Since its original publication here the interview Rowan Williams gave to Nederlands Dagblad has attracted some attention.
The article by Jonathan Wynne-Jones in the Sunday Telegraph Gays must change, says archbishop was reprinted elsewhere, e.g. in Gulf News as Archbishop does a U-turn on gay relationships.
Not everyone is convinced of that interpretation, see for instance, The Canterbury Tail.
One critique of the interview comes from William F. Coats and is reproduced below the fold. Mr Coats’ new group Episcopal Majority has its website here but it does not contain this article.
Fr Jake has more about this at Canterbury Attempts to “Hold the Center”.
William Coats writes:
The recent interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Dutch Newspaper Nederlands Dagblad was as interesting for what was said about the current crisis in the Anglican Communion and what was not said.
On the matter of the pressing conflict within the Anglican Communion – the issue of homosexuality – the Archbishop seemed melancholy and yet apprehensive. His major points were:
1) “that the American Church has pushed the boundaries. It has made a decision that is not the decision of the wider body of Christ.”
The Archbishop shows his confusion here. When the Rev. Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop a number of options were open to the wider church.
One was to receive this as a matter of a decision by a national church, a decision in no way binding on anybody else. After all when the American church changed its divorce canons in 1973 and ordained women in 1979 these were taken as decisions of a national church not incumbent on anybody else. Was there something about homosexuality which had raised the stakes here (The Archbishop rightfully notes that our “age…..is obsessed with sexuality” ). Perhaps but the stakes were not raised by an issue but by people, in this case a number of African bishops, Global South bishops and certain conservative English bishops allied with a number of American right-wingers. They quickly determined that, unlike previous matters, this was a matter of high doctrine for the whole communion and that American had “pushed the boundaries” and threatened unity. I say again, this was their choice.
The Archbishop continually maintains this is a matter of church unity and common decision-making. But it had never been so before. There had been voices before arguing that Anglicanism should be more Roman-like but the archbishop bishop by his rhetoric has virtually foreclosed any autonomous action of a national church without the agreement of the whole. Thus he has redefined Anglicanism on his own – and it is a new configuration that most accommodates itself to the most powerful elements within Anglicanism. It is in fact an arrangement by power for power.
The archbishop argues that “ the divinity of Christ is constituent” of the faith as Anglicans have received and hence not a matter to be discussed. I agree. But he has implicitly raised the issue of homosexuality to that central dogmatic position. For even though he would like it discussed, the most powerful elements within the Communion believes it is not a matter for discussion. Indeed on that basis they act as though unity at the level of dogma has been broached and must be punished. This means that he Archbishop is in the contradictory position of wanting one thing but acting on the basis of another. He cannot have it both ways.
2) “ there are enough Christians of good faith in every denomination – from evangelical to Roman Catholic – to whom [the matter of homosexuality] is not quite so self-evident. Who are not absolutely sure that we have always read the Bible correctly. They are saying: this is an issue we must talk about. But if we are going to have time to discuss this, prayerfully, thoughtfully..”
The archbishop is quite moving in his desire for discussion on the matter of homosexuality. He notes however that not much discussion has so far taken place. This is in many ways the nub of the matter and requires a close reading – a reading the archbishop has heretofore missed.
The moderates on the Windsor Report had hoped for a deal: A Canadien/American moratorium in exchange for a world wide discussion. By the time the Report had come out, however, it was clear no such discussion would take place and that the conservative elements on the Windsor Report had intended the report as a means of forcing capitulation from the Americans (which is why at least one moderate on the Eames Committee has now second thoughts about the report). They and a variety of right-wing/conservative/evangelical elements immediately elevated the “regret” in the report to “repentance” (and here gained help from Canterbury) and consistently maintained that the only way forward was capitulation by the American church and a roll-back on Gay ordinations and consecrations. Windsor was high-jacked The right wing Americans and their new found ( mid 1990’s) African partners had long nursed anger at the American church over a number of matters and now found they had a ready-made strategy by which to attack the American church and gain their long-term goal – the displacement of the American church from the Communion.
Of course the Archbishop alludes to none of this in his remarks.
The fact is a good deal of the Communion – neither the Africans nor the American radicals – has no intention of discussing this matter. For them it is a closed matter, And this part of the Communion has heard nothing from the Archbishop that would encourage them to engage in such a discussion. In fact they continue on their destructive path convinced that he is on their side. Why? Because for them – from first to last – this has been a matter of power. It was the power of Archbishop Akinola and his minions which caused the issue to be framed they way it way, namely as a matter of core doctrine. It was his power that has silenced Canterbury on the high-jacking of Windsor, on the curtailment of any discussion of homosexuality in 2/3 of the Communion, on the implanting of foreign bishops on American soil, on the granting of radical American bishops ecclesiastical privileges beyond that of the good order of the church and legality.
3 “I don’t want to see in the cities of America the American Anglican Church, the Nigerian Anglican Church, the Egyptian Anglican Church and the English Anglican Church in the same street.”
I am sure the Archbishop means this and I am sure he believes he is trying to achieve this end. But to the degree he has miscalculated the political ends of the Africans and the Global South in their international goals he has also underestimated the radicals here in America. At each step they speak to him of unity and he responds with his approval of their new-found organizations, their claims of alternative episcopal oversight and now their preposterous goal of Alternative Primatial Oversight. At each step they up the ante. And at each step as this radical group openly proclaims as their ultimate goal the displacement of the American Church, the Archbishop accedes to their wishes. He hopes to find a “best way”. I am sure he does. I am sure he thinks some compromise would be helpful. But when have our radicals ever compromised?
The “best way” is not to be found in actions that humiliate or threaten this church, cause its canons to be ignored and give endless comfort to those whose preposterous and hysterical theological claims and actions bring harm to this church.
The Rev. William R. Coats
The Episcopal Majority (USA)