Williams: Towards a Moral State

Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke last week about the need for a moral state that is not theocratic or confessional.

Portions of the talk appear as a column in the Sunday Times.

Read more »

Moral vision should be at the heart of politics

In his lecture this evening in Hull, birthplace of William Wilberforce, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will urge politicians to rediscover the moral energy and vision which inspired Wilberforce; defend the right of the citizen to call the state to account for its actions; and ask whether we still believe in the notion of "a moral
state."

If we do, he says, we cannot leave the state to decide for itself what is moral: "The modern state needs a robust independent tradition of moral perception with which to engage. Left to itself it cannot generate the self-critical energy that brings about change...for the sake of some positive human ideal."

Read more »

Rowan Williams to take sabbatical at Georgetown

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will spend much of his summer sabbatical at Georgetown University sources in England and Washington confirmed today.

Williams, has stayed at the Jesuit university twice previously during seminars of interfaith scholars, and is friendly with the university's president John J. DeGioia.

In March 2004, in partnership with President DeGioia, Williams convened the third Building Bridges seminar at Georgetown. The fifth Building Bridges seminar in March 2006 was also hosted by Georgetown. Williams initiated the annual Building Bridges seminars to promote dialog between Christian and Muslim scholars.

Williams has not visited Episcopal churches during his previous visits, although he has held breakfast meetings with prominent local church leaders. He has refused numerous requests to participate in Episcopal Church events.

The news that Williams would be spending his sabbatical in the United States became public before Williams announced whether he would accede to a request to meet with the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in an effort to defuse the crisis over homosexuality that threatens the future of the Anglican Communion.

That meeting is now set for late September in New Orleans.

- Jim Naughton

Correction: ABC: draft covenant "much more promising"

In its April 17 issue, The Globe and Mail incorrectly quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, as saying a draft covenant presented to the primates of the world Anglican Communion at their February meeting in Tanzania was "unacceptable." In fact, Dr. Williams was referring to a draft covenant first published as part of the communion's Windsor Report in 2004. The proposals in the February covenant, he said, were "much more promising."

Read it all HERE

ABC's sabbatical topic: Dostoevsky

During his summer sabbatical at Georgetown the Archbishop of Canterbury will be studying Dostoevsky.

The sabbatical topic was revealed in the Spy column of today's Telegraph under the heading "Glutton for Punishment." An excerpt:

During his two-month sabbatical in June and July, I learn that Dr Rowan Williams will be writing a book on Dostoevsky. The archbishop is known to be a devotee of the dark Russian soul, and tells Prospect magazine's website of his fascination with the Crime and Punishment author. "Dostoevsky would say ethics is not about good and evil, it's about truth and falsehood, reality and illusion," he says.

The Prospect interview is here. For selected quotes click read more.

Read more »

Keeping everyone at the table

From Anglican Journal:

Rowan Williams said on his recent visit to Canada that his job as Archbishop of Canterbury—the spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans—is to get people around the table and keep them there as long as possible.

Of course, in ecclesiastical terms, Archbishop Williams’ words carry two meanings: he is attempting to keep all parties around the meeting table, continuing to talk about the challenges surrounding human sexuality and the authority of Scripture that threaten to divide them forever. He is also faced with the task of trying to keep all members around the eucharistic table. In some respects, he can record some success and some failure on both counts.

The recent meeting of primates in Tanzania is one marker of his progress. While there in February, seven leaders of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces boycotted a communion service to symbolize the “brokenness” of the communion. Granted, the number of absentee bishops was about half that which declined to share communion two years earlier at the same meeting in Northern Ireland. But it nevertheless shocked some observers, who could not fathom why church leaders would refuse to partake in the greatest gift to believers: the body and blood of Christ, simply in order to make a point.

Read it all here.

Communion By Invitation Only

It is a "sad day for the Anglican Communion and a new low for the beleaguered Archbishop of Canterbury. The once proud-of-its-diversity Anglican Communion has allowed itself to be blackmailed into bigotry by those unwilling to accept into their midst a duly elected brother bishop solely because of his sexual orientation." The Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity, USA, writes in On Faith, religious conversations in the Washington Post.

"The Archbishop had an explanation for his decision not to include Bishop Robinson: “I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion.”

What he doesn’t have is an explanation for the stunning hypocrisy of excluding the Bishop of New Hampshire because he is gay while including the Archbishop of Nigeria who supports legislation criminalizing gay and lesbian people so draconian that it has been condemned by the international Human Rights Watch."

Read it all HERE

Lord Carey Undercuts Williams

Thinking Anglicans provides this snip from a letter Lord Carey has written to the Church of England Newspaper:

Sir, Kenneth Kearon suggests (CEN May 25) that the decision not to invite AMiA bishops, or the recently consecrated CANA Bishop, to the Lambeth Conference relates to a precedent I set in 2000…

…This, of course, was before 2003 when the Episcopal Church clearly signalled its abandonment of Communion norms, in spite of warnings from the Primates that the consecration of a practising homosexual bishop would ‘tear the fabric of the Communion’. It is not too much to say that everything has changed in the Anglican Communion as a result of the consecration of Gene Robinson.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s prerogative to invite bishops to the Conference is a lonely, personal and important task. Before each Conference a number of careful decisions have to be taken, with the focus being on the well-being of the Communion. The circumstances facing each Archbishop of Canterbury will vary according to the needs of the hour. For these reasons, I believe, that Dr Rowan Williams should not regard the advice he has evidently received that this matter is ‘fixed’ as necessarily binding on him in the very different circumstances of 2007.

The Church of England Newspaper is available here ($. weekly edition).

Is it unprecedented for a former Archbishop of Canterbury to publicly chastise his successor?

UPDATE: Here's an argument for not inviting CANA and AMiA bishops. It was written by Carey in 2000. Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for the pointer.

Conservative Revisionism?

Scott Gunn at Inclusive Church blog has done his history homework on former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. Comparing "then" with "now" he finds "there is a bit of conservative revisionism going on with respect to Anglican polity. Witness Carey's two letters. In one, he unequivocally supports unity, and in the next, he implies that those conservative bishops who would imperil unity should be invited to Lambeth."

In Lord Carey's letter of 2000 he says:

"To talk of the Primates disciplining the Episcopal Church of the USA or any other Province for that matter, goes far beyond the brief of the Primates' Meeting." After noting that Lambeth resolution 1.10 "reflects the traditional teaching of the church," and "Nevertheless, in many parts of the Communion, faithful Christians, some of whom are homosexual themselves, are seeking to engage the Church in a challenging reassessment of its teaching on human sexuality, because they have felt excluded from the Church for many years. I believe that it is wholly in the spirit of the resolution, and that is why the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA and I set up an international conversation between bishops of different views, an experiment which was so successful that it will meet again later this year. I have also sought to encourage such conversations more locally as well."
Carey reminded the Communion that "we must guard against the risk of allowing one issue to divert all our attention from the primary task of mission to which we are called."

This week in 2007, Lord Carey says,
"It is not too much to say that everything has changed in the Anglican Communion as a result of the consecration of Gene Robinson." and he now writes that ECUSA "clearly signalled its abandonment of Communion norms, in spite of warnings from the Primates that the consecration of a practising homosexual bishop would 'tear the fabric of the Communion'."

Scott Gunn comments: "That's a marked contrast from a consultative, advisory notion of the Primates' Meetings. Now Carey is suggesting that ECUSA can itself be marginalized because of disregard of the Anglican curia. Now, I should also point out that there are plenty of "practicing homosexual bishops" in the Communion. What distinguished +Gene Robinson was his openness and honesty."
Gunn's point? "My point is that there is a bit of conservative revisionism going on with respect to Anglican polity. Witness Carey's two letters. In one, he unequivocally supports unity, and in the next, he implies that those conservative bishops who would imperil unity should be invited to Lambeth."

Read it all Here

More Lambeth Invites Likely

"The invitation list for the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops is not complete, according to Canon James Rosenthal, communications director for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), who said it is possible more invitations will be extended in the coming months," writes George Conger in The Living Church

Invitations were sent May 22. The initial invitation list was compiled based on past precedent and the recommendations of the Windsor Report, according to Canon Rosenthal and other aides to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who spoke with The Living Church.

Bishops who have not received invitations included those whose consecrations are valid but whose jurisdictions are anomalous, bishops not engaged in stipendiary episcopal ministry, and a handful of bishops whose manner of life or public actions are cause for concern. Invitation also were not extended to retired but semi-active bishops known as “assisting bishops” in The Episcopal Church or “honorary assistant bishops” in the Church of England.

Some previous Lambeth Conferences included bishops holding administrative positions within their national churches, but no such invitations have yet been extended for 2008. Episcopal bishops in this group include the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews, director of the Office of Pastoral Development at The Episcopal Church Center; and the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. All three are actively engaged in stipendiary church ministry and are active members of the House of Bishops, but are not directly engaged in “episcopal ministry,” the ACC said.

Read it all HERE

Split Not Inevitable

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in an interview to be published on Friday, in Time says he is not optimistic about the future of the Anglican Church but adds that a schism over gay issues is not inevitable, reports Michael Conlon, Religion Writer for Reuters.

The state of the 77-million-member global church "feels very vulnerable. I can't, of course, deny that. It feels very vulnerable and very fragile, perhaps more so than it's been for a very long time," Williams told Time Magazine.
"I don't think schism is inevitable. The task I've got is to try and maintain as long as possible the space in which people can have constructive disagreements, learn from each other, and try and hold that within an agreed framework of discipline and practice." Asked if was optimistic, Williams said "I'm hopeful. Not optimistic," agreeing that "hopeful" was a "safer" word.

Later in the interview Archbishop Williams explains his thinking on which bishops to invite to the Lambeth Conference and why he left Bishop Robinson and Bishop Minns off the list,

"In the Time interview Williams said he did that to avoid the two bishops becoming the focus of the 2008 meeting. "The mode of their appointment in the face of substantial protest simply means their bishoping is going to be under question in large parts of the Anglican world," he said "Regarding Robinson, one thing I've tried to make clear is that my worry about his election was that the Episcopal Church hadn't made a general principled decision about the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of people in public same-sex partnerships," he said. "I would think it better had the church actually taken a view on that before moving to the individual case. As it is, someone living in a relationship not theologically officially approved by the church is elected to a bishop. I find that bizarre and puzzling," Williams said.

Read it all HERE

UPDATE: Time podcast of interview HERE

Time article HERE

Interview printed HERE

TIME profiles Rowan Williams on eve of his US sabbatical

TIME magazine's David Van Biema and Catharine Mayer have written a cover story on the time%2520cover.jpgArchbishop of Canterbury. It appears in this week's European and South Pacific editions. The article will likely become the one piece that readers new to the turmoil in the Angican Communion will want to read for a quick, but fairly comprehensive grasp on the situation. It is followed by an in-depth interview (that will probably be of more interest to Communion watchers) in which Williams spells out his reasons for inviting neither Bishops Gene Robinson nor Martyn Minns to the Lambeth Conference.

A few excerpts and quotes worth perusing before you click "Read more" to see the whole thing:

On Peter Akinola:

The Archbishop is weary of being pushed around. The pusher-in-chief, of course, especially since the founding of CANA, has been Akinola. ‘I’ve said to him privately and publicly I don’t think that [CANA] was an appropriate response,’ says Williams. He is also bothered by the unwavering support by Akinola’s church of a proposed Nigerian law, now lapsed, that would have assigned a five-year jail term not only to open homosexuals, but to those who supported them. Williams says he is ‘very unhappy’ about the situation, ‘and I’ve written to the Archbishop about it."

On Gene Robinson:

"Regarding Robinson, one thing I’ve tried to make clear is that my worry about his election was that the Episcopal Church hadn’t made a general principled decision about the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of people in public same-sex partnerships. I would think it better had the church actually taken a view on that before moving to the individual case. As it is, someone living in a relationship not theologically officially approved by the church is elected to a bishop — I find that bizarre and puzzling."

On the Episcopal Church's response to the Primates' communique from Dar es Salaam:

TIME: The Anglican primates met in Dar es Salaam in February and made three key recommendations to the American bishops: that they stop ordaining gay bishops and blessing gay unions and that they create a special bishop to serve the needs of conservatives. What happens if they refuse?

Williams: An absolute blanket no to all of this would pose a real problem. We’ve had indications of a cautious yes to part of it.


Read more »

An exception

Get Religion is a Web site devoted to analyzing the media's coverage of religion. It is bankrolled by Howard Ahmanson, who also bankrolls the Institute on Religion and Democracy, American Anglican Counci, and a variety of other outfits whose aims include having creationism taught in schools, obscuring the link between human activity and global warming and undermining mainline Protestants' ability to govern their denominations.

All that said, GR is now, once again, home to the astute and fair minded Doug LeBlanc. His analysis of the recent TIME magazine story on Rowan Williams, and of Williams' cagey deployment of invitations to the Lambeth Conference are well worth reading.

A Robinson invite?

Chuck Blanchard points us to Ruth Gledhill's report that it looks like Bishop Gene Robinson may well get an invite to Lambeth after all, albeit as a nonvoting member. She also asserts that Bishop Martyn Minns will not.

Gledhill was sent, apparently by a third party, a letter said to have been written by Canon Flora Winfield to those inquiring about Robinson's status. It reads:

'The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to thank you for your letter of 22 May 2007 regarding his invitation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to next year’s Lambeth Conference. The Archbishop is taking a period of study leave this summer and he has therefore asked me to respond to your letter on his behalf.

Prior to his departure, Archbishop Rowan noted carefully the level of disappointment expressed by correspondents, following his decision not to extend an invitation to Bishop Gene Robinson to attend the Lambeth Conference along with the other bishops. He stressed in his letter to the bishops that he did not take this decision lightly, but that he regarded it as appropriate in the light of the recommendations set out in the Windsor Report.

The Windsor Report counselled that in the future proper regard should be taken to the bounds of affection and interdependence between member Churches when considering the acceptability of a candidate for Episcopal appointment. While is it recognised that Bishop Robinson was duly elected and consecrated according to the canons of The Episcopal Church in view of the widespread objections to Bishop Robinson’s ministry in other Provinces of the Communion, the Windsor Report further recommend that the Archbishop ‘ exercise very considerable caution in inviting him to the councils of the Communion.

From the time of the election of Bishop Gene Robinson to See of New Hampshire, both the representatives of many Anglican Provinces and the Instruments of Communion made it clear that full recognition by the Communion could not be given to a bishop whose chosen lifestyle would, in most Provinces of the Communion, give rise to canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop. The Archbishop has to be loyal to that widespread concern as well as bearing in mind the position of Bishop Robinson within The Episcopal Church. The Archbishop is therefore exploring inviting Bishop Robinson to the conference in another status.

Thank you once again for writing.'

Chuck excerpts the parts about Robinson and provides his own brief commentary here. You can also read the entire Gledhill column here.

UPDATE: Commenter Ginny Gibbs writes "Actually, the text appears identical to that of a letter I saw just last night at a parish meeting. It was written in response to a form letter a friend who's a member of Integrity had sent."

UPDATE, 29 June: The Times publishes a brief column by Gledhill making the assertion "Bishop Gene will be able to attend meetings as an official guest but will not have the right to vote on motions at the conference."

