given the media is always with us, what is your strategy for engaging with it in the future?
Williams: It’s a big question to ask really and I know that I’m not the world’s greatest strategist of thinking forward, but I think I need to take more advice on what makes sense or what sounds alright, a great temptation to try and do everything or be good at everything you can’t be.
A response to this is to be found today on the Guardian website (not in the paper edition) where Andrew Brown has written a letter of advice to the archbishop, in his regular Monday column. A fragment:
…So I think that the media strategy you need is plain. You need to explain to the rest of us, who believed you inhabited our moral universe, just why sharing a church with gay bishops is a matter of theological gravity comparable to sharing it with enthusiastic Nazis and in the end just as much incompatible with real Christianity. You need to explain just what the arguments were that persuaded you, after 30 years of standing up for the outcast, that God really is on the side of the big battalions in your church…