Thinking Anglicans

more on that Dutch interview

Updated

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.

Update Wednesday
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
of
The Episcopal Majority (USA)

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Steven
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Steven

An interesting analysis at “The Canterbury Tail” and probably one that is fundamentally true. Rowan hasn’t really changed his stripes (as some might claim), his real position was and remains more “nuanced” and academic than either liberals or conservatives would prefer. Meaning, in fact, that he is not really a true friend to the positions that either promote as “truth”. Instead, “truth” for Rowan is something evolving out of a dialectical process of discernment — thesis, meeting antithesis, resulting in synthesis. He thinks he knows where the truth (and ultimate synthesis) lies — with the liberals on homosexuality — but… Read more »

Cal McMillan
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Cal McMillan

I am not sure if I have read as well-argued a summary of the crisis in the Anglican community as that offered by Fr. Coats, commenting on Rowan Williams’ further repositioning himself, by means of his Dagblad interview. He is quite right to note that Williams has “redefined Anglicanism on his own” – leaving us to speculate as to why. Perhaps one answer lies within the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury wears too many mitres. His unique position accords him the ecclesiastical status of ‘primus inter pares’, but also embodies considerable focus and function in English and international politics.… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Both these comment pieces are excellent.
I particularly like the detail of the Canterbury Tail; he has it right on the nail.
The Sunday Telegraph spin was – of course – ludicrous but at least it stirred up the debate.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

On a lighter note, readers may enjoy the following link, recently posted on the “Ship of Fools” mystery worshiper page. Let us take comfort in the fact that Dr. Williams fiddles with such style – Benediction “in Latin”, yet – while Rome (no pun …) burns, as his apparently whole-hearted participation in this bizarre, Firbankian, Anglo-Papalist display would seem to indicate.

In the words of Danny, the “Withnail and I” drug dealer: “Think you look normal, your honour?”

http://ship-of-fools.com/Mystery/2006/1279.html

Marshall Scott
Guest

So, both David at the Whitehorse Inn and Willliam Coats agree that Rowan Williams is subtle, ultimately too subtle to be trusted; and that his desire for unity is too gracious to “them” and not supportive enough of “us.” They don’t agree on anything else; but they do agree on that. With due respect to both, perhaps he (and others; I have similar thoughts particularly about Frank Griswold) is seeking a theological resolution while the rest of us are straining for an institutional solution. Certainly, the Network folks have despaired of a theological resolution. In part that’s because they are… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“Instead, “truth” for Rowan is something evolving out of a dialectical process of discernment — thesis, meeting antithesis, resulting in synthesis. He thinks he knows where the truth (and ultimate synthesis) lies — with the liberals on homosexuality — but believes they are short-circuiting the dialectical, dialogical and theological process by which it is discerned and enters into the life of the Church.” And while we wait for this abstract process, the conservatives are busy with their own agenda – the much discussed memo of several years ago – and busily trying to hijack TEC. I would like to see… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Justice delayed is Justice denied.

… but 2nd Millennium Neo Platonist Moralism is not the Gospel of Christ.

Lee Tuck-Leong
Guest
Lee Tuck-Leong

I think Rowan Williams has been very consistent with his view and in the long run, his view will not privilege the conservatives: his search for truth is in finding one that emerges out of community living.

It is interesting to note his ecclesiology where the bishop takes a role for maintaining this dialectic tension; prophets and theologians also have their roles to maintain this tension, but at some price that they will have to pay.

Perhaps we are all projecting into ‘how Williams sees it’. We don’t have to.

AlaninLondon
Guest
AlaninLondon

Unless this ‘dialogue’ between ‘thesis’ and ‘anthithesis’ is able to take place on a subconcious level there isn’t going to be any ‘synthesis’. Let’s face it – most of the conservative camp are not interested in such dialogue. For them, the answer is clear from both scripture and tradition. I think all this talk about +RW’s Hegelian perspective is an attempt to paint a rosier picture for those of us who are going to be unchurched (oh, well, after all Rowan hasn’t really changed his views…they are just cloaked in a cloud of philosophical nuance…he’s still on our side). People… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Marshall: Thank you for a very insightful comment. I would like to believe the resolution you speak about is possible. But, from all appearances, the center cannot hold, and matters are rushing too quickly and with too much momentum towards some type of break-up. As we speak, some of the crew are busy knocking holes in the bottom (take your pick–Akinola and/or Griswold et al.), some are loosening up the life boats (the network et al. and/or the TEC “we’ll go it alone” crowd and their allies), and some are still manning the pumps (Rowan et al.). Overall, if all… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Some weeks ago, Giles Fraser had a piece in The Church Times saying that what is really going on is that Rowan is an Hegelian — Giles is right a lot (IMHO). Trying to put pre- & post- ABC comments together, I think that what might be happening is that Rowan wants to maintain dialogue — if this is true, it may well be that the actions of General Convention will be good enough to suit him but if that is so, they will almost certainly not suit Archbishop Akinola — then we might see just how many people prefer… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Did you mean this piece in the Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1799728,00.html