Archbishop of Canterbury receives ecology award

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has received an award from UK parliamentarians for his work in helping to promote ecologically friendly causes - including a Church of England carbon-cutting campaign.

As reported by Ekklesia,

"The award, presented by the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group, recognises the work of the Archbishop and the Church of England in promoting sustainable energy issues to the public and to policy makers."

Affirming the impact of the Archbishop's leadership, "a Lambeth Palace spokesperson added that the award recognised the importance of the issue for faith communities. "The Church of England has made climate change and environmental sustainability central issues in recent years, at home and overseas. This award for the Archbishop of Canterbury from PRESAG members is a timely recognition of the central role people of faith have in providing for the responsible stewardship of our planet."

"The ethical aspect of the challenge of climate change is increasingly recognised, and in choosing to confer this award on the Archbishop, PRESAG [the Associate Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group] acknowledges just how important moral and spiritual leadership on environmental matters continues to be."

The Church of England is currently engaged in a national campaign known as Shrinking the Footprint.

Read it all here.

Lambeth RSVP's

Church Times Leader about the Lambeth invitations and possible boycott by some bishops:

"THE ROOMS are booked, but are the guests coming? The uncertainty surrounding attendance at next year’s Lambeth Conference continues, as various conservative groupings realise the political capital that can be made from hesitation. The bishops in Sydney, advised by their standing committee to come but to whinge (News, 29 June), look as if they will hold out until after the US House of Bishops meets next month to debate formally the demands of the Primates, made in Dar es Salaam, that they turn aside from the path that led to the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, a non-celibate gay man. Several African bishops have indicated already that they do not intend to come; yet more are still to be heard from.

There is talk this week of a deadline ignored and an Archbishop undermined. Yet when Dr Williams wrote to the Primates in July, he said no more than: ‘It would be a great help if these replies were received by 31 July 2007.’ As we have said (Leader comment, 25 May), the US bishops have been invited in the full knowledge that their decision in September might well be to defy the Primates’ strictures. Nobody seriously believes that Dr Williams will withdraw their invitation, though that will not stop some from pressing him to do so."

From here: Lambeth bookings

Blogging Lambeth

Everyone has a blog these days - even Lambeth 2008.

A sample entry:

We're having lots of fun with all the Lambeth Conference registrations - keep them coming in! (Via the online system if possible!)

Otherwise, Sue is away on her holidays at the moment, as are many others in the Anglican Communion Office, where the Lambeth Conference office is based. But things are still fairly busy for an August in England.

Keep checking here

It is part of The Official Lambeth site

Canterbury Cross

Click here (The Archbishop of Canterbury Official site Welcome page) and hover your mouse pointer over the TIME cover of the Archbishop. What do you see?

Is there a message here?

An unfortunate letter

Bishop John Shelby Spong has written an open letter to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury that rehashes old complaints that have been extensively aired elsewhere and seems calculated to give offense. It is perhaps best seen as an act of unconscious self-marginalization (not to mention bad manners.) Spong, like N. T. Wright, has become one of those figures whose public utterances frequently do more to bolster the cause of his adversaries than his allies.

If one were attempting to poison the atmosphere when the archbishop and the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops gather in New Orleans on September 20-21, this is the letter one would write. Its publication places a burden on Episcopal bishops who favor the full inclusion of the baptized in all ministries of the Church, and continued membership in the Anglican Communion. They now must make it clear that Archbishop Rowan will receive a warmer welcome than this letter suggests.

Read more »

Satyagraha and 9/11

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, will consider the events and consequences of two events in history sharing the date of September 11th. He will give a lecture to the Christian Muslim Forum Conference in Cambridge UK. The Anglican Communion News Service reports:

Dr Williams compares "the act of nightmare violence" of September 11th 2001 and the chain of retaliation, fear and misery" it unleashed with the public meeting in Johannesburg on September 11th in 1906 (attended by people of Muslim, Hindu and Christian faiths) at which Gandhi's non-violent protest movement - the Satyagraha movement - was born.

It was a movement which put principles into action but which rejected violence; a sort of "'soul force' whose central principle was that our behaviour must witness to truth whatever the cost - and that this witness to truth can never, of its very nature, involve violence or a response to oppression that simply mirrors what has been done by the
oppressor."

The Archbishops says in his lecture:

The Church is, in this perspective, the trustee of a vision that is radical and universal, the vision of a social order that is without fear, oppression , the violence of exclusion and the search for scapegoats because it is one where each recognizes their dependence on all and each is seen as having an irreplaceable gift for all. The Church cannot begin to claim that it consistently lives by this; its failure is all too visible, century by century. But its credibility does not hang on its unbroken success; only on its continued willingness to be judged by what it announces and points to, the non-competitive, non-violent order of God's realm, centred upon Jesus and accessible through commitment to him. Within the volatile and plural context of a
society that has no single frame of moral or religious reference, it makes two fundamental contributions to the common imagination and moral climate. The first is that it declares that, in virtue of everyone's primordial relation to God (made in God's image), the dignity of every person is non-negotiable: each has a unique gift to give, each is owed respect and patience and the freedom to contribute what is given them.

This remains true whether we are speaking of a gravely disabled person - when we might be tempted to think they would be better off removed from human society, or of a suspected terrorist - when we might be tempted to think that torture could be justified in extracting information, or of numberless poor throughout the world - when we should be more comfortable if we were allowed to regard them as no more than collateral damage in the steady advance of prosperity for our 'developed'
economies.


He concludes:
...my chief point is that the convergence that occurred on this day in Johannesburg in 1906 was not an illusory or opportunistic affair. Both our faiths bring to civil society a conviction that what they embody and affirm is not a marginal affair; both claim that their legitimacy rests not on the license of society but on God's gift. Yet for those very reasons, they carry in them the seeds of a non-violent and non-possessive witness. They cannot be committed to violent struggle to prevail at all costs, because that would suggest a lack of faith in the God who has called them; they cannot be committed to a policy of coercion and oppression because that would again seek to put the power of the human believer or the religious institution in the sovereign
place that only God's reality can occupy. Because both our traditions have a history scarred by terrible betrayals of this, we have to approach our civil society and its institutions with humility and repentance. But I hope that this does not mean we shall surrender what is most important - that we have a gift to offer immeasurably greater than our own words or records, the gift of a divine calling and a renewal of all that is possible form human beings.

Read it all here.

Other news and reflections on 9/11

Spire of Hope dedicated in Belfast here

Remembering 9/11 on epiScope

And Heads Bow in Memory of 9/11 in The New York Times

Rowan Williams profiled

As his sabbatical came to a close, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke with the National Catholic Reporter, an American publication. He is the NCR's cover story for its September 14th issue:

On Sept. 3 Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams came back from study leave to face the music. The primate of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion does not want to go down in history as the archbishop who presided over the disintegration of that communion.
...
As he looks forward, the archbishop hopes against hope. He pauses for thought before he replies to questions, his eyes reflective under the bushy eyebrows. Then out comes his response, perfectly phrased, highly nuanced, each sentence proceeding coherently to a full stop. “The requests that have been put to the Episcopal church are of slightly different kinds. The answers are not simple black and white.” So even after the American Anglicans of the Episcopal church have declared themselves, “there will still be some discerning and sifting to do by the standing committees of our international bodies.”
...
Ask the archbishop whether, given the present difficulties, he does not sometimes wish in his heart of hearts for a touch of papal power and he will always say no. Then what does he think that Christian leadership consists in?

One has to look at the Gospel, he replies, to tease out the context of a concept like that. In that light, he sees his task as taking appropriate responsibility “for making things happen in the direction of God’s kingdom.” Instant results are not always to be expected. In the Anglican Communion, decisions “depend very heavily on mutual consent.” Otherwise they will not stick. He does what he can, he says, to “make a difference that shifts things slightly.”
...
As to the covenant, he would indeed like to see “a much greater convergence of our canon law” toward “some kind of worldwide screening process” that would make it possible to resolve any “really bad procedural blunder that caused scandal and damage to a church in a province.” But every Anglican province at present “has what is in principle a self-sufficient system of canon law.” To introduce any element into these provincial systems that gave jurisdiction elsewhere “would be a huge innovation.”
...
As a theologian in the 1980s Williams himself was one of those questioning the Christian tradition on homosexuality.

“I still think the points I raised were worth raising. But put them in the context of a wider discussion of the doctrine of the church and how the church makes up its mind, and it looks a little less simple.” In that context it becomes clear that “there are no arguments that are winning the majority of Christendom over to a new position” that would amend or reverse the consistently negative Christian tradition on homosexual practice. He distinguishes sharply between questions a theologian may ask and actions or decisions a church or a bishop may take.

Read it here. (Click past the subscription offer and then click on the September 14 issue cover of Williams.)

Rowan Williams on a "broken" society

Rowan Williams tells the Telegraph that he believes our society is "broken," in an interview that has nothing to do with the Anglican Communion.

"Is our society broken? I think it is," he says. "We are in a phase of our culture where the fragmentation of society is far more obvious. It's not just families, it is different ethnic communities and economic groups. We talk about access and equality the whole time, but in practice we all seem to live very segregated lives."

He goes on: "Outside my front door in Lambeth I see a society so dramatically different from across the river or in Canterbury. There is a level of desolation and loneliness and dysfunctionality which many people have very little concept of. If you sense that the world you live in is absolutely closed, that for all sorts of reasons you are unable to move outside, if nothing gives you aspirations, there is an imprisonment in that, there is a kind of resentment that comes with that and a frustration that can boil over in violence and street crime."

Inequality is, in his view, just a symptom of a wider moral vacuum. "I don't think that the huge wealth of some is the cause (of the problems), it is more that society just wants to reward business success and celebrity. If you're a teenager in Peckham neither of those are easily accessible."

Indeed, he is horrified by the triviality of modern society. "We are too celebrity obsessed, we have got into a dangerous cycle where fame is an objective in itself."

His children are 11 and 19. "I sometimes sit with them and watch The X Factor and it is heartbreaking to see people who plead with judges to get through because they just want to be famous so intensely," he says.

Salty returns

Our old friend the Salty Vicar, who gave up blogging to have a life, has written a perceptive response to Bishop JohnShelby Spong's recent open letter to Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury.

He writes:

The issues of the U.S. Episcopal Church, I suspect, are not the issues of the Anglican Communion. My concerns include things like how am I going to pay for my secretary or the air conditioning or my after school program, and why isn’t anyone coming to my cool ultra-progressive church? It isn’t that people don’t approve of me or my parish; in my area everyone knows where we stand and they love what we’re doing. They’re just in a time and money crunch, as so many of us are today.

Gay rights is just one of many issues that needs work in a hypercapitalist country. And in fact, I believe we’re ahead of the game in that department. Good leaders in the Episcopal Church do not worry about sexuality—we’ve already decided that gay people are a full part of the church. Now how about turning our attention to some other challenges, like the growing blight of mega-churches and the budget shortfalls that make it tougher and tougher to pay for the basic upkeep of church buildings?

Spong is wrong to assume that this fight is Rowan’s. The fight in the Episcopal Church is ours. It’s great that the Archbishop is coming, the Archbishop is coming. To be honest, that’s all he needed to do. But the work that has to be done is here. And we don’t need him to do it for us, or to give us the thumbs up.

Where true victory is to be found

The voice of the faithful is the most powerful when it gives up human assumptions of power, victory and control. But the Church has become so politicized, and our language and behavior--both within our groups and towards society--are so focused on winners and losers, that we frequently lose sight of the fact that Jesus' power comes from his willing powerlessness. So says the Archbishop of Canterbury in a speech he gave last week, on September 10th, at King's College, Cambridge called "Faith Communities in a Civil Society--Christian Perspectives."

He says that only "...When religion ceases to appear as yet another human group hungry for security, privilege and the liberty to enforce its convictions" will it have the power to change human institutions and have an impact on human suffering in a significant way. He goes on, "To have faith, Gandhi might say, is to hold something in trust for humanity – a vision of who and what humanity is in relation to a truth that does not depend on worldly victory."

In a paradox that never ceases to challenge and puzzle both believers and unbelievers, it is when we are free from the passion to be taken seriously, to be protected or indeed to be obeyed that we are most likely to be heard. The convincing witness to faith is one for whom safety and success are immaterial, and one for whom therefore the exercise of violent force against another of different conviction is ruled out. And the nature of an authentically religious community is made visible in its admission of dependence on God – which means both that it does not fight for position and power and that it will not see itself as existing just by the license of human society. It proclaims both its right to exist on the basis of the call of God and its refusal to enforce that right by the routine methods of human conflict.

For the Christian, of course, this paradox arises from the ministry of Jesus and the Gospel narratives themselves. When confronted with the both the possibility of state execution and the accusation that he is a king, Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world but it's power and authority comes from God. Christians believe that Jesus is a different kind of king and that the Kingdom of God is a different kind of realm. To participate in the reign of God is to at once claim participation in it; and, at the very same time, to give up all claim to earthly power.

In a paradox that never ceases to challenge and puzzle both believers and unbelievers, it is when we are free from the passion to be taken seriously, to be protected or indeed to be obeyed that we are most likely to be heard. The convincing witness to faith is one for whom safety and success are immaterial, and one for whom therefore the exercise of violent force against another of different conviction is ruled out. And the nature of an authentically religious community is made visible in its admission of dependence on God – which means both that it does not fight for position and power and that it will not see itself as existing just by the license of human society. It proclaims both its right to exist on the basis of the call of God and its refusal to enforce that right by the routine methods of human conflict.

He says that the Church is, "in this perspective, the trustee of a vision that is radical and universal, the vision of a social order that is without fear, oppression , the violence of exclusion and the search for scapegoats because it is one where each recognizes their dependence on all and each is seen as having an irreplaceable gift for all."

There are two essential "non-negotiables" that the Church brings to the table whenever there is a tear at the fabric of civil society: First, that all people are created in the image of God and have an inherent dignity regardless of their situation or station in life.

...each has a unique gift to give, each is owed respect and patience and the freedom to contribute what is given them. This remains true whether we are speaking of a gravely disabled person - when we might be tempted to think they would be better off removed from human society, or of a suspected terrorist - when we might be tempted to think that torture could be justified in extracting information, or of numberless poor throughout the world – when we should be more comfortable if we were allowed to regard them as no more than collateral damage in the steady advance of prosperity for our ‘developed’ economies.

The second thing that the Church brings to the table in civil society is the "non-negotiable" that every person is "involved in either creating or frustrating a common good that relates to the whole human race."

In plainer terms, we cannot as Christians settle down with the conclusion that what is lastingly and truly good for any one individual or group is completely different from what is lastingly and truly good for any other. Justice is not local in an exclusive sense or limited by circumstances; there are no classes or subgroups of humanity who are entitled to less of God’s love; and so there are no classes entitled to lower levels of human respect or compassion or service. And since an important aspect of civil society is the assumption that human welfare is not achieved by utilitarian generalities imposed from above but requires active and particularized labour, the fact of the Christian community’ presence once again puts the question of how human society holds together the need for action appropriate to specific and local conditions with the lively awareness of what is due to all people everywhere.

There is, Williams says, an "absolute difference of the power and action of God as against human power (embodied in the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion as the climax of God’s incarnate work), and the universal promise offered in the Resurrection (embodied in the mission of the Church as mediating Christ’s living presence)."

