on Saturday, 19 March 2016 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Simon Butler ViaMedia Why R & R is Good for the Health of the Church
Laurie Goodstein interviews Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for the New York Times: Episcopal Church’s First Black Leader, a Gay Marriage Backer, Focuses on Race.
Church Times Interview: Rowan Williams, theologian, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
So what would be the alternative to Renewal and Reform? To do nothing is not an option and from what I have read about R and R it has more chance, being more focused, of success than the Decade of Evangelism ever had.
The Dean of Christ Church makes some insightful and perceptive observations but is perhaps too critical. Maybe in the ivory academic towers of Oxford he is lacking in episcopal oversight and restraint? Didn’t the Oxford CNC meet as long ago as early January (for the second time of asking) to select a successor to Bishop John Pritchard? We are now heading towards the end of March and still no announcement has been made! Is there a problem?
I listen to Rowan, and have been very much helped by some of his spiritual insights, notably on St Teresa de Avila. But I don’t ‘receive’ his views uncritically, or in subservient, infantile manner. Some of what he says in this interview raises awkward questions about unspoken gaps in the narrative.
“The interdependent life of the Body of Christ… continues to be absorbing for me… the inseparable connection between what we say about Jesus Christ, and what we say about the community that lives in him.”
But does that include or exclude gay couples? Does interdependence justify the marginalisation of LGBT members of the Church? Was the Anglican Covenant – with its drive for uniformity on human sexuality – an act of interdependence, or a partisan attempt to impose one point of view, and stigmatise others?
“Bishops need that animation and desire to help others make sense of their commitment.”
I really don’t see in any way that the exercise of ‘authority’ during Rowan’s primacy helped lesbian and gay individuals ‘make sense of their commitment’. More like, they were the sacrificial lambs on the altar of so-called ‘interdependence’.
On sacrament and tensions in the Church, I do agree with him that understanding of sacrament is profoundly helpful: the deeper we enter into prayer and sacrament, and find our unity in God, the more possible it may become to operate with diversities of view, drawing commonality from the encounter with God, rather than precise dogmatic ‘certainties’. And as he implies, acknowledgment of uncertainty is likely to be part of that experience, part of the loose-thread nature and limits of understanding but, equally, a potential gateway to union, communion, community, sharing, what we have in common in Jesus Christ rather than what we have in difference.
I tend to agree when he points towards silence, uncertainty, incomplete understanding… so that (in perhaps a mini-criticism) we approach our faith in a way that “guarantees that we have something to offer our society that’s more than simply religious uplift, moral inspiration, or nice experiences.”
Something that speaks of inter-dependence, in Christ, and in relationship with creation. Good to see Charles Williams get a mention.
That inter-dependence, of course, should or could allow for Christians to embrace one another, whatever views they have on human sexuality… rather than ‘othering’ people or ‘outlawing’ one another.
Which is why I champion ‘Unity in Diversity’.
“A bishop has to be a teacher of the faith.” – Rowan Williams
If only CofE bishops lived up to a fraction of this.
The choice of the new Bishop of Oxford was due to have been made on 8th March and (given Archbishop Justin didn’t write to the diocese straight away to say there was a problem, as he did last time) probably was. Announcements seem to follow between one and three months later at the moment, so Father David will have his customary opportunity to sneer at or praise the new Bishop in a few or a number of weeks time. The backlog on these appointments has now been caught up on so when the next vacancy occurs or is announced the CNC will be able to get on with work on it without the diocese involved having to join a queue.
The interview with Rowan Williams was illuminating. I was happy to discover where he is happiest and the most reassuring, loved sound to him.
The H of Bishops doesn’t have any academic theologians at the moment. But there is no point appointing an academic theologian to a diocese if s/he isn’t cut out for that role, which many academics aren’t. Surely the answer is for a diocesan bishop to have a theologian as an advisor…. And the H of Bishops to have a small team of periti they can call on..and who can usefully offer theological reflection and critique.
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