Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop of Canterbury speaks to Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops

Updated Sunday

The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the “Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”.

The full text of his remarks can be found here.

For some helpful information on the event, see this blog by the Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, who is also attending the synod. His first entry is Preparing for the Synod of Bishops.

Further background material can be found here.

There is also this transcript of a Vatican Radio interview.


  • Father David says:

    Wow – what a powerful intellectual and spiritual address Rowan gave to the assembled bishops in Rome. What other current CofE bishop would be capable of fulfilling such a task? Fifty years since Vatican II which placed such a great emphasis upon ecumenism and reaching out to other denominations. In those same 50 years in spite of the hopes of ARCIC Anglicans have erected what have been described as “obstacles” to unity – so that hopes of greater unity with Rome have been unfortunately dashed.
    Still – onwards and upwards – Rowan still does not know who is to succeed him. If Ruth Gledhill is correct in her reported supposition – the agreed first name on the CNC list is Justin Welby of Durham. The reported difficulty is with regard to the choice of the second name. Again Ruth supposes the two candidates for this position to be John Sentamu of York and Graham James of Norwich. I have often read that the Bishop of Norwich is praying that it won’t be him. Well, I suggest that the Bishop of Norwich could easily act upon his prayerful consideration and simply write a brief note to Lord Luce stating that he does not wish to be considered for this onereous task. Problem solved!
    First Name on the list – Justin Welby.
    Second Name on the list – John Sentamu.

  • Although I have approved the preceding comment, please let us NOT make this another discussion thread on the CNC Canterbury matter, but confine the comments here strictly to the content and context of the archbishop’s address.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    A final farewell.

    Much to commend it, the new radicals will not like it one bit, and he knows just how to touch the tender places and praise that which they despise most.

    Very much an ecumenical contribution, echoes of Michael Ramsey. Just lovely where he teases about those who are not interested in the structures of the church …..

  • “In those same 50 years in spite of the hopes of ARCIC, Anglicans have erected what have been described as “obstacles” to unity – so that hopes of greater unity with Rome have been unfortunately dashed.” – Father David –

    From the progress made so far, ARCIC never held out much hope for the Unity that Rome is looking for – which is nothing less than absorption by Rome. This would entirely defeat the Reformation that English Catholics needed at the time – and still need today. I guess the nearest incipient Roman/Anglicans will ever get today would be to cross the Tiber.

    There’s not much hope for the quasi-Anglican-Roman Catholics in the Ordinariate. Nothing less than total submission will do. The dreams of Good Pope John XXIII have been rendered null and void by his illustrious successors.

  • Randal Oulton says:

    I wonder if the Anglican Church has a tremendously opportune moment in history to reach out to disaffected Catholics and invite them to the Anglican Church, and that there should be dedicated efforts in that direction. I respect those Anglicans who have decided that they feel more at home with Rome, but I wonder if an vastly greater number of Catholics in this day and age might actually feel more at home with Canterbury.

  • Richard Ashby says:

    I do like Randal’s proposal. After all the creation of the Ordinariate was described as Rome planting their tanks on the Anglican lawn. Perhaps we could turn the tables and just plant a large sign saying ‘welcome’?

  • robert ian williams says:

    I find the Pope very ill advised to have invited him, given his basic opposition to the central themes of the Catholic understanding of the Gospel.

  • Joe says:

    This is marvellous — vintage Rowan. Perhaps his new role will enable him to do more rather than less for the Church.

    I don’t know who the ‘new radicals’ are (Martin’s words), but I suspect I might well be one of them. And yet I am not at all surprised to find that I love every bit of what Rowan had to say. Perhaps that’s the mark of Rowan’s genius, or holiness: to be able to call us to radical openness to God and to one another, a death to self and to self-serving religion. In all our warring over so many (though actually very few) controverted issues, there is in Rowan’s words a disarming challenge to every one of us….

  • Randal Oulton says:

    Agreed, Richard. To do it in a very non-confrontational way that just ways, “Welcome.”

    Well, it would do a bit more. Point out to them the critical (to them) things that are different in the Anglican Church. That ya get to think for yourself (for the most part); that priests can marry and women can be priests; not just another Protestant church but rather the Via Media between Protestantism and Catholicism — that it’s like Catholicism without the (what is in their mind) the “bad stuff” that is keeping them out of Roman Catholicism. Yeah, I know, I’m talking marketing points here rather than theology, but that was my intention. And as an Anglican, I truly do feel that we have a good product to invite people to inspect :}

    When Catholic friends hear me casually mention over time things like going to Compline, etc, they are intrigued and go wow sounds so similar. They honestly don’t know anything about how similar the Anglican Church can be, depending on your local of course.

    Someone should make a simple chart, like one of those Internet meme charts that are so popular right now. Answering basics like — would you have to be re-baptised — etc etc. (And I don’t know the answer to that — I know my Anglican parish priest back home accepted baptisms from other mainstream denominations, but I don’t know if he did that on the sly, or what.)

    Back to work.