The Church, he says, cannot claim that it consistently lives by by this notion of God's power operating above and beyond human assumptions of power. "Its failure is all too visible, century by century" Williams says. "But its credibility does not hang on its unbroken success; only on its continued willingness to be judged by what it announces and points to, the non-competitive, non-violent order of God’s realm, centred upon Jesus and accessible through commitment to him."

Read the whole speech here.


Secret meeting or safe space

Archbishop Rowan Williams has been invited to attend a meeting of The Consultation and celebrate communion. The Consultation is a group of gay and lesbian clergy in the Church of England who meet regularly for support and pastoral care. Although Ruth Gledhill of The Times has reported it as a secret meeting called by the Archbishop, The Rev. Colin Coward of Changing Attitude and member of the Consultation reports that Archbishop is attending because he was invited. Lambeth has issued a statement that the Archbishop often meets with various groups in the church for pastoral reasons.

From The Rev. Colin Coward:

The Consultation is not a secret or secretive group, it is a group which has chosen to protect its weakest members by ensuring confidentiality and safety for members in order that people feel safe to attend. The weakness of the group is that of the weakest members, those who feel least safe in emerging from their closets.

++Rowan or his staff asked to meet us confidentially, but that is normal for any invitation from the Consultation in order to protect our safety. There is a Eucharist as an integral part of every Consultation meeting and ++Rowan is simply joining us and participating as our Archbishop in our normal programme.

We are inviting him, not he us, the Communion isn't secret, the meeting is confidential, and many more members of the Consultation will come to this meeting than the normal number. Those who won't be there are the misogynistic male gay clergy, who withdrew years ago when lesbian priests were welcomed.

Please feel free to copy and circulate the above.
......

Colin

Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude
6 Norney Bridge
Mill Road
Marston

The Archbishop's Office has made this statement:

"It should come as no surprise that the Archbishop is meeting pastorally with clergy and others affected by the current debates in the church; such encounters extend across the church and right across the range of opinions found within the church. Few of these encounters ever reach the public domain; that is exactly as it should be."

More on the meeting here.

More from Ekklesia here

News, news, news

News. News News. Reports from everywhere. Have a look at what the mainstream media is saying about the House of Bishops meeting that began this morning in New Orleans.

Rachel Zoll has written a strum and drang free story for the Associated Press.

Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today has also overcome the temptation to suggest that the sky is not only falling, but will in fact land before the end of the month.

Rebecca Trounson of The Los Angeles Times features these two quote:

And in a recent telephone interview, Jefferts Schori said that despite the approaching deadline, the Episcopal Church would "continue to be the church on Oct. 1 and in November and beyond." She said she did not expect major changes in the church's relationships within the communion as a result of the meeting.

And:

The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, said Wednesday that he did not expect those decisions to be overturned at the bishops' meeting. "I don't believe we have the power to go beyond that before the General Convention," he said. "And if the primates think some magic change will occur in the House of Bishops and the national church in which we say we rescind everything, that's not going to happen."

The Chicago Tribune and Raleigh News and Observer have local angles.

The Telegraph is overhyping the situation, although this paragraph is insightful:

But he is aware that even if he does achieve a form of words that placates moderates, conservative hardliners may still reject the deal and to force damaging new splits by boycotting the ten-yearly Conference of Anglican bishops in Canterbury.

And Andrew Brown ends his commentary on the Guardian Web site with this pearl:

The Anglican Communion contains a majority of primates who take a Grand Inquisitor's view of politics; and some who would be happy to hand over heretics or at least homosexuals to the secular arm for punishment; some who encourage the belief that they can perform miracles, more or less, when their people need it; and plenty who use or threaten to use the power of money and modern science to expand their client base.

Rowan Williams, like Christ, renounces these powers; but when an Archbishop renounces powers he does not abolish them, he hands them to his enemies. Like Christ in the parable, Rowan's response to the Grand Inquisitors of the world is to kiss them on their bloodless lips and then slip out into darkness and obscurity through the door they have held open for him. When Christ kisses him, the inquisitor is touched in his heart but his beliefs and his actions do not change. Fresh heretics will burn when morning comes.


Day 1

Updated: Interestingly, the Thursday night AP story quotes from the item below.

Not a lot to report from our friends who were in the room. At House of Bishops meetings, the bishops all sit at assigned tables with colleagues whom they have sat with at previous meetings. At tables this morning they were asked what were their greatest hopes and greatest fears for the meeting. Each table answered these questions and reported back to the meeting.

I am a little shaky on the time sequence here, but at some point during the course of the day, Archbishop Williams suggested that the Episcopal Church needed to exercise greater concern for its catholicity. Bishop Michael Curry at some later point replied that catholicity, by definition, cannot be built upon the exclusion of one class of people.

The archbishop made it clear that he believed the Episcopal Church had acted preemptively in consecrating Bishop Robinson.

In the afternoon Archbishop Williams asked the bishops how far they were willing to go to assure the rest of the Anglican Communion that the Church will refrain from a) consecrating another openly gay bishop and b) authorizing rites of blessing for same-sex unions. He also asked whether the bishops are willing to share episcopal responsibilities with other bishops when necessary.

The answer to those questions must ultimately be embodied in resolutions. For perusing other blogs, I sense that not much news was committed at the news conference.

From Episcopal Life Online news from the press conference.

Archbishop visits Lower Ninth Ward

The Times Picayune reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans following his meeting today with the Episcopal Church House of Bishops.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spent seven and a half hours behind closed doors today talking with 150 Episcopal bishops and delegates from overseas Anglican churches about rising tensions over homosexuality that threaten to rupture the Anglican Communion.

He emerged from the Hotel InterContinental to be driven to the Lower Ninth Ward to see Episcopal hurricane relief efforts there, including a new church that will occupy a now-ruined drugstore a few steps from the home of New Orleans musician Fats Domino.

Williams blessed the grafitti-covered building and posed for pictures with curious bystanders. Diana Meyers, a worker with St. Anna's medical mission, gave Williams a rough, foot-tall wooden cross she said was made of the debris of wrecked shrimp and oyster boats.

Read it all here.

Archbishop of Canterbury gets a taste of New Orleans

From Episcopal News Service

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested September 20 during an ecumenical service at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that New Orleans's recovery could remake the city into God's image of the holy city.

Noting the service's reading from Zechariah 8:3-13, Williams said that the image of the holy city is not based on strength of a city's arts community, business sector, educational offerings, or social-welfare programs.

"What makes a great, godly city is that it is a safe place for older people to sit and children to play in the streets," he said, adding that few people live in that kind of city anywhere in the world today.

Earlier in the day, Williams visited the site of a former Walgreens drugstore in the lower Ninth Ward to bless what will become the new home of the Church of All Souls, founded in New Orleans' lower Ninth after Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood devastated the neighborhood. The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana helped to plant the church at the invitation of the neighborhood.

Williams said that, like the rainbow was a promise of God's everlasting presence after the Flood, the All Souls effort is a sign that "God hasn't gone away and God's people haven't gone away."

Read it all.

Day 2

Updated, revised, corrected

A very partial account of the second day of the House of Bishops meeting based on conversations with three persons present in the meetings:

Today the House of Bishops heard from members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

The speakers included Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis, Jerusalem and the Middle East, whose presentation was leaked to conservative bloggers and is available here, Chancellor Philippa Amable of West Africa, Bishop James Tengatenga of Central Africa, Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia.

Anis was the most confrontational. The bishops we spoke with were depressed by his presentation because it contrasted so sharply with the flexibility expressed in private conversation by other members of the delegation.

Ms. Amable, who attended the recent conference of African and Episcopal bishops convened by Trinity Church Wall Street in Spain, spoke, among others things, about the profound differences between American and west African cultures. She told the bishops that heterosexual monogamy was the “norm” and that they had to realize that the majority of the Primates did not “resonate” to the views of the Episcopal Church.

After Bishop Tengatenga’s presentation, Archbishop Aspinall reviewed the contents of the Dar es Salaam communique. Archbishop Morgan spoke about the breadth of beliefs and practices regarding human sexuality in Wales, and said the Episcopal Church was not alone in struggling with this issue.

One bishop we spoke with said a member of the Joint Standing Committee had offered a private apology for Archbishop Anis’ remarks.

All three of the people we spoke with said the mood of the bishops after the morning session was glum because most of the speakers seemed to be pushing them toward an either or choice between conscience and unity.

But Archbishop Rowan Williams, at an early afternoon press conference, suggested there was room for compromise:

“Despite what has been claimed, there is no ‘ultimatum’ involved. The primates asked for a response by September 30 simply because we were aware that this was the meeting of the house likely to be formulating such a response. The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week. After this I shall be sharing what they say, along with my own assessments, with the primates and others, inviting their advice in the next couple of weeks.

Williams also said that it was only natural that there would be a variety interpretations of the communiqué among the 38 Primates of the Communion, but that he did not read it as a set of demands, and that he did not see September 30 as a “deadline.”

(I suggested that the deadline had "lost some of its luster" in an article published on Monday.)

I am not certain about this, but I believe the deadline for submitting resolutions to be considered on Monday was at 4 or 5 p. m. Central time. There are numerous resolutions to be considered, and the Presiding Bishop and the leaders of the House may find it challenging to do them all justice. As one bishop said: This is a big sandbox and everybody has brought their favorite toys.

Piecing it together

The House of Bishops is preparing to receive the resolutions from the drafting committee. Bishop Wayne Wright of Delaware is currently reading the first of two documents. The document he is reading doesn't contain the "response" to the Anglican Communion. I will be adding to this file as I receive more information from friends and colleagues in New Orleans.

Bishop Jefferts Schori is preparing to read the response, but currently Bishop Jenkins is reading a resolution on racism.

Episcope is live blogging.

House of Bishops: stories and reactions

Updated at 9:15 p.m.
Updated at 12:00 a.m.

The first set of stories and responses are beginning to appear.

Rachel Zoll of AP in the first of several stories she will file writes:

Episcopal leaders, pressured to roll back their support for gays to keep the world Anglican family from crumbling, affirmed Tuesday that they will "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop.

The bishops also pledged not to approve an official prayer for blessing same-gender couples and insisted a majority of bishops do not allow priests to bless the couples in their parishes.


It's all here.

Stephen Bates of the Guardian writes:

A slender lifeline was offered to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his attempt to keep the worldwide Anglican communion intact, when Episcopal bishops pledged at a meeting in New Orleans yesterday to maintain a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and authorising blessings services for gay couples.

While the statement may satisfy parts of the Anglican communion, and just be enough for the archbishop to sell to other church provinces, it was being dismissed last night by conservative evangelicals as inadequate.

Read him here.

AFP, meanwhile, has gotten the story entirely wrong. The Times-Picayune also gets it wrong, I think, although less egregiously so. It's just that Bruce Nolan writes as though he knows the mind of the Primates regarding our response. And I don't think the Primates know it themselves yet.

Reuters has quotes from Bishops Gene Robinson and Bruce MacPherson who are in surprising agreement.

The New York Times is saying Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church's Orders:

Bishops of the Episcopal Church on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the Episcopal Church itself.

The article relies on Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina and Martyn Minns, a bishop in the Nigerian church, for its slant on the news. It does quote Episcopal Cafe's Jim Naughton for a different point of view.


Click "Read more" to see Integrity's statement, which includes:

The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate's demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

Read more »

Tobias Haller, to no one's surprise

Sometimes in trying to figure out what one thinks, one comes across someone who has already thought it.

The Joint Standing Committee Report: some flashpoints

Our nominations for the passages of The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion Report on The Episcopal Church House of Bishops of Meeting in New Orleans include:

On same-sex blessings
(page 6 of the pdf):

The Episcopal Church has acknowledged in the past, however, that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions”. In answer to the way in which this resolution was understood in the Windsor Report, it has been said that this statement was to be understood descriptively of a reality current in 2003 and not as permissive, and the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion prior to the 75th General Convention (2006) specifically denied that it was intended to authorise such rites.

It needs to be made clear however that we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action, a qualification which is in line with the limits that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church places upon the bishops.

On this basis, we understand the statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans to have met the request of the Windsor Report in that the Bishops have declared “a moratorium on all such public Rites”19, and the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that the bishops should “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses” since we have their pledge explicitly in those terms.

The interpretation of the phrase: "the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority" will be hotly disputed. Does that constitute a prohibition? Is it opaque on purpose? Note also the phrase "On this basis" at the beginning of the last paragraph in the quotation.

Conclusion to Part One
(page 9)

By their answers to these two questions, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.

Obviously the breakaway right and the Primates aligned with Akinola will dispute this. Will others join them?

Regarding incursions by Primates of other provinces
(Page 11--the second sentence):

At Dar es Salaam, the primates sought to address these matters by proposing that The Episcopal Church turn to a particular group of bishops living and ministering within its life, who had publicly declared that they accepted both the standard of teaching expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and were unreservedly committed to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. In other words, the primates were indicating to those who felt alienated from the leadership of The Episcopal Church that there were identifiable bishops within The Episcopal Church able to meet the needs identified by the groups seeking alternative pastoral provision without the need for “foreign intervention”.

A pretty straightforward repudiation of the Peter Akinola/Henry Orombi/Benjamin Nzimbi/Emmanuel Kolini incursions that won't sit well on the separatist right.

Support for Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's "episcopal visitors"
(Pages 11 and 12)

In her opening remarks to the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori indicated to the assembled bishops that she had appointed eight Episcopal Visitors. ... We believe that these initiatives offer a viable basis on which to proceed. Bishop Jefferts Schori indicated that she deliberately left open and flexible the operation of the ministry of the Episcopal Visitors, believing that it was best for the visitor and the diocesan bishop concerned to work out an acceptable scheme. The Presiding Bishop laid down only two conditions: first, that such Episcopal visitors did not encourage dioceses or parishes to leave the Episcopal Church, and second, that the Episcopal Visitors would report occasionally to the Presiding Bishop. By leaving this ministry flexible for negotiation and development, we believe that the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties, could meet their needs.

Another blow to separatists.

Law suits
(page 12):

We are dismayed as a Joint Standing Committee by the continuing use of the law courts in this situation, and request that the Archbishop of Canterbury use his influence to persuade parties to discontinue actions in law on the basis set out in the primates’ Communiqué.

A plea unlikely to be heard by either side, except when there is a tactical advantage in appearing to be the more peaceable party.

The Pastoral Council Scheme from Dar es Salaam is dead, but the Panel of Reference may be resurrected.
(page 13):

We believe that the House of Bishops is correct in identifying that the co-operation and participation of the wider Communion, in a way which respects the integrity of the American Province, is an important element in addressing questions of pastoral oversight for those seeking alternative provision. We also believe that a body which could facilitate such consultation and partnership would meet the intent of the Pastoral Council envisaged by the Primates in their Communiqué. We encourage all the Instruments of Communion to participate in a discussion with the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of The Episcopal Church to discern a way in which to meet both the intentions behind the proposals in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué and this statement by the House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury may wish to revisit the work and mandate of “The Panel of Reference” and to explore whether this body, or a reconstituted version of it, may have a part to play in this respect.

It is difficult to believe that the Committee sees potential in the PofR, which is disliked and mistrusted by left and right. The acknowledgment that the Pastoral Council Scheme, foisted on the world by the Anglican Communion Institute violated the integrity of a member province of the Communion is most welcome, however.

The flashpoint among flashpoints as far as the separatists are concerned
Page 14

As a Joint Standing Committee, we do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them.

"In good conscience" is very, very strong language. And not to put too fine a point on it, on Page 15, the Committee quotes the previous Archbishop of Canterbury George's Carey who wrote that the bishops consecrated for the Anglican Mission in America during his tenure were no bishops of the Anglican Communion, and in the following paragraph adds:

The current instances of consecrations which have been taking place in African Provinces with respect to “missionary initiatives” in North America would seem to fall into the same category. We understand that, in addition to contravening the authorities quoted above, the consecrations took place either without consultation with or even against the counsel of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

That's enough for now. There is ample language in this document to trouble proponents of the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the sacramental life of the Church as well. More on that tomorrow.

Update: one member of the Joint Standing Committee who disagrees with this report has made his voice heard. Is it maybe just a little curious that Bishop Mouneer Anis could not get his comments to the writers of the Standing Committee report in time for inclusion, but was able to get them into the hands of the Times of London two hours after the report was published?

The big push?

The Anglican Scotist analyzes the Campaign to Frighten Rowan (CaFRow) currently being conducted by the Anglican right. Bishop Michael Nazir Ali is the latest campaigner to issue a most likely empty threat to "boycott" the Lambeth Conference. The campaign is foundering, however. Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in African rebuffed Archbishop Peter Akinola's attempt to organize a continent-wide boycott at their recent meeting, and some bishops from Akinola's own province, the Church of Nigeria, have already accepted their invitations.

The Scotist's prediction:

[W]hether they leave soon for a new communion of their own devising, or waffle and wrangle some more--and it seems to me this type of pressure will continue as long as it can be ginned up by the usual suspects--this is the high-water mark. The big bombs yet to fall--Fort Worth and others trying to leave--will not yield the hoped for results, separation and replacement, because there isn't sufficient support in the [Church of England], as that would require being willing to split the CoE: the quitters becoming disestablished. The big bombs will fall in all likelihood, and there will be a big crash, but that will not qualitatively shift the situation.

Clarifying Archbishop Williams' letter to Bishop Howe

A response received via email from the Lambeth press office to the discussions around the Bishop Howe emails:

"It should be understood that the Archbishop's response to Bishop Howe was neither a new policy statement nor a roadmap for the future but a plain response to a very urgent and particular question about clergy in traditionalist dioceses in TEC who want to leave TEC for other jurisdictions, a response reiterating a basic presupposition of what the Archbishop believes to be the theology of the Church.

The primary point was that - theologically and sacramentally speaking - a priest is related in the first place to his/her bishop directly, not through the structure of the national church; that structure serves the dioceses. The diocese is more than a 'local branch' of a national organisation. Dr Williams is clear that, whatever the frustration with the national church, priests should think very carefully about leaving the fellowship of a diocese. The provincial structure is significant, not least for the administration of a uniform canon law and a range of practical functions; Dr Williams is not encouraging anyone to ignore this, simply to understand the theological priorities which have been articulated in a number of ecumenical agreements, and in the light of this not to increase the level of confusion and fragmentation in the church."

Previous discussion of the letter is here

Episcopal Life is reporting here.

The Living Church reports here.

Archbishop Williams on misunderstanding religion

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are in the news as much as, if not more than, Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson lately. The Archbishop of Canterbury examined this surge of antireligiosity in a recent lecture, held Oct. 13 at Swansea University in a response to Dawkin's position, which he summarizes neatly.

He quotes Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, noting Prince Mishkin's statement that the atheist always seems to be talking about something else. (I should add, having had some run-ins with a past president of American Atheists at my few speaking engagements, that the Princess Bride quote "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means," can also often apply when Atheists paint with too broad a brush.)

Williams said:

think that Prince Mishkin’s response is one that a great many of religious believers are likely to feel when they pick up the works of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens or any of those prominent critics of religious faith in our own day. We may feel as we turn the pages that ‘this is not it’ whatever the religion is being attacked here it’s not actually what I believe in. And along with that instinctive response of not recognizing, there may also be a touch of, let’s say, resentment at somebody trying to tell us what we really mean. (Because as we all know there are few things more annoying than somebody else saying ‘I know what you mean’!) More seriously, that is one of those features of a certain kind of exercise of power which is itself open to moral challenge.

Simon Barrow, an Ekklesia editor writing at his other blog, Faith in Society, attempts to highlight one element of the speech (noting that such an attempt is folly because of how the Archbishop structures his sermons), and in so doing, gets to the heart of the criticisms that atheists often level at faith--and, implicitly, at people of faith. We are often dismissed as, at best, eccentric, and at worst, irrational and incapable of self-determination. This, says Williams, is a fundamental flaw that undermines the entire debate:


We have no obvious knock-down arguments. But we say to the critic ‘look at how the focal practices of religion – not seen as survival strategy or explanation - as they actually exist. Look at how they work to create self-questioning and trust. That self-questioning and trust may be going forward on a truthful basis or not. No external force is going to settle that for us. But before writing off the religious enterprise watch, watch what happens as persons of faith grow in these habits of self-questioning and trust; in the understanding of what the Christian would undoubtedly call justification by faith.

Self-questioning and trust are not peculiar to religious people. Just as impressive moral integrity is not – God knows – the preserve of religious people. But for the secularist, for the systematic critic of religion, moral integrity, self-inspection, fundamental trust must either be reduced to a personal option (I do this because I choose to do this) or it must be reduced to another form of survival strategy. And some of the problems with that, I’ve already touched upon. The religious believer says in contrast, that moral integrity, self-inspection, honesty, openness and trust are styles of living which communicate the character of an eternal and free agency, the agency that most religions call God. Agree or disagree, is what I would want to say to our contemporary critics, but at least grasp that that is what is being claimed and talked about. Don’t distract us from the real arguments by assuming that religion is an eccentric survival strategy or an irrational form of explanation.

Archbishop Williams entire speech is here, alas without decent paragraph breaks, but worth reading nonetheless. And a hat tip to Simon at Faith in Society for bringing it up in the first place and his commentary, which you can find here.

Rowan Williams under quick burst attack

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is under attack for statements he made about America and the war in Iraq. A stream of criticism has come in comments by Americans to the Sunday Times website. But much of the attack is based on the misleading Sunday Times headline, and one particularly misleading selective quotation from an article in Emel based on an interview with the archbishop. The Lead first pointed to the Sunday Times article and the Emel article here. As was observed there in a comment,

The tragic thing about The Sunday Times report is the way it distorts what the archbishop says - and leaves him appearing to be ignorant of basic distinctions in the American political landscape.

For example, ...

1) The Sunday Times writes, He said the crisis was caused not just by America’s actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the “chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity”.

2) Emel writes, Christian Zionists support the return of Jews to Israel because they believe the second coming of Jesus will not occur until all Jews are in Israel. The Archbishop is scathing, accusing them of being connected to “the chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity.”

Stephen Bates writing in The Guardian today:
The archbishop's criticism of Christian Zionism - the fundamentalist movement, particularly in the US, which supports the Jewish homeland of Israel because it sees it as a fulfilment of biblical prophesy - was transcribed by the [Sunday Times] newspaper as a more general criticism.
...
The remarks were immediately seized upon by US conservatives, scathing of the archbishop for his attempts to hold the worldwide Anglican communion together in its internecine struggle over the place of homosexuals in the church, as they attempt to wrest control of the US Episcopal church from its liberal leadership.
Ekklesia today: Archbishop of Canterbury Dr
Rowan Williams has found himself at the centre of an unexpected row, following cautious remarks to a Muslim magazine, after a Sunday newspaper construed it as an all-out attack on the US and the BBC gave neocon hard-liner John Bolton free rein to attack him this morning.
...
The Sunday Times chose to interpret the interview as an assualt on the United States as the "worst" imperialist nation, an accusation not made in the interview.

Meanwhile, John Bolton, a former US ambassador known for his extreme neocon views, launched a vitriolic attack on the archbishop and all critics of the US-led war on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He called Dr Williams' comments "incoherent", said that there "was a good reason that the Anglican church does not declare its leaders infallible" and invited the archbishop to "concentrate on his day job".

Mr Bolton had been given the opportunity to plug his new book on Iraq and related issues. Unchallenged by any opposing viewpoint, he called for the selective bombing of Iran over the nuclear installations row.

British military chaplains serving in Iraq are among those criticizing the archbishop.

Among the American professional pundits criticizing the archbishop are Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn.

See also the coverage by The New York Sun.

The Archbishop and the war

The blogosphere continues to debate the interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury with Emel, a Muslim lifestyle magazine published by The Times Online. Archbishop Rowan Williams remarks were covered in an earlier article by The Lead here.

Andrew Brown in The Guardian comments on how the Archbishop has managed to offend both liberals and conservatives in the U.S.

To say that the British Empire was a better model of imperialism than what the Americans have done in Iraq is absolutely guaranteed to offend almost everyone in the US, whether or not they oppose the war. It is a remark made more forgivable because it's something that almost everyone in Britain has thought. In context, there is nothing to argue with about what he said: to smash the country up and then abandon it is "the worst of all possible worlds." This was the conventional wisdom even among the liberal hawks before the war started. It is horrible bad luck on Rowan that the one time he says something that could command wide support, it is presented as a gaffe; but it is luck he has made for himself.

The Anglican Scotist blog offers 5 questions for those who would be a critic of the Archbishop. The hard hitting questions ask about Just War and participation in the Eucharist of those who commit violent acts.

Hopefully, all who comment on the Emel interview with Rowan Williams will read the actual article before writing. But perhaps bloggers would not want to be confused by the facts before putting forth an opinion.

Archbishop Says

Reading the newspapers Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, may wonder if his last name has been changed to Says as in Archbishop Says. In the Roman Catholic Church there was a cardinal by the name of Cardinal Sin, but Sin was his family name.

Williams objects to the notion that as leader of the Anglican Communion and the state church he must speak on every moral issue or every issue confronting the church. In an interview in 2006 he said,

Leadership is - is, to me, a very, very murky and complicated concept. Often, as I - I think I've said before, what people mean when they say leadership is making - making the right noises, affirming a particular set of views, convictions or even prejudices. It doesn't always have very much to do with how you make a difference. And I think the question I always find myself asking of myself is: will a pronouncement here or a statement there actually move things on, or is it something that makes me feel better and other people feel better, but doesn't necessary contribute very much?
...
What I mean I think is that why doesn't the Archbishop condemn X, Y, Z? Because that's what Archbishops do, you know, they condemn things, they - they make statements usually negative or condemnatory statements. And I - I just wonder a bit whether, you know, when an Archbishop condemns something, suddenly in, I don't know, the bedsits of north London, somebody may say oh, I shouldn't be having pre-marital sex, or in the cells of Al-Qaida, somebody says, goodness, terrorism's wrong, the Archbishop says so.
...
Again, what is or - or should be said in public is something I would - see previous remarks - weigh very carefully, what actually moves things on [in the divisions in the church]. I don't believe that all of this should necessarily be conducted on the internet, as some do.

Andrew Brown noted yesterday at The Guardian blog: "He has remained friendly with individual journalists, but he talks to the press in public and on the record as little as he can. Even so, he can't quite rid himself of the belief that somewhere out there he will find a sympathetic interviewer with whom he can talk without being overheard by malevolent idiots." In another recent post Brown criticized the archbishop for appearing to be aloof to divisions in the church and, more specifically, recent "statements by conservative primates in Africa and South America have made it clear that they mean to continue with the policy of planting and extending their churches in the US."

Giles Fraser sees it differently:

[The archbishop] wants us to slow things down, to resist the frantic fascism of the diary. He calls on us to fight back with a battery of practices: art, prayer, holidays. Not art to make us more sophisticated; not prayer to lobby God; not holidays to get us ready for yet more work - for all this is to render them in overly functional terms, as if they always must have some further purpose.


Tobias Haller asks though
whether the archbishop hasn't confused pontification with communication:

I am beginning to wonder if what we have here may be a failure to communicate. I am not the first to note the vagueness of Rowan-speak, which coupled with the Archbishop's stated view that he is not in charge and cannot give unilateral direction, may lead to misunderstandings.

For instance, I can imagine a conversation in which Venables [Archbishop of the Southern Cone], noting that the Primatial Oversight Plan favored by Williams had failed to fly, suggested he might, on his own, extend the right hand and crozier of primatial fellowship to disaffected dioceses or parishes northward beyond the Cone. I can then imagine Williams saying this was well within his range of action -- not intending approval, but merely observing that there was no Anglican InterPol to stop it -- which Venables then took to be a positive encouragement rather than a neutral statement of fact.

A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.

Over the Thanksgiving holidays in the United States there was a major news story out of Lambeth. Williams wrote "to Anglican Communion Primates and members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) with a summary of their individual responses to the outcome of September House of Bishops meeting of the Episcopal Church." See The Lead's coverage here. In the words of the ACNS press release the archbishop's "own reflections in his (annual) Advent Letter to the Primates in the coming weeks." Perhaps that is when the church will hear what the archbishop says blessing border crossings.

Canterbury Cross II

As was noted in The Lead back in August, there's an ironically named image on the homepage of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It's been there since the image of the TIME magazine cover of the archbishop went up on his homepage. Follow the link to the homepage above and hover your mouse over the image. Or, if that doesn't work for you, follow this link to a static popup image of the homepage.

The subliminal message? It could be that the Archbishop of Canterbury is cross with his flock. Or it could be that his homepage needs some sprucing up and updating; notice that if you follow the link titled "Archbishop Williams and current events" you get information from events in 2004, 2003, and 2002 but nothing more recent.

And is anyone else bothered by the way the left margin on some of the pages follows you as scroll down? I find it a distracting gadget. Here's an example:
http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/releases/index.html.
Click and scroll to see the dizzying effect.

Archbishop in Singapore

Remarks of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams at the opening session of the 6th Building Bridges Seminar in Singapore, National University of Singapore, 4th December 2007

One of the most distinctive things about these seminars has been the experience of sharing the study of each other’s sacred text. Because when that happens, I meet the other person not as a scholar, not as the representative of some alien set of commitments, but as someone seeking to open their mind and their heart to the self communication of God. And to meet another person in that light and in that way is to meet them at a very deep level. That is how we have sought to approach our business and that has been, I am sure participants in the seminar would agree, a distinctive aspect of how we work together. We’ve not sought to issue communiqués or come to conclusions but to inform ourselves and to ask God to help us grow through the experience of meeting, in trust – and perhaps a very ambitious trust – that as we seek to grow and to learn and to open our minds and hearts to God then something around us will begin to shift and develop as well in the various contexts in which we work.

YouTube video is expected later.

See, also, the transcript of his press conference. An excerpt:

Reporter: I personally don’t see the link; how does religion come in with the environment? What are you expecting to hear?

Archbishop Oh, very much so; religious people believe that our physical environment is created by God and therefore deserves respect. The question is ‘how do we relate to our material environment in such a way that we display justice and reverence towards it?’ That’s a profoundly religious issue and without that dimension then our dealing with the ecological crisis will be thinner and much less adequate.

On the environment, there also this separate story: European Church leaders deplore missed environmental opportunities‏.

Rowan Williams on why social cohesion needs religion

Press release from Canterbury. An excerpt:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has given a wide-ranging lecture today in Singapore, at the Building Bridges Conference. In his lecture Dr Williams discusses the position of the “absolute truths” of faith over and above political power, and how this plays out in a society where several faiths co-exist.... Dr Williams argues strongly against the idea that religious diversity is at odds with social cohesion, but conversely, that it can help strengthen social harmony – if governments are willing to listen to the views of the faith communities....

The full text of the lecture can be found here.

For some excerpts from his address click "read more."

The British press has largely ignored the Building Bridges Conference. Ironically a major story today involves the death threats against a British Imam's daughter because she converted to Christianity.

One wonders whether the analysis can be turned and applied upon the Anglican Communion. Can those who hold what they believe are irreconcilable truth claims to others co-exist in the communion? Can that diversity create cohesion in the communion? Are those who hold conflicting beliefs about the truth secure enough in their beliefs to stay in communion with the other? And can our perception of truth change or must it stay the same as what someone says has always been the mind of God?

Read more »

ABC did not endorse actions of Southern Cone

Just in:

"Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not in any way endorsed the actions of the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, in his welcoming of dioceses, such as San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church, to become part of his province in South America," a spokesman for the Anglican Communion said.
(Via email from The Rev. Canon Dr. James M. Rosenthal, Anglican Communion Office, Director of Communications.)

An update: Apparently Archbishop Venables may soon issue a clarification of his own saying that he was never under the impression that he had the Archbishop of Canterbury's blessing to act as he did.

It isn't clear where that leaves the claims of Ruth Gledhill of the Times of London and Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia, both of whom have said that Williams characterized Venables' actions as "sensible."

Rowan Williams quits work at 6 p.m. to be with family

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, stops work at 6pm so he can watch The Simpsons with his family. He is more afraid of what his wife Jane thinks than he is of the editor of The Daily Mail according to an interview in Oi Magazine which will be out on December 16. Update: The full interview is here.

A preview of the interview is found in the Times Online UK.

And he confessed that although at £60,000 a year he earns less than a headteacher, he enjoys his job - “at least the non-political side of things.” This is because he is passionate about the environment and likes meeting people.

Holly Mounter, 15, described the teenage fear of not being good enough and asked Dr Williams if he ever felt the same.

Dr Williams replied: “Yes often. It’s not an easy job. I have everyone judging me and many people thinking that the decisions I make are stupid. My teenage daughter thinks I’m every kind of idiot there is.

“There are two things that keep me going though and my family are one of them. Having support and love from those closest to me is hugely important. God is my other source of strength. He’s always there for me, even if he thinks I’m an idiot too.

Mylie Veitch, 18, asked him his views on a gay friend of hers who is considering adopting with his partner.

Dr Williams said: “This is a big one. I have questions as to whether same sex couples can provide the same stability as ‘normal parents’. I have no answers really, just questions.

“Many would argue that we need a balance of men and women to bring a child up. However, I have seen one fantastic example of same sex parenting first hand and I suppose stability is another key consideration.”

Asked about his support for gay clergy, he replied: “I have no problem with gay clergy who aren’t in relationships, although there are savage arguments about the issue you might have heard about. Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the Bible, gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practicing homosexual relationships don’t. This major question doesn’t have a quick fix solution and I imagine will be debated for many years to come.”


Read about the interview here.

Rowan Williams on the message of Christmas

From the website of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Archbishop's Christmas words of wisdom

12th December 2007

The Archbishop gave the following message today on the Chris Evans show on BBC Radio 2:

“One of the main things that Christmas means to me is that God actually likes the company of human beings, God starts living a human life in the middle of the world when the life of Jesus begins, and that suggests that as the Bible says - God actually loves the world, he likes to be with us, he likes us to be with him. And what flows from that for Christians, is the sense that human beings are just colossally worthwhile. God thought they were worth spending a lifetime with and all that spills over into how we see all kinds of human beings; the ones we don’t like or the ones we don’t reckon very much, the ones we don’t take very seriously. But they are all to be taken very seriously, they are all to be loved. And so Christmas, as I see it, is the very beginning of that sense of huge human dignity in all the people around us, and that’s what I think we are celebrating, that is the most important thing. I hope everyone listening has a very happy Christmas.”

The Advent Letter we've all been awaiting

Anglican Communion News Service
Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter

Posted On : December 14, 2007 12:05 PM | Posted By : Webmaster
Related Categories: Lambeth
To: Primates of the Anglican Communion & Moderators of the United Churches

Greetings in the name of the One 'who is and was and is to come, the Almighty', as we prepare in this Advent season to celebrate once more his first coming and pray for the grace to greet him when he comes in glory.

You will by now, I hope, have received my earlier letter summarising the responses from Primates to the Joint Standing Committee's analysis of the New Orleans statement from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. In that letter, I promised to write with some further reflections and proposals, and this is the purpose of the present communication. Although I am writing in the first instance to my fellow-primates, I hope you will share this letter widely with your bishops and people.

As I said in that earlier letter, the responses received from primates differed in their assessment of the situation. Slightly more than half of the replies received signalled a willingness to accept the Joint Standing Committee's analysis of the New Orleans statement, but the rest regarded both the statement and the Standing Committee's comments as an inadequate response to what had been requested by the primates in Dar-es-Salaam.

So we have no consensus about the New Orleans statement. It is also the case that some of the more negative assessments from primates were clearly influenced by the reported remarks of individual bishops in The Episcopal Church who either declared their unwillingness to abide by the terms of the statement or argued that it did not imply any change in current policies. It should be noted too that some of the positive responses reflected a deep desire to put the question decisively behind us as a Communion; some of these also expressed dissatisfaction with our present channels of discussion and communication.

2.

Where does this leave us as a Communion? Because we have no single central executive authority, the answer to this is not a simple one. However, it is important to try and state what common ground there is before we attempt to move forward; and it is historically an aspect of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury to 'articulate the mind of the Communion' in moments of tension and controversy, as the Windsor Report puts it (para. 109). I do so out of the profound conviction that the existence of our Communion is truly a gift of God to the wholeness of Christ's Church and that all of us will be seriously wounded and diminished if our Communion fractures any further; but also out of the no less profound conviction that our identity as Anglicans is not something without boundaries. What I am writing here is an attempt to set out where some of those boundaries lie and why they matter for our witness to the world as well as for our own integrity and mutual respect.

The Communion is a voluntary association of provinces and dioceses; and so its unity depends not on a canon law that can be enforced but on the ability of each part of the family to recognise that other local churches have received the same faith from the apostles and are faithfully holding to it in loyalty to the One Lord incarnate who speaks in Scripture and bestows his grace in the sacraments. To put it in slightly different terms, local churches acknowledge the same 'constitutive elements' in one another. This means in turn that each local church receives from others and recognises in others the same good news and the same structure of ministry, and seeks to engage in mutual service for the sake of our common mission.


Read it all here. Or click read more.

The archbishop also has a Christmas Letter to the Anglican Communion found here. An excerpt:

So at Christmas, God shows that he is not ashamed to be with us. He has heard our cries of weakness and self-doubt and unhappy longing, he has seen our wanderings and anxieties, and he is not ashamed to be alongside us in this world, walking with us in our pilgrimage. And because he is content to walk with us, we are challenged about whose company we might be ashamed to share.

Read more »

The press reads The Letter

Reporters had their hands full yesterday trying to figure out how to pull a "lede" out of the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter about the state of the Anglican Communion. He dumped cold water on everybody, so how to determine which side was wetter?

Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times played it this way:

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, sent a lengthy letter to the members of his warring Anglican Communion on Friday, saying that both sides had violated the Communion’s boundaries and put the church in crisis.

He criticized the American branch, the Episcopal Church, for departing from the Communion’s consensus on Scripture by ordaining an openly gay bishop and blessing same-sex unions, “in the name of the church.”

But the archbishop faulted conservative prelates in Africa, Asia and Latin America for annexing American parishes and an entire California diocese that have recently left the Episcopal Church, and for ordaining conservative Americans as bishops and priests.

Read it all.

Tom Heneghan of Reuters took a similar tack in his story headlined "No Anglican consensus."

Steve Bates of the Guardian, filling in for his successor, emphasized Williams' criticism of conservatives, while Ruth Gledhill looked at the other side of the coin. [Added: The unabridged version of Bates' article is here.]

Robert Barr of the Associated Press, meanwhile, focused on Williams' reiteration of his decision not to invite Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference.

Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph began with the warning that bishops who boycott the Lambeth conference could be excluded from senior counsels of the church.

Rebecca Trounson of the Los Angeles Times focused on the archbishop's call for mediation in view of the lack of consensus in the communion.

One thing I've picked up in conversations with reporters is how weary they are of covering this story, and what a difficult time they have in determining the significance of any given event. Many of them fervently wish the story would go away.

The legend of the Magi

Feeds are abuzz with reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury dismissed the tale of the gifts of the Magi as being mere legend. "Three wise men leading us astray" writes the Australian. Heck, the Telegraph heads the story with "Archbishop says nativity 'a legend'"—the whole nativity?

Fortunately, the Telegraph also makes available an (edited) transcript of the conversation Williams had with BBC Radio 5's Simon Mayo. When you read these comments, understand that they are in the context of the Archbishop explaining religious-themed Christmas cards—and indeed, the holiday itself—to people who "don't know where Bethlehem is ... have never heard of Mary and so on."

Mayo seems to be going through all the characters in the creche, with Williams responding with what he believes about each of those characters, and they get to the three wise men, and the following exchange takes place:

Mayo: And the wise men with the gold, frankincense, and Myrrh - with one of the wise men normally being black and the other two being white, for some reason?

ABC: Well Matthew's gospel doesn't tell us that there were three of them, doesn't tell us they were kings, doesn't tell us where they came from, it says they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. That's all we're really told so, yes, 'the three kings with the one from Africa' - that's legend; it works quite well as legend.

Not the whole nativity; not even the bit about the wise men—just pointing out that the bible doesn't say "three kings with the one from Africa."

You can read the whole (edited) transcript here.

About that letter

The recent rush of events in the Anglican Communion brought a premature end to discussion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent letter, but not before the Anglican Scotist weighed in. He finds it "good enough to work with," yet his essay is filled with cogent criticism:

Going over the Archbishop's latest missives, I found myself reading not with the expectation of cogency, but with respect for--even fear of--his power. Who reads or listens to the Archbishop with the expectation of finding a convincing line of reasoning or a persuasive articulation of some as-yet largley unseen picture?

What is important is rather that he wields an enormous amount of power with regard to both left and right, and whichever way the wind happens to tumble him about, he will end up having enormous influence. Whole provinces stand or fall, form or are finished off on the basis of what he says and does not say--and it seems his style of communicating has only intensified the spectacle of Communion-wide focus on his every nod and arched eyebrow.

What does the habit of such a focus do to a community? It is not as if there are principles to be found underneath the words that guide what he asserts with some formal argumentative force. The power of this office is wielded without a set of discernible reasons, but with great reliance on the relevance of the person of Williams and his contingencies, as well as a rhetoric of persuasion based on fear.

Read it all.

Archbishop's New Year message on YouTube

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams will broadcast his New Year's message on You Tube and on the BBC later today, following the lead of Queen Elizabeth II who released her Christmas message the same way.

Williams says that a sustainable approach to the environment also demonstrates important truths about God and the world. In his message, filmed in Canterbury Cathedral and in a nearby recycling center, Dr Williams links the exploitation of the environment with the abuse and waste of human relationships.

"In a society where we think of so many things as disposable; where we expect to be constantly discarding last year's gadget and replacing it with this year's model - do we end up tempted to think of people and relationships as disposable? Are we so fixated on keeping up with change that we lose any sense of our need for stability?"

"A lot of the time, we just don't let ourselves think about the future with realism. A culture of vast material waste and emotional short-termism is a culture that is a lot more fragile than it knows. How much investment are we going to put in towards a safer and more balanced future?"

God, he says, 'does not do waste' and does not regard human life as disposable:
"He doesn't regard anyone as a 'waste of space', as not worth his time - from the very beginnings of life to its end, whether they are successful, articulate, productive or not. And so a life that communicates a bit of what God is like, is a life that doesn't give up - that doesn't settle down with a culture of waste and disposability - whether with people, or with things."

The message will be seen on BBC 2 at 2030 GMT (3:30 pm EST) on New Year's eve and again on BBC 1 at midday (7 am, EST) on New Year's Day.

Read: Ekklesia: Williams' New Year message warns of a throwaway society

Two cheers for dithering

Andrew Brown writes:

Over the last few years, Dr Rowan Williams has sometimes looked criminally innocent ("The trouble with Rowan is that he's too damn Christian,") as one of his colleagues remarked; sometimes merely well-meaning but powerless; very occasionally he has looked as if he is working to an angelically cunning plan. This week has been a good week for the cunning plan interpretation. It is not that he has done anything - but his rigorous policy of inaction and delay has given his opponents an opportunity to fall apart which they have exploited to the full.

Read it all.

Towards a positive definition of Europe

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed for a "positive definition" of Europe that identifies the best of its history, faith and culture.

According to a report on the BBC News website, Dr Rowan Williams said most discussion on Europe focused on what it is not, rather than what it is.

"We need to understand some of the most basic things for which the word Europe stands when used positively," he urged.

He was speaking at Liverpool Cathedral during a visit to the city, which is European Capital of Culture 2008.

The Press Association carries this summary:

In the speech, entitled Europe, Faith and Culture, he said that much discussion suggests people are better at saying what Europe is not, rather than identifying what it is.

Dr Williams said: "But we need from time to time to try and rescue a positive definition of some sort; which means a bit of history and a bit of political philosophy...

"We need to understand some of the most basic things for which the word Europe stands when it is used positively, we need some thinking about religion as well specifically about Christianity.

"And if the presence of Europe in the world hasn't been and isn't now exclusively a source of good things, it may be...we find the problems appear in proper perspective only when we've thought harder about these religious issues..."

He said that a way forward "from some of our world's most stale and destructive situations" could happen only when such work had been done.

Dr Williams said he was treating a great deal of what the US presented as its "unique contribution" to the world as derivative from certain trends which start in Europe.

He continued: "Grace Davie has written of the European exception in discussing the patterns of religious commitment and practice in our world.

"She is of course saying this in the light also of the statistically high level of religious practice in the USA; but I'd want to suggest that since religion in the USA is characterised by many deeply untraditional features, by a sort of market principle of maximum variety and choice, it is itself as untypical as Europe in the context of what the rest of the human race thinks about religion."

Read: BBC: Archbishop urges better EU focus

Read: The Press Association: Give Europe a chance - Archbishop

A link to the speech on the ABC's own website appears to be down. As soon as we know the site is up, we will link it here.

Archbishop Williams backs sharia law for British Muslims

Updated Thursday afternoon

David Batty of the Guardian writes: The Archbishop of Canterbury said today sharia law should be introduced in the UK for Muslims. Rowan Williams told BBC Radio 4's World at One the introduction of the controversial system of Islamic justice in the UK was "unavoidable".

Read the interview.

Batty continues:

Williams said his proposal would only work if sharia law was properly understood, rather than seen through the eyes of biased media reports.

He said he was not proposing the adoption of extreme interpretations of sharia law practiced in some repressive regimes.

"Nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states," he said.

The BBC's own coverage includes this:

"There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some other aspects of religious law."

Dr Williams adds: "What we don't want either, is I think, a stand-off, where the law squares up to people's religious consciences."

"We don't either want a situation where, because there's no way of legally monitoring what communities do... people do what they like in private in such a way that that becomes another way of intensifying oppression inside a community."

The Times of London features a column on whether the teachings of Islam can be reconciled to the existing laws of the United Kingdom.

Thursday afternoon update

The lecture is here.

Ruth Gledhill asks "Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?"

What was said and what was heard

Last week, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams found himself at the center of controversy over a lecture and interview about the relationship between Muslim religious law and British civil law. Most of the reaction against the Archbishop's words have assumed that he came out in favor of the inclusion of sharia law into British civil law, including the notion that there would be some parallel jurisdiction that would separate Muslims from the rest of British society.

Now that the dust has settled, here is a summary of what the Archbishop actually said, some of the analysis of the speech and some of the reactions to it.

Francis Gibb of the Times of London summarizes his speech:

Dr Williams said that it “seems unavoidable” that some aspects of Sharia would be adopted in Britain. He urged that the law do more to accommodate the religious convictions and practices of other faith groups....

Sharia is controversial in the West because – as the Archbishop put it – it calls up “all the darkest images of Islam”. He added: “What most people think they know of Sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments,” such as stoning, flogging and amputation.

Timing is another factor: his comments come during heightened tensions over fundamentalist Islam’s link with terrorism, along with growing concern that English law, influenced by political correctness, is bending over to favour or accommodate minority ethnic beliefs, practices and sensitivities in a way that it would not for mainstream Christian ones.

The complaints with the Archbishop's words boil down to three main types of arguments: there are those who are troubled by the Archbishop's words because of the human rights issues implicit in the application of sharia law in some cultures, particularly for women. Others are concerned that these proposals will not promote cohesion in the culture but instead exacerbate separations already perceived in British culture. Still others believe that the ideas (further) undermine the essential "Britishness" of the culture.

The Archbishop said in his lecture:

To recognise sharia is to recognise a method of jurisprudence governed by revealed texts rather than a single system. In a discussion based on a paper from Mona Siddiqui at a conference last year at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, the point was made by one or two Muslim scholars that an excessively narrow understanding sharia as simply codified rules can have the effect of actually undermining the universal claims of the Qur'an....

He says that individuals should be free to “choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters”, which may include “aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution”. He cites areas of Orthodox Jewish practice, which is the best example for what he seems to have in mind. The Beth Din is a Jewish court that mediates on a range of disputes within the Orthodox community. Sharia councils do the same but they are not formalised or recognised as the Beth Din is. Nor could decisions be taken without regard to the laws of the land. Dr Williams accepts this: people opting into such a forum for the resolution of their dispute cannot be denied the wider rights claimed by others in society, regardless of faith, or punish its members for claiming those rights....

Reactions and analysis may be found at Thinking Anglicans here, here , here ,here and finally here. Previous stories on the Lead are found here and here.

So what happened between the Archbishop's words and the reaction?

The Archbishop himself anticipates the problem:

Among the manifold anxieties that haunt the discussion of the place of Muslims in British society, one of the strongest, reinforced from time to time by the sensational reporting of opinion polls, is that Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law. And what most people think they know of sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments; just a few days ago, it was reported that a 'forced marriage' involving a young woman with learning difficulties had been 'sanctioned under sharia law' – the kind of story that, in its assumption that we all 'really' know what is involved in the practice of sharia, powerfully reinforces the image of – at best – a pre-modern system in which human rights have no role. The problem is freely admitted by Muslim scholars. 'In the West', writes Tariq Ramadan in his groundbreaking Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, 'the idea of Sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam...It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word' (p.31).

And, as the Economist summarizes, the Williams observations about public perception came true--in response to the Archbishop's own words:

“What a burkha” declared the Sun newspaper, alongside a picture of a head-covered figure making a rude gesture. To judge by the tone of the British press (and not only the tabloid press), the Archbishop—who is also the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, numbering 80m people—might have been advocating the mandatory covering of every female British head, plus the instant introduction of amputation, whipping and stoning for the most trivial misdemeanours.

Outside of the immediate negative reaction to the speech or reports of it, it seems that the conventional wisdom is that the Archbishop, while making important points and proposing an interesting approach, was insensitive to the nuances of communicating complex ideas in the current media climate. The Economist continues:

How could one speech have united against him the liberals, the conservatives, most Muslims, most Christians, all secularists, all the political parties, everyone who only read the headlines, and almost everyone who read beyond the headlines of the lecture he gave? Could any common idiot have written it?

There are people at Lambeth Palace who could have told Williams what the headlines were going to say this morning. My understanding is that some of them did, but he thought he knew better.

Andrew Brown of the Guardian says:

It is all very well for the archbishop to explain that he does not want the term "sharia" to refer to criminal punishments, but for most people that's what the word means: something atavistic, misogynistic, cruel and foreign. It is the Death of a Princess, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the hangings in Iran and the stonings in Afghanistan. It is the law which locks up middle-aged primary teachers for allowing their classes to name a teddy bear Muhammad. To the British media a demand for sharia is a demand to "behead those who insult Islam". A failure to understand this simple matter of modern English usage should cost someone his job.

And Gibb of the Times wrote:

Another reason is that Dr Williams, a highly erudite man, expresses his thoughts in nuanced and complex language that is not easily accessible and open to widespread misunderstanding. Many commentators are unclear exactly what he said, and even those who attended his lecture agreed that they would have to go away to digest its contents.

Ruth Gledhill of the Times offers an analysis that says the intellectual climate inside Lambeth contributes to a situation where they see the reaction to speech not as a crisis but as a misunderstanding.

Dr Williams was advised before his speech on Thursday evening that the content could prove controversial. He heeded the warnings but went ahead anyway. He was “taken aback” by just how controversial it then proved but remains “chirpy” and unrepentant about his comments because he believes that they needed to be made.

Although he is a holy and spiritual man, danger lies in the appearance of the kind of intellectual arrogance common to many of Britain’s liberal elite. It is an arrogance that affords no credibility or respect to the popular voice. And although this arrogance, with the assumed superiority of the Oxbridge rationalist, is not shared by his staff at Lambeth Palace, it is by some of those outside Lambeth from whom he regularly seeks counsel.

Neither the Archbishop nor his staff regard his speech as mistaken. They are merely concerned that it has been misunderstood.

The BBC , the Telegraph and the Times all report that some people want Williams to step down either because they disagree with what he said or believe that he has irrevocably damaged his ability to lead.

Others, including Williams' predecessor Lord Carey (writing, strangely enough, in the News of the World) don't believe he should resign even as they say that the speech was problematic.

There has been a call in other quarters for people to calm down and actually read the Archbishop's words. Cartoonist and Blogger Dave Walker started a Facebook group called "The Archbishop of Canterbury is a good man." Walker writes:

If like me you believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been treated remarkably unfairly by certain sections of the media in the last few days then why not, if you are on Facebook, join this group, entitled ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury is a good man’.

Joining the group affirms that you believe:
1) The media has misinterpreted the spirit of what Dr Williams was talking about in his lecture
2) As an intellectual, and a spiritual leader, Dr Williams should feel free to express a carefully considered opinion.
3) That Dr Williams is one of the most gifted minds in Britain, and his views should be given careful consideration.

As of this writing, the group has already attracted 300 members.

This week, Archbishop Williams will face General Synod to further clarify his speech and try to get back to work to leading the Church of England and unifying the Anglican Communion.

Communion is more than housekeeping

Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams was met with a standing ovation before he addressed the opening of the General Synod of the Church of England. He spoke about the recent controversy following his speech at Temple Church, and also about Lambeth, the situation in Zimbabwe and about the underlying importance of Communion.

He said:

...our mutuality in the Communion – and in communion itself – is not a matter of ecclesiastical housekeeping: it's also about helping one another to be the Church in any given place; that is, to be a community whose loyalties are to the Kingdom, not to any kind of cultural or political partisanship.

On the Sharia law speech:

Some of what has been heard is a very long way indeed from what was actually said in the Royal Courts of Justice last Thursday. But I must of course take responsibility for any unclarity in either that text or in the radio interview, and for any misleading choice of words that has helped to cause distress or misunderstanding among the public at large and especially among my fellow Christians . It's Lent, and one of the great penitential phrases of the Psalms will be in all our minds – 'Who can tell how oft he offendeth? Cleanse thou me from my secret faults'...But I believe quite strongly that it is not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues around the perceived concerns of other religious communities and to try and bring them into better public focus.

The Archbishop reiterated that he did not advocate a separate, parallel legal system for Muslims. The issue for him is to maintain the integrity of religious bodies in an increasingly secular age. The Archbishop summarized the issues behind his speech in this way:

...while there is no dispute about our common allegiance to the law of the land, that law still recognises that religious communities form the consciences of believers and has not pressed for universal compliance with aspects of civil law where conscientious matters are in question. However, there are signs that this cannot necessarily be taken quite so easily for granted as the assumptions of our society become more secular. I think we ought to keep an eye on this trend; and if we do, we shall have to do more thinking about the models of society and law we work with. It's an area where Christians and people of other faiths ought to be doing some reflecting together.

On Lambeth:

Williams held out the central role of the Lambeth Conference is to build Communion through building relationships among the Bishops.

The challenge has been to devise a structure for our time together that manages both to address the major issues and to refresh and inspire those who will attend. The twofold focus is equipping bishops for leadership and strengthening the identity and confidence of the communion. That's why there is less emphasis on subject-oriented large groups: the primary need will be to get to know each other sufficiently well to confront the divisive matters that are around, and so there will be a larger number of slightly smaller groups. Taking a leaf from the South African book, we're calling these extended indaba groups – the word used for community consultation and decision-making. And there will also be, as always, the Bible study groups, which have been in many previous conferences the most important element of all; their focus will be the Gospel of John – assisted by the commentary of one of the members of this Synod, Dr Richard Burridge, which has been printed in a special edition for the use of the conference. The hope is that many others in the Communion will share in meditation on this text in the months leading up to Lambeth.

He talked about the need to ground this process in prayer:

Some critics have complained that Lambeth is too focused on prayer and reflection and not enough on decision-making; but I am bound to say that I regard this as an extraordinary thing to say about any Christian gathering – as if we could make any decision worthy of the gospel without the utmost attention to listening together to God. I partly understand that some feel there may be an attempt to appeal to the need for prayer and reflection as an alibi for not grasping the nettles; but I would gently but firmly say that it is also possible to use a rhetoric about needing decisive action as an alibi for waiting on God.

In this context, the Covenant process will part of the discussion:

There will of course be extended discussion of the proposals around the Covenant which we shall be discussing in this Synod also. We shall have the opportunity of several plenary sessions but we are planning fewer resolutions; and we have invited a number of high-profile speakers from public life as well as from other Christian communions to address us.

He addressed the issue of some choosing not to attend because the disagree with others:

I respect the consciences of those who have said they do not feel able to attend because there will be those present who have in their view acted against the disciplinary and doctrinal consensus of the communion. Needless to say, I regret such a decision, since I believe we should be seeking God's mind for the Communion in prayer and study together; but it simply reminds us that even the most 'successful' Lambeth Conference leaves us with work still to be done in rebuilding relationships.

Finally, he spoke about the situation in Zimbabwe:

A history scarred by exploitation and deep racial injustice can all too easily be used, as it has been there, to turn aside every criticism and even to refuse any proper help when a local regime has fallen victim to its own incompetence, corruption and self-delusion. It has been that much harder for many in this country to know how to respond to the needs of Zimbabwe for fear of simply reinforcing stereotypes of colonial patronage or misunderstanding. We have tried to take our cues from those on the ground locally who are seeking justice and change.

In many circumstances, the local Church would be the first group we'd turn to in this attempt to listen and understand. But as we're well aware, this has not been straightforward in Zimbabwe: we have had some in leadership positions who have been uncritically supportive of a violent and lawless administration. But one of the most welcome developments of recent months has been that the Anglican Church has rallied very remarkably to repudiate the excesses of the former Bishop of Harare, and has installed a deeply respected and courageous elder statesman of the Zimbabwean Church, Bishop Sebastian Bakare, as chief pastor in Harare. The Province's efforts to cleanse and renew the situation have been met by the expected levels of intimidatory behaviour on the part of some of Bishop Kunonga's supporters, but the process of reconstruction has gone forward, with, happily, some support from the courts.

Read the whole address here.

Controversy continues over Williams' sharia remarks

Rowan Williams clarified his thinking and showed contrition for his clumsiness, but he declined to apologise and many commentators and public figures are writing that he is not off the hook. Also heard are calls for disestablishment of the Church of England according to the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.

Alex Kirby, who has been a leading religion correspondent, writes on the BBC's website: "If Rowan Williams ever imagined his explanation could get him off the hook, he is wrong. The damage is done, and it will take more than his elegant mea culpa to undo it."

Kirby continued: "The archbishop was wrong to accept in his BBC radio interview that there could be anything inevitable about any part of Sharia ever holding sway in the UK. He was also pretty certainly wrong not to ask someone to rewrite his speech so he would not have to apologise, as he has, for its 'unclarity' and his own 'clumsiness'.

"And he should have had some idea of how the very word Sharia is enough to drive reason from many minds. All that said, though, the damage he has caused is minuscule by comparison both with what his critics are doing and with the good he himself has done," concluded Kirby.

Emphasis added.

In a news release Ekklesia argues that Dr Williams' speech "highlights the need for disestablishment and a level-playing field for faith communities with other groups in civil society, distinct from the legislature, executive and judiciary."

Also from Ekklesia reports on Archbishop Williams' speech to the General Synod clarifying his remarks on Sharia Law in the UK.

"There is no dispute about our common allegiance to the law of the land" Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams told the General Synod of the Church of England - and a watching world on TV and the internet - this afternoon, following the recent furore about his BBC interview and lecture on Sharia and English civil law last week.

Dr Williams' speech came after the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, while affirming his leadership of the established Church of England, asked for clarification of his views, which he said he believed had been "misrepresented" in a debate which rapidly became extremely over-heated.

The Washington Post reports:

Commentators called Monday the most important day of the archbishop's five years in office, following a weekend of often harsh rejoinders that recognizing sharia would undermine British values and laws, notably concerning the rights of women. There were scattered calls for his resignation.

The furor underlined the unease that many Britons of Christian heritage feel concerning the creed of the approximately 2 million Muslims who live in the country.

Sharia already figures in the lives of many Muslims here. Informal neighborhood councils provide rulings on family issues such as divorce; banks such as HSBC market mortgages compliant with sharia rules of lending.


Thinking Anglicans has an extensive listing of the latest articles on the continuing controversy.

Some of the latest editorial opinion:

From Anne Applebaum:

Every time police shrug their shoulders when a Muslim woman complains that she has been forced to marry against her will, every time a Western doctor tries not to notice the female circumcisions being carried out in his hospital, they are acting in the spirit of the archbishop of Canterbury. So is the social worker who dismisses the plight of an illiterate, house-bound woman, removed from her village and sent across the world to marry a man she has never met, on the grounds that her religion prohibits interference. That's why -- if there is to be war between the British tabloids and the archbishop -- I'm on the side of the Sun.

From The Wall Street Journal:
There are discomforting surveys showing that up to 40% of British Muslims want Shariah in the U.K. But even if those numbers are accurate, some 60%must not want to live under Shariah. Many Muslims have fled to Britain precisely to escape a legal system that chops off the hands of thieves, asin Saudi Arabia, or hangs homosexuals and stones adulterers, as in Iran. Mr. Williams appears to be suggesting some form of "Shariah lite," as if one could pick the bits of Islamic jurisprudence that might be acceptable in Western democracies and reject the rest. That's an awfully slippery slope.The best guarantee for social cohesion and religious freedom is the primacy of secular law that's blind to anyone's faith.

Meanwhile Dave Walker at Cartoon Church started a new Facebook site The Archbishop of Canterbury is a good man. The group grew by over 1000 members in less than 24 hours.

Theo Hobson on the Archbishop of Canterbury

Theo Hobson offers a provocative assessment of Rowan Williams in respose to the sharia controversy in the Tablet, a British Catholic weekly. First, be observes that the Archbishop has chosen a very different style of leadership than is often expected for those in his position:

When Dr Rowan Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, there was delight that the Church of England had found a leader with a brilliant, critical mind, someone who was principled and reformist. This was a spiritual leader who could also be liberal; someone who had a track record in supporting gay rights and women's ordination. But had he got the political nous to be Archbishop of Canterbury?

The problem with this question is that it pretends to know what the job essentially is. It presupposes that he ought to be a politician in fancy dress; that his job is to say the sort of things that make the majority feel comfy, safe, flattered. Maybe instead his role is to raise the most awkward questions. But surely, some will reply, his core role is to defend Britain's Christian tradition, to be a figurehead for it. But he's not the Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

His job, as he understands it, is also to interpret the tradition that he represents, and to sharpen its capacity for truthfulness. In this view, the religious leader has more in common with the court jester than the king. His role is not to project an image of strength that will unite the faithful, and please the nation at large, but to challenge all tendencies to ideological surety, in both Church and nation.

Second, Hobson observes that many have been misled by the Archbishop's theological writings to expect a liberal--when, in fact, the Archbishop is an Anglo-Catholic with strong suspicion of liberal secularism:

His advocacy of the rights of gay Christians during the 1990s was misleading: it made him seem the liberal he never really was. He was always an Anglo-Catholic above all. He sought to develop and update the open, liberal side of this tradition, but not in a way that might jeopardise its integrity.

Above all, he refused to combine Anglo-Catholicism with a general liberal agenda. Indeed he revived the Anglo-Catholic suspicion of secular liberalism that dates back to Newman. The liberal state, in this view, offers itself as an alternative community of salvation; it tempts us into supposing that we can dispense with the Church, or at least water it down, and develop a more progressive form of Christianity. This leads to weak forms of Christianity that are unable to resist dangerous ideologies: most obviously, the liberal Protestants of Germany embraced Nazism. It is Williams' anti-liberal ecclesiology that is the root cause of the present controversy. In a sense it's not really about sharia law, or Islam: it's about the relationship between a Catholic conception of the Church and liberalism.

For Williams, authentic Christianity occurs within a clearly defined social body, an "ethical community" as he has sometimes put it. Without this, Christian culture will be dispersed by the cold winds of secularism. There is a need for strong resistance to the various negative spirits of the age: consumerism, celebrity, hedonism and so on, and this resistance can only occur within an alternative social world, walled off from mainstream culture.

Only from within a religious subculture can secular modernity be seen for what it is: dehumanising. He has referred to secularism's "unspoken violence", and to modernity as "an atmosphere in which people become increasingly formless, cut off from what could give their lives ... some kind of lasting intelligibility". He sees secular liberalism as a quietly nihilistic force that robs human life of full significance, as a demonically subtle tyranny that looks and feels like freedom.

. . .

He sees his role, then, as defender of the various subcultural spaces that resist the logic of secularism, the enclaves within our culture where fully human meaning is made. And of course these are not only Christian. In a curious way his vision echoes Prince Charles' declaration that he would like to be the defender of faith rather than the faith. He wants to be the defender of the endangered cultural space that insists on the priority of God. If the Muslim form of such space is tied up with sharia law, we must try to accommodate this.

Finally, Hobson argues that the furor over the Archbishop's sharia comments are largely linked to the fact that the Archbishop's concept of the church is at variance with a liberal, secular Great Britain:

The problem with this idea of his role is that he heads an institution with a logic that is at variance with it. The Church of England cannot really be described as a subcultural space in which secular liberalism is resisted. Because it is the established Church of a society that is liberal, and largely secular, it is strange for its leader to speak of secular liberalism as the enemy. Whether he likes it or not, Williams does not just represent the card-carrying members of faith communities: he also represents the huge amount of Britons who are semi-Christian or post-Christian; people who see Christianity and liberalism as complementary.

Such people (most of the nation) are sympathetic to Christianity but sceptical of religious institutions. They want a liberal form of Christianity to lurk in the background of national identity - in order to bless liberalism rather than contest it. It is rash to dismiss this desire as muddled or hypocritical, for it is rooted in British history: our liberalism and our version of Protestantism developed side by side. Liberal Protestantism is basic to our national identity, although people don't tend to think of it as "liberal Protestantism" but as "our Christian heritage" and "our liberal tradition".

This is what Williams seems not to grasp, or chooses not to. It sets him apart from the figures I likened him to earlier, Temple, Ramsey and Runcie. For these Anglo-Catholics had an instinctive understanding that the British people will only tolerate an established Church that is sympathetic to liberalism; they saw the necessity of working with this national religious instinct, rather than seeking to antagonise and deconstruct it.

The anger that Williams has unleashed is not just down to Islamophobia. It is also a lament for the liberal Anglican culture that has been slowly collapsing for a decade or two, and has all but been lost. Such is my regard for Williams' intellect that I suspect that he knew that he was drawing attention to this, initiating a new debate about whether a liberal established Church is still meaningful. He is saying, in his deep, gentle voice: "Perhaps it's time to consider whether the old religious set-up is still what most of us really want."

Read it all here.

Youth need safe gathering places

Writing in The Guardian UK today, Archbishop Rowan Williams comments on a report from the Good Childhood inquiry on children and youth and public space. He begins:

The sight of young people gathering on streets and in shopping centres is one of the things that can create alarm or suspicion in adults, who think such groups are going to be abusive or extreme in their behaviour. But today's report from the Good Childhood inquiry ought to challenge many popular misconceptions about young people and our shared public space.

Set up by the Children's Society in 2006, the inquiry has so far reported on children's attitudes to friends, family and learning. What may come as a surprise in today's findings is that many young people themselves feel that they are not safe or welcome in public places, sometimes because of aggressive gangs colonising these places, but also sometimes because of unfriendly adults. Hanging around in groups is often a way for many youngsters to feel secure, rather than a way of menacing anyone else. And the discouragement of games in public places intensifies the problem.

The inquiry's earlier reports had few surprises - children value their friends, want stable, loving families with a proper parental presence and expect schools to be supportive and free from bullying.

Read all Williams comments here

Other reports can be found at The Telegraph commenting on materialism in children, The Guardian on the Archbishop's remarks but unable to resist bringing up the sharia law controversy and The Daily Mail with comments on the report as well as Williams' comments.

Raspberry Rabbit comments on his blog.

The Good Childhood Inquiry will publish its final report and recommendations early next year.

What's the point of the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Here's a fascinating program on BBC 4 discussing the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in today's UK. Quentin Letts takes a humor-filled but thought-provoking look at an institution with a history that goes back centuries to when Augustine was sent to Britain.

To hear What's the Point of... (March 4) Listen again here (30 minutes).

Society cannot handle science

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury says in an interview with the Telegraph that society is ill-prepared to handle scientific breakthroughs because it lacks understanding of human life. He also speaks out about intellectual sloppiness and muddy thinking in interpreting and critiquing the Bible.

"The problem is with our own inability as a society to know what to do with discoveries of science," he said.

"Man playing God is not a problem about science. It's a problem about our decisions about the results of science and we shouldn't be so much afraid of science as we should about our own inability to have a clear moral perspective on these matters."

The archbishop will use a series of high-profile lectures this week to renew his call for people to pay more attention to the historical evidence supporting the Bible, rather than "ludicrous" conspiracy theories.

"People get away with extraordinary assertions about Christian origins, which they have picked up from here and there, yet there is a mountain of research which is increasingly friendly towards the Gospels being reliable documents," he said.

"The Judas Gospel is a cardinal case and the sort of ludicrous, persistent Jesus-was-married-to-Mary-Magdalene sort of thing which keeps coming back in spite of the fact there is just nothing to go on it.

"Sometimes it is because, yes, what is presented can be so uncomfortable that it's much more convenient to believe that it is all the 'wicked' Church's conspiracy.

"The conspiracy theory is always attractive because it is dramatic, but look hard at what's there. I think that any Christian will say we are quite prepared to argue this in public as long as you like and as hard as you like."

Read: The Telegraph: Rowan Williams: Society can't handle science

Hat tip to Entangled States.

Archbishop Williams' Easter sermon

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached the Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral. It is based on First Corinthians 15:26 "The last enemy to be overcome is death."

Here is an excerpt:

The vital significance of the Church in this society, in any human society, is its twofold challenge - first, challenging human reluctance to accept death, and then challenging any human acceptance of death without hope, of death as the end of all meaning. Death is real; death is overcome. We are mortal, and that is basic to who and what we are as humans. But equally we are creatures made so as to hear the call of God, a call that no power in heaven or earth can silence. That conviction is the foundation of all we say about human dignities and rights, and it is the heart of our Easter hope.

Read the rest here.

Here is what the Guardian writes.

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans.

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns recent violence against lesbian and gay people

ACNS:

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns recent violence against lesbian and gay people
Posted On : April 9, 2008 5:26 PM | Posted By : Admin ACO
Related Categories: Lambeth

In response to reports of violence and threats towards Christians involved in the debate on human sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given the following statement:

“The threats recently made against the leaders of Changing Attitudes are disgraceful. The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates’ Meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people. I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned.”

Ends

See the Lead's coverage of these threats provided earlier today.

The Lead stands ready to post condemnations of this violence or Christian on Muslim violence in Nigeria should such condemnations come from the Anglican Church of Nigeria or CANA, its North American partner.

What is Bishop Wright talking about?

Updated Monday morning

In a lecture given yesterday, the Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, says

When the Archbishop issued his invitations [to Lambeth], he made it clear as I said that their basis was Windsor and the Covenant as the tools to shape our future common life. .... After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity. I am well aware that many will say this is far too little, far too late - just as many others will be livid to think that the Archbishop, having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, should be suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well. But this is what he promised he would do, and he is doing it. If I know anything about anything, I know that he deserves our prayers at this most difficult and fraught moment in the run-up to Lambeth itself.
Emphasis added. Just who might the Archbishop of Canterbury think would be particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant? There have been clear boundary crossings by Archbishops of several provinces.

Read Wright's lecture here. A tip of the hat to Pluralist. See his post on the lecture here.

Monday morning update Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans has done a comparison of what Williams said in his Advent Letter with what Wright says. Williams: "I intend to be in direct contact with those who have expressed unease about this, so as to try and clarify how deep their difficulties go with accepting or adopting the Conference’s agenda." Wright: "[Williams] declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation." Go to Simon's post and decide for yourself what the meaning of "unease about this" might be.

Society needs religion

The Archbishop of Canterbury has come out in defense of religion's role in the public sphere. While this is not terribly surprising, the argument he puts forward is that the inclusion of religious belief is critical to maintaining a pluralistic society.

From a report on the Archbishop's own website:

"Acknowledging the contribution that increased spiritual awareness can make to social and corporate life, Dr. Williams argues for the continued relevance of traditional religious commitment in developing and sustaining some of the deepest resources needed in a responsible plural society.

'When the great German philosopher Jurgen Habermas acknowledged some years ago in debate with the then Cardinal Ratzinger that traditional religion offered necessary resources to the construction of social reason and just practice, he was paving the way for some such approach on the part of secular government.  There is an implicit acknowledgement, it seems, that what religious affiliation of a classical kind offers is not to be reduced just to an enhanced sense of the transcendent or of the interconnection of all things.'

Dr Williams argues that religion is in fact:

'...one of the most potent allies possible for genuine pluralism – that is, for a social and political culture that is consistently against coercion and institutionalised inequality and is committed to serious public debate about common good.  Spiritual capital alone, in the sense of a heightened acknowledgement especially among politicians, businessmen and administrators of dimensions to human flourishing beyond profit and material security, is helpful but is not well equipped to ask the most basic questions about the legitimacy of various aspects of the prevailing global system.  The traditional forms of religious affiliations, in proposing an 'imagined society', realised in some fashion in the practices of faith, are better resourced for such questions.'

The challenge for those 'who adhere to revealed faith' but do not wish simply to be absorbed into an uncritical post-religious culture focused on 'the autonomous self and its choices' was to rediscover what 'the great Anglican Benedictine scholar Gregory Dix meant by describing Christians as a new 'species', homo eucharisticus, a humanity defined in its Eucharistic practice...'The unleavened bread of sincerity and truth' is the gift of the Easter Gospel, we are told in the liturgy; 'Lord, evermore give us this bread' (Jn 6.34).' "

From here.

The full transcript is found here.

No bishops singled out

Although his take makes it seem otherwise, the real news in George Conger's story today is that the letter Rowan was supposedly writing to recalcitrants is actually going to ALL attendees. No one is being singled out. And look how many attendees there are:

Approximately 600 of the Communion’s 716 diocesan and 171 suffragan and assistant bishops have stated they would attend Lambeth, and more responses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, a member of the conference team said.

Of diocesans that's 84 percent already.

As to what the letter will say, until we see the letter there is no way of knowing that it commits an attendee to accept anything in particular.

ABC lays out his hopes for Lambeth

From the Anglican Communion News Service:

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury today set out his hopes for this year's Lambeth Conference in a video message addressed to Bishops and Dioceses across the worldwide communion.

One key passage:

We don't want at the Lambeth Conference to be creating a lot of new rules but we do obviously need to strengthen our relationships and we need to put those relationships on another footing, slightly firmer footing, where we have promised to one another that this is how we will conduct our life together. And it is in that light that at this year we are discussing together the proposal for what we are calling a covenant between the Anglican Churches of the world. A covenant. A relationship of promise. We undertake that this is how we will relate to one another; that when these problems occur, that this is how we will handle them together, that this is how advice will be given and shared and that this is how decisions and discernment can be taken forward.

That is a very a big part of what we will be looking at this year but it is not everything because no covenant, no arrangement of that sort is worth the paper it is written on if it doesn't grow out of the relationships that are built as people pray together and share their lives together over two and a half weeks.

Click to read a transcript of the video.

Read more »

Seeking a way forward in Zimbabwe

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement this morning concerning the deteriorating situation of ordinary people in Zimbabwe calling for "a civil society movement that both gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence."

The text is here, but the most arresting thing about the news release from the Anglican Communion Office is the note at the end:

Notes to Editors

The average life expectancy of Zimbabweans hovers around 35, lower than any war zone. Since 1994 it has fallen from 57 to 34 for women and from 54 to 37 for men.

Zimbabwe has the highest proportion of orphans in the world (1.3 million), largely due to the devastation caused by HIV and Aids.

AIDS related illnesses kill 3,200 people each week.

Archbishop speaks out about financial literacy

The Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed on Britain's Radio Channel 4 yesterday, addressing topics such as financial literacy among youths, the credit crunch, and the government's role in addressing the wealth gap:


JH: Well people running the banks, until relatively recently, were doing immensely well out of it. Is that something that bothers you?

ABC: It does bother me and now I think we are seeing the results of that in the credit crunch.

JH: But what can you do about it? If you are bothered; are you bothered for instance by a man making here, and this is slightly broad English, but a man making billions literally - £3 point odd billion out of hedge funds, which is a form of gambling, sophisticated, highly sophisticated gambling – does that bother you?

ABC: It does bother me, yes. I haven't got any quick answers to it though. My immediate concern today is looking at the bottom of the ladder and the way in which the credit crunch impacts so disproportionately on the most disadvantaged. Start there because at least you can do something building up the credit union, the financial education.

JH: But if you start there, do you have to look at the gap between the poorest and the richest?

ABC: You have to I think and it is a gap that everyone knows is broadening and I think a growing number of people in society are unhappy with that.

The transcript and a link to the audio are here.

Williams won't allow Robinson to function as priest in England

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning.

Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August.

The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates' statements, similarly, have objected to Robinson's episcopacy, not his priesthood.

Several provinces in the Communion ordain gay and lesbian candidates without requiring a vow of celibacy. It is unclear whether the Church of England forbids these priests from exercising their functions within its jurisdiction as a matter of policy, or whether Williams' ban extends only to Robinson. Many gay English priests live with their partners, but are expected to remain celibate.

The email, which came to Robinson through a Lambeth official, says Williams believes that giving Robinson permission to preach and preside at the Eucharist would be construed as an acceptance of the ministry of a controversial figure within the Communion.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion.

Sources who have read the email say Williams expresses sorrow for the way the ban on Robinson must appear to the bishop and his supporters, but says he is acting for the good of the Church and the Communion.

At Church Times Blog, Dave Walker advances the story in the legal direction:

Questions are being asked as to whether Lambeth Palace has the authority to stop Gene Robinson from preaching if he is invited to do so by the incumbent of a parish. Legal minds have been perusing the Canons of the Church of England and it appears that he would have a strong case for being able to preach if invited.

However, Gene Robinson has ruled out preaching without the permission of the Archbishop. From the Hardtalk [TV] interview (only available for a week) on the BBC [Robinson said]: "In the past he has... declined to give me permission to preach and to celebrate the Holy Communion and I would never do so without his permission."

Read Walker's post here.

Earlier in the day Bishop Robinson had said on BBC Radio that God was "very disappointed" in Williams for his failure to confront Akinola over his treatment of gays. Read here. Listen here.

Bishop Robinson's book launch

The Mad Priest presents a report from the UK launch party of Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, In the Eye of the Storm.

Correspondent Mary Clara writes of Robinson:

Looking ahead to the Conference itself, he does plan to be there in the public areas surrounding the meetings and available for conversation. He reported that bishops of The Episcopal Church plan to host two evening events at which other bishops and their spouses will be invited to come and meet him. He emphasized the importance of opportunities of this kind to reach out to the great numbers of people in the broad middle, who do not want to exclude, judge or harm those who are different, but who, perhaps because they haven’t had direct experience of LGBT people living normal lives, are “not yet ready to celebrate us”.

The Living Church splits a hair

We are linking to this report in the increasingly tendentious Living Church to correct the mistaken impression it attempts to create.

George Conger writes that Gene Robinson has not been banned from preaching in England. This is technically correct. Williams doesn't have the authority to ban Robinson. However, Robinson told Williams several years ago that he would not preach without Williams' permission. Williams did not grant it. And in an email he sent to Robinson earlier this week he said that he did not think that "any extenstion" of the previous arrangement "in terms of permissions" would be appropriate because any public celebration "or even a sermon" would create controversy for Williams and whichever bishops gave Robinson permission to preach.

Archbishop Rowan on Patriarch Bartholomew

By turning a position of relative political weakness into a position of influence by staking out a clear moral and spiritual vision, Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has become one of the world's 100 most influential people, says the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Rowan Williams writes on Time.com the following:

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys a resonant historical title but, unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic context, has little direct executive power in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. Patriarchs have had to earn their authority on the world stage, and, in fact, not many Patriarchs in recent centuries have done much more than maintain the form of their historic dignities.

Patriarch Bartholomew, however, has turned the relative political weakness of the office into a strength, grasping the fact that it allows him to stake out a clear moral and spiritual vision that is not tangled up in negotiation and balances of power. And this vision is dominated by his concern for the environment.

In a way that is profoundly loyal to the traditions of worship and reflection in the Eastern Orthodox Church, he has insisted that ecological questions are essentially spiritual ones.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Santos Woodcarving Popsicles who writes,

I lament the fact that our own Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury has had to spend so much time contending with schismatics and angry Anglicans that his voice and attention to issues of war, poverty, and the environment has been less than it might have been.

I wonder if Archbishop Rowan Williams has perhaps revealed a bit of his own lament for where he has placed his attention (even if he was forced to) over these last 5 years.

Vatican lends hand to Canterbury

Following up on our earlier story on the meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI, The Guardian reports that Cardinal Ivan Dias, the Indian prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, would be among the speakers at this summer's event, which brings Anglican bishops together in London once every 10 years.

Dias has been touted as a possible future candidate for the papacy. Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, may also attend the Lambeth event.

"We expect someone from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity to attend, as we have in the past," said a spokesman for the Anglican Communion office in London.

Rev Keith Pecklers, a professor of liturgy at the Gregorian University in Rome, who has worked with the Anglican Centre in Rome on relations between the two churches, said: "Cardinal Kasper might be expected to attend, given his role, but Cardinal Dias's presence is proof that the Vatican wants to be supportive of Williams.


The message of this announcement appears to be that Rome is sticking with Canterbury as the locus of authentic Anglicanism and want nothing to do with GAFCON, even with the presence of women clergy and bishops and gay bishops. This makes the plans for a non-Canterbury centered Anglicanism focused on the "global south" appear to be more and more a lonely outpost far from the heart of catholic unity.

Read more here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Rome to participate in the seventh annual Building Bridges seminar, a dialogue of Muslim and Christian scholars. And to preach and preside at the service for the Inauguration of his new Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Revd David Richardson. More here.

Experiencing disability

The Archbishop of Canterbury and a Rabbi discuss the experience of disability with the BBC. Rowan Williams is totally deaf in one ear and Rabbi Lionel Blue talks about his epilepsy.

Dr Rowan Williams is totally deaf in one ear, and while recognising that this is a comparatively minor disability, feels that it has made him think about communication, and how disability can create tensions on both sides.

"When you are with people who have real challenges, deep disabilities, you are left being put in touch with your own vulnerability and your own uselessness, your own lack of omnipotence," he said.

With Lionel Blue, who has epilepsy, the issue is not so much communication, as embarrassment; but being Rabbi Lionel Blue, he has tried, wherever possible, to see the funny side of life.

"I think I was grateful for epilepsy," he said.

"Although materially it has been an inconvenience, spiritually it has taught me a lot.

"For example, I know what it is like to be at the wrong end of the stick, to need help, to go through a difficult patch in life.

"And I don't suppose I could have got that knowledge very easily in any other way.

"I think without it I'd have been a much smugger person."

Listen to the story here.

Lambeth Walk to focus attention on global poverty

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today announced plans to mount an unprecedented mass walk of bishops and other faith leaders through central London during the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to demonstrate the Anglican Communion's determination to help end extreme poverty across the globe.

The Archbishop will be joined by approximately 600 other archbishops and bishops, and their spouses, alongside other UK faith leaders for the high-profile symbol of commitment to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight promises made by world leaders to halve world poverty by 2015. Taking place on Thursday 24th July, the event will culminate in a rally in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the London home and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The event is being organised in partnership with Micah Challenge UK, part of the international Micah Challenge movement dedicated to uniting Christians to work together for an end to world poverty.

From the Anglican Communion News Service.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has also released a communique from her recently concluded summitt on domestic poverty.

Protesting Heathrow's third runway

Yesterday, around 3,000 people descended upon Heathrow Airport in London to protest the third runway that would, if it goes forward as proposed, would spell the end of the village of Sipson and increase air traffic along Heathrow's flight path significantly.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was unable to attend but did send a message of support to the protesters, as reported in the Telegraph:


"Christians, like all people of faith, believe that human beings are on Earth as stewards of God's creation," he told them. "As such we have a responsibility, both to God and to generations to come, to ensure that this remains a sustainable world.

"Concern for our environment is a clear imperative arising from the respect we owe to creation and to each other. So questions of airport expansion, like all developments that risk increasing the damage we do to our global environment – which still impacts hardest on the poorest – cannot be considered uncritically, or in a morality-free zone."

Read more about the protest and background on the proposed runway in the Telegraph's coverage here and the Times' here.

The Archbishops' "erroneous" letter

The Church Times says the Archbishop of Canterbury and York made a mess of their response to the gay wedding at a London church:

The House of Bishops’ 2005 guidelines on civil partnerships suggested that clergy had a certain amount of leeway: “Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.” It is unlikely that a service involving the scattering of rose petals ever crossed their minds. It is known that services of this sort are conducted from time to time, but they are, more often than not, discreet affairs, involving far fewer than the 300 guests who attended in Smithfield, and there are reports that similar liturgies have been used. But the Smithfield service was a public affair, and has been made much more so since it happened. It thus reinforces the message to the gay community that all is well as long as all is hidden. The Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, is fond of saying that he is not the only gay Anglican bishop, but he is the only honest one. Be that as it may, the present arrangement is pernicious when it encourages dishonesty.

More here.

Williams says Church is strong

Earlier this week, Archbishop Rowan Williams addressed the Diocese of Hereford and got a standing ovation when he said the issues presently facing the church were serious ones, but would not split the Church of England.

According to the Hereford Times:

Speaking at the Diocese’s conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire, [Archbishop Rowan Williams] claimed differences over sexuality could be resolved and denied a rift in the church.

He said next month’s Lambeth Conference – a global meeting of Anglican bishops held every 10 years – could prove a turning point.

“My hope is that the conference will be a real trust building event,” said the Archbishop.

“The challenge is whether we manage those issues in such a way that they don’t just split us apart and isolate us from one another.

“I think that we face some very serious choices within the church but I don’t think the Church of England is on the edge of schism.”

Read it here:


Same sex marriage and Christian theology

From Bishop John Bryson Chane's op-ed column in today's issue of The Guardian:

Archbishop Rowan Williams has tried to take the issue of gay marriage off the table at the Lambeth Conference, which begins in three weeks. But the celebration of a gay relationship at one of London’s oldest churches last month, and the well-publicised gathering of anti-gay Anglicans in Jerusalem this week, suggest the controversy must eventually be faced squarely.

Conservative Christians say opening marriage to gay couples would undermine an immutable institution founded on divine revelation. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the excitable primate of the Church of Uganda, calls it blasphemy. But, theologically, support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition, but a recognition that the church’s understanding of marriage has changed dramatically over 2,000 years.

Read more »

Archbishop Williams responds to GAFCON

Updated with press reports: Time, AP, Reuters, American Prospect.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference with the following statement:

The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion

However, GAFCON’s proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.

Read more »

What would Jesus do? Where would Jesus be?

The Church Times reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury preached in York Minster Sunday and he urged General Synod members to relinquish the attempt to control their future; for that way they would be freer to encounter God. Many who heard the sermon say it was both moving and a defining moment.

The full text of the sermon may be found here .

Ruth Gledhill blogged her impressions of the sermon:

Sitting here in the magnificence of York Minster, I am hearing the most incredible sermon from the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am going to blog it live, right away. Maybe this is overstating it, but it feels from my seat in the north transept, with my fellow 'sinners' of the press close by, as though he's just saved the Church of England. A few people here are close to tears. The Archbishop always comes over better in the presence than on paper, and never more so than this morning. He has completely justified what the Archbishop of York said in his defence yesterday, as we report in The Sunday Times.

He took as his text the Hebrew Bible story of Joseph thrown into the waterless pit by his brothers. And he asked the General Synod members, facing the crucial debate tomorrow on women bishops and with Lambeth and debates over homosexuality casting their shadows,'What would Jesus do? Where would Jesus be?'

The Archbishop said: 'What would Jesus do is a good question to ask. Where would Jesus be is just as good. Who would Jesus be with is a question the Gospels force on our attention again and again.

'In the middle of all our discussion at Synod, where would Jesus be? Jesus is going to be with those who feel the waterlessness of their position.

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph:

It was a little after half past ten when the Archbishop of Canterbury shuffled up the steps of the pulpit in York Minster to address the hushed congregation.

After six years in the post, this could well become a defining moment for Dr Rowan Williams - the time when the real Archbishop appeared before his Church.

He has been weighed down by the crises that have engulfed the Anglican communion virtually ever since his arrival at Lambeth - pulled this way and that by the warring factions in the battles over homosexuality and women bishops.

Today, however, he grew in stature as the sermon went on, emerging by the end of it as the leader that the Anglican communion so desperately needs - compassionate yet direct and vulnerable yet firm.

Referring to the story of Joseph being thrown down into a waterless pit and left for dead by his brothers, the archbishop attempted to reach out to all those, in and outside the Church, who feel deserted.

In a sermon charged with emotion and feeling, but delivered with poise and unflinching stoicism, he set out his inclusive, all embracing vision for the Church.

. . . .

It is a shame that extending support to homosexuals in the Church should be a bold move, but it was and the Minster's congregation knew that; particularly considering that conservative Anglicans have just formed a rival church in response to the liberal attitude of the Western churches on the issue.

However, Dr Williams is not going to be cowed anymore into trying to appease everyone. That was what came across from his sermon.

He has done his best to keep everyone within the Anglican fold since he was made Archbishop, but now he is going to say what he thinks. And what he feels.

Was this a defining moment, the advent of a ++Rowan who is through being pushed around or was this a clearer, more poetic ++Rowan warning those who have held off change for so long that they may have to learn to live in a different place? What do you think?

Bees at Lambeth Palace

Since becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has arranged to have ten beehives set up at Lambeth Palace.

The Telegraph reports:

The bees are back at Lambeth Palace. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sought out experts to set up hives in its grounds shortly after his appointment, and now there are 10.

Bees have been having a hard time of it recently, what with the varroa virus and the mysterious new syndrome that wipes out colonies. Their troubles seem sad, for bees have been regarded highly both in reality and in imagery for hundreds of years.

At the most solemn time of the Christian year, the feast of Easter, the bee figures in the formal hymn of praise to the light of the candle lit at the Vigil, representing the light of the risen Christ. "Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honour of God," sings the deacon. "For it is fed by the melting wax, which the mother bee brought forth to make this precious candle."

Williams addresses Muslims

On the eve of the Lambeth Conference, the the Archbishop of Canterbury has delivered a 17 page letter in response to A Common Word Between Us and You, a document issued last fall by a group of 138 Muslims leaders.

From a press release by the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Dr Rowan Williams has welcomed A Common Word and provided a substantial reflection on it in a letter sent to Muslim religious leaders and scholars. The Archbishop's letter, entitled 'A Common Word for the Common Good', comes after a period of world-wide consultation within the Anglican Communion and across the Christian denominations, most notably in last month's meeting of Church representatives and scholars in London. Dr Williams has announced that, in collaboration with Cambridge University, he is inviting a group