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

If Rowan Williams is a Hegelian, he may err in mistaking the elements of differentiation, change, and the flow towards synthesis in our global History of Ideas. We do not – just, only, exclusively – have a differentiation or tension between opposing ideas. The scope of our dilemmas is significantly wider, deeper, and entirely more fraught or vexed – depending on your position(s). Since Copernicus at least, a great deep tension has been revealed between what we may provisionally, but quite accurately discover in our real world; and the allegedly eternal and exclusive truths we may think we received, read,… Read more »

ruidh
Guest

I think Fr. Coats is not giving a full picture. The decision to approve the election of VGR and the decision to approve the ordination of women occurred in very different contexts. Prior to approving the ordination of women, the Lambeth Conference considered the issue and decided that there were no theological obstacles, but warned member provinces to go slowly and respect theological dissent — we certainly made provision for theological dissent. Prior to approving the consecration of VGR, the prior Lambet Conference had characterised homosexual relationships as “inconsistant wioth Scripture”. As such, it’s really misleading to characterize these events… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Steven: I’m not as optimistic as I used to be about “holding the Communion together,” beyond discovering what “the highest level of communion possible” will mean in practice. Some will insist that *no* communion is possible – which makes “the highest level” miserably low. However, the reflection, the belief that Rowan believes some level of communion is possible, and that reconciliation helps me have some sense of his integrity. It takes the consideration out of “whose side is he on?” and turns it to “how does he see his ministry?” As we reflect on this (and, again, on others: although… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Simon — Thank you — I had thought it was in The Church Times — I don’t know if Giles is right about Rowan (or, if so, Rowan is right about Hegel) but it certainly serves as one plausible explanation of what appears to many a major change of course (which some have suggested has been motivated for unworthy reasons or at least reasons which fall far short of the demands of the Gospel). I agree with Marshall that both the ABC & the PB are trying to maintain dialogue but there are some who insist that there is nothing… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I suppose the question is: how much should we want the ‘old ship’ to ride this one out – when there are genuine areas of disagreement.

If we cannot live with those differences, which would mean a case of accepting each others positions as ‘valid but wrong’, then what exactly is the point in maintaining something which simply has little purpose any longer?

Cheryl Clough
Guest

The Hegelian Dialectical model assumes a certain level of interaction, where the reality of the two (or more) conflicting paradigms are in a common environment and a punctuated equilibrium/ paradigm shift occurs that integrates the best of both models into a viable third way. The model falls over when one group keep trying to remove the celery from the soup, or refuse to be part of the soup if it contains celery. It could be said that Anglicanism used to be the broad tent of a minestrone, but now we have groups who do not want to be tainted by… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

You cannot simultaneously maintain that Anglican inquiry into sexuality issues is fundamentally open and actively in play, and continue to penalize anybody and everybody who actually commits to one or more of the alternative truth pathways in just those territories. We see the new data and the changes continuing, and nothing Canterbury or others have so far said hinders, obscures, or prevents one or more glimpses of this admittedly new vision, vibrant and resonating, both to the best of our rich heritage resources for following Jesus of Nazareth and to the freshest of today’s unprecedented sexuality or human nature data.… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

A possible way forward – a few years ago, Archbishop Carey was in Toronto and was quoted in The Anglican Newspaper as saying,” homosexuals have had a very bad deal in the church. I’m aware of their pain and I am aware of the pain within myself. I am a generous person and I wish I were able to say yes, I could bless (same sex unions) but I can’t bless what God doesn’t.” Dr Carey’s statement begs the question, what part of a committed, faithful gay relationship can’t he bless? Is it every aspect of it or just the… Read more »

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

AlaninLondon wrote, “I think all this talk about +RW’s Hegelian perspective is an attempt to paint a rosier picture for those of us who are going to be unchurched”

The problem with a Hegelian perspective is that people aren’t merely cogs in some sort of machine generating grand flows of historical force. They are individuals, beloved of God, who have spiritual & practical needs, and deserve compassion & justice, *right here, right now*

And they certainly *DON”T* deserve to be sacrificed on some altar of “Christian unity.”

Columba Gilliss
Guest
Columba Gilliss

The Elephant in the Middle of the Living Room, I suspect is race and the guilt produced by unhealed racism — if the leaders of the non-USA opposition were not black and if Rowan and so many white leaders were not ashamed of their past actions and those of their predecessors they could stand up to them and deal more fairly.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Dr Carey’s statement begs the question, what part of a committed, faithful gay relationship can’t he bless? Is it every aspect of it or just the sexual piece? If it is just the sexual piece why not bless all the rest?” I don’t know what the current English Book of Common Prayer asks God’s blessing on in the marriage ceremony, but in the BCP 1979, it certainly isn’t about how people have sex. The closest it gets is in the opening words about matrimony, when it lists what marraige is for, and includes, “when it is God’s will, the procreation… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Part of the problem here is that a Hegelian synthesis has already been reached, but is insufficient for those of the “antithesis”– Homosexual practice and persons represent the antithesis. This “antithesis” met the thesis and yielded a more open, loving and welcoming attitude towards homosexual people, but not practices. Now, homosexual people are welcome, but not what they “do”–a synthesis of sorts, but one that bifurcates people and their practices. This is not acceptable to those of the “antithesis”–nor, probably, those of the original thesis. Many of the latter were doubtless disgusted by any inclusion/welcoming of homosexuals, and many have… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Andrew, you painted just fine for an early posting – it is good to see new souls coming in, as those posting for longer become jaded and fear repeating themselves. Sometimes one needs to take a step back and repeat the basics, and newcomers do that in a fresh way. Columba, your point is also valid, but there is hope that souls are developing alternative perspectives on the African continent so that there will be multiple voices rather than exclusively sponsored rubber-stamp legitimizers e.g. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060831wsf.shtml Then we have wisdom from the recent Kyoto World Assembly of Religions for Peace, which… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

The answer to Andrew’s question, so far as I can see, is that if Abp Carey does not acknowledge the sexual piece of the jigsaw, then all that he does acknowledge is the friendship/flatmate aspect.

One could spend one’s time blessing friendships, but there would be an awful lot of friendships to get round.

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

I don’t know much about Rowan Williams’ career, still less about the Hegelian Dialectical model. However, I can see that synthesis might be an outcome that would appeal to an academic mind. For me, though, the Christian Faith isn’t about synthesis; it’s about Revelation. The roads to Emmaus and to Damascus weren’t moments of synthesis. If anything, when God acts in the world it is to introduce ‘antithesis’ – it is always, without exception, to challenge the values of the day or to open our eyes to new truths, about us, about Creation, about Him. And it is always on… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Terence:

I agree. However, so far as we can tell, the antithesis God offered historically — whether looking at the OT revelation vs. the sexual practices of the Canaanites, or the NT revelation vs. the sexual practices of Rome/Greece — was the exact opposite of the “antithesis” being offered by the homosexual lobby. I.e., God’s antithesis is just what most people on this board don’t want to hear.

Steven

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Christopher: Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, I was suggesting the blessing of friendships in which a commitment is made between two men, or two women, to mutually care for and support the other, – for life. It would be nice to think that the demand for such blessings would be overwhelming but I rather doubt it. If this forum can be considered part of the “listening process”, it may be helpful for those following this particular discussion to know that I am 60 years old, gay and have enjoyed a faithful, loving relationship with another man for over 25… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Thats because you believe the values of the 1st century authors of the bible to be those of your God, Steven! Frankly, I’ll leave them, if thats the choice. Andrew ; I am in a long term relationship as well – and earlier this year we had a civil partnership ceremony and celebration. I did not wish the Church to be involved in any way, and until they regard my relationship as equal then I am not interested in their second-rate blessing. My life has progressed really rather well without attending church, and whilst I go along to Quaker meeting… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“Cynthia, who suggested I scrub my mind with Fels Naptha soap – never heard of it, sounds poisonous – may want to reread my original comments with this background in mind.” It wasn’t your mind, but what I surmised about Carey’s that I was talking about – the folks who can’t stop obsessing about bed practices, real and imagined, of other people. Sorry if you thought I was after you – I should have been clearer in what I wrote. And Fels Naptha is a particularly harsh laundry soap that comes in bar rather than powdered form. It’s used to… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Merseymike/Cynthia: Merseymike: I understand why you feel the way you do. This debate affects us personally, at the deepest level – and painfully. It isn’t simply a matter of clever arguments or finer points of scripture or philosophy, as it is for some, it is about US, our lives. I live in Canada where the Anglican Church has worked hard at this issue since the mid-70’s. I attend two churches, one urban, in Toronto, the other very rural in Eastern Ontario. In neither church, have I experienced or even sensed homophobia and I live quite openly with my partner. So… Read more »