  • Richard and Randall could both be opening up the prospect of something quite valuable here. One knows of many ‘lapsed Catholics’ who might just be waiting to be invited to experience our reformed catholic tradition.

    I know even of some fairly recent converts to Rome who are now wondering why ever they bothered to cross the Tiber. it has gained them nothing – in exchange for the loss of their more democratic membership of the body of Christ as Anglicans.

    The members of the new Ordinariate have gained nothing – not even the security of knowing that they are ‘at one’ with their new confreres on the the edge of the R. C. Church. they will always be looked upon as dwellers in a spiritual No-man’s-land – by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

  • Rosemary Hannah says:

    Baptism by the Trinitarian formula is always accepted by the Trinitarian churches (including the Anglican church) regardless of where it was carried out and by whom. Randal’s priest was following the usual practise.

  • William says:

    “And as an Anglican, I truly do feel that we have a good product to invite people to inspect”.

    I don’t want a product, I want the Gospel.

  • Laurence C. says:

    “And yet I am not at all surprised to find that I love every bit of what Rowan had to say. Perhaps that’s the mark of Rowan’s genius, or holiness: to be able to call us to radical openness to God and to one another, a death to self and to self-serving religion.” Joe

    I’m minded to say “don’t tell me about the labour pains – show me the baby”. What Rowan Williams says is all well and good (if you like that sort of thing) but having had the opportunity as the personification of one of the instruments of communion to have put these fine words into practice, what did he actually do? He colluded in the exclusion of and discrimination against gay people, placated homophobes and attempted to introduce a punitive Covenant.

  • John says:

    Can’t say I share the enthusiasm of some here:

    (1) As usual from this source, the sentences are too long and there are too many abstracts.
    Consequently, it’s a dull read (though it’s much less opaque than some from this same source).

    (2) As usual from this source, there is a fairly primitive polarisation between the values of ‘this world’ and the (allegedly) superior values of the (alleged) Jesus-world. But we all know here (don’t we?), that the values of ‘this world’ are frequently and embarrassingly better than those of the ‘Jesus-world’ as expounded by the likes of the present pope (I don’t capitalise) and the present speaker.

    (3) The health – or not – of a particular church is not to be measured by estimation of its particular leader. I completely understand why the likes of Father David should want to hold on to the notion of the integrity of RW (or of his successor), but the perspective is misplaced. The people Father David has to get on with are not the ABP (whoever he will be) and his immediate entourage but the whole – mixed, hybrid, pluralist – body of the C of E.

  • Joe says:

    Re Laurence’s comment:

    Fair dues: judge them by their fruits — never bad advice. At the same time, I suspect Rowan has been trying to do something a bit different. While many of us, myself included, are trying to move the church in a particular way, Rowan may be trying to avoid a pyrrhic victory. If the goal is for the whole church, not a puritan or right-minded or even right-hearted subset, to reject homophobia, to be radically open to women, to be more just (less colonial, less racist, etc.), then we’re talking about lots of people (ourselves included) changing their minds and hearts. That takes time; and if we don’t give it time, then we end up purifying ourselves, such that the ‘we’ gets smaller. The result is that ‘we’ haven’t changed — we’ve just shifted the boundaries of the ‘we’. Who wins in such a case? Not necessarily those whose dignity we want to cherish — or at least, the victory is not as wonderful and comprehensive as it might have been. Rowan’s message is, I think, that any conversion of minds and hearts and feet ought, for Christians, to be the fruit of an encounter with, an entry into, the dynamics of Trinitarian love, one which disarms by not playing into power games, one that would eschew even my talk of winning and victory. There is a passivity, an openness to grace, a listening, a contemplating that is at the heart of engagement and conversion. And that takes time, and discipline, and a commitment to a certain kind of contemplative holiness.

    On the other side, such talk can be hopelessly naive. While we wait, people get hurt, and hurt very badly. And I am impatient, for good reason. Change often happens by passing through conflict rather than by avoiding it; and as we know from social justice struggles, larger-scale changes in hearts and minds often come after structural change, not before. If we wait until we all agree, we get nowhere. Contrary to what some argue, there are moral dimensions to our ‘issues’ and these are not trumped by narrowly-conceived doctrine. Avoiding evil is also at the heart of our doctrine. Holy waiting can easily become wholly complicitous.

    Now, how to hold Rowan’s strategy (if I have it correctly) together with the strategies of those who also hunger and thirst for righteousness rather urgently?

  • Erika Baker says:

    the problem lies in the assumption that one either gives in to one side and scores a phyrric victory or that one waits with correcting an injustice until everyone in the whole world does it too.

    Nothing has ever been achieved by doing nothing, change has only ever come from people seeing that the consequences they imagine do not happen.
    It’s reality that shifts people, not theoretical discussions about imagined fears.

    What should have happened is a firm endorsement of the idea that local churches respond to their local communities.
    Polygamy in Africa was not a Communion breaker because everyone could see that it was deeply culurally embedded and made sense in its context. And even if we didn’t think it made sense, we still knew it was not our problem to solve but had to be addressed by the people who live it.

    There are countless of other examples for this, women priests and bishops being a high pofile one.

    There was absolutely no need to invent a kind of institutional unity in Anglicanism that had never existed before and to choose the lgbt issue as the one topic where everything else had to be sacrificed to this idea of unity. It was an idea that should have been resisted strongly when the anti lgbt movement first floated it, not taken up and intensified.

    Rowan could have spent his time trying to convince people that the only way to achieve genuine unity is to continue with the tried and tested system of provincial autonomy.

    He might not have succeeded but then, the unity we have now is still only a crash in waiting, every eye looking towards the next ABC to sort out the muddle.

    And on a purely personal level – people matter more than institutions. Once you have understood that discriminating against gay people is wrong, you have no excuse, not a single shred of one, to continue to argue for discrimination just because it is politically expedient.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Joe, ten years ago the one word that was NOT allowed in Rowan’s team was “strategy”.

  • The issue that I have with the substance of Rowan Williams’ discourse is its focus of self-contrived devotions. While his contemplative theme may be undergirded by a specific tradition of theologians, we should remember that God is not found in some other-worldly place in our minds. ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’. Contemplation is so often what Paul calls ‘will-worship’ (Col.2:23)

    Perhaps, we do encounter God in silence, but this is not confined to an oasis of monastic retreats and mental seclusion. We encounter God along the treacherous road from Jerusalem to Jericho, where He prompts a Samaritan to stop his journey to help one who probably viewed him as a half-breed.

    We also encounter God when religiosity is threatened by true worship. As in that bustling city of David, where a misunderstood rabbi is renditioned to the Romans for ‘interrogation’, i.e. subjected to flesh-splitting torture, stripped bare and hung from a death-inducing heathen gibbet until the inflicted trauma wounds complete their task.

    If we can find contemplative silence in that noise, it’s when we are aghast with our capacity for revenge against God (once He becomes vulnerable) for the ‘insult’ of castigating the self-righteous as much as the visibly vice-ridden.

  • Joe says:

    I don’t particularly want to try to have the last word on this as I think the tension is the reality. I don’t disagree with Erika or David, but I want to try to hang on to Rowan’s sense, too, and try to understand his strategy (if, indeed, as Martin says, that may not be the right word). David’s last sentence is especially powerful, as is Erica’s. I’d only say that David’s becoming ‘aghast with our capacity for revenge against God’ is one of the most pointed ways of expressing those turning points, conversions, loss of scales, you-name-it, that I have ever read. It is what it’s all about, and it is helpful to have someone paint it in a non-pastel hue. I don’t know that Rowan would disagree. I don’t want to defend him so much as try to understand him as I suspect he’s been trying to make the Church a place in which such terrifying and liberating insights can take place. I hope he expects them to take place and that he has seen our current state as a crucible of grace (where sin abounds…), where change/conversion is not just possible but required. It is upon this last sort-of point that disappointment perhaps hinges.

    I’m not very sanguine that the next ‘guy’ will do much better; indeed I find myself sliding hope-wise.

  • “Perhaps, we do encounter God in silence, but this is not confined to an oasis of monastic retreats and mental seclusion. We encounter God along the treacherous road from Jerusalem to Jericho, where He prompts a Samaritan to stop his journey to help one who probably viewed him as a half-breed.”

    – David Shepherd –

    On the other hand, we do get a lot of evangelical hotheads ‘rushing in where angels fear to tread”. What is needed,surely, is a balance. Even Jesus needed time to ‘pray alone’.

    Works without prayer can sometimes be less than helpful. The monasteries and convents of the Church help to undergird the outward facing ministries of the rest of us.

    Silence is Golden – especially in God’s presence!

  • Commentator says:

    I come late to is thread and so may not be rewarded with readers or a response. But Dr Williams conscious and repeated decision to defer the righting of injustices towards both women & homosexuals has allowed others to experience personal suffering of a deep and extended kind. You cannot compare his passing pain with that which he has visited on his “victims”. When he came to Augustine’s Throne many hoped for a renewal of truth & faith in the Church of England. But a closer look at his words & actions as Archbishop of Wales should have brought those hopes to a swift end. His reign in Wales was not one of truth and justice for women. His time as Bishop of Monmouth saw the diocese lose communicants and resources. He failed to recognise the radical action that God was seeking in making him an archbishop first in Wales and then in England. I pray for him regularly that he will be given yet another chance to shine with Gospel Truth and “set my people free”!

  • “I find the Pope very ill advised to have invited him,’ – R.I.Williams –

    I’ve only just noticed this little pericope from Robert. I realise that as an ex-Anglican, Robert is no fan of the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, he might be surprised that the ‘Supreme Pontiff’, whom Robert should support, might have due regard for the spirituality, theology and integrity of Rowan’s personal role in the Church. Even the Pope is prepared to give honour where honour is due – even if not all RCs are the same.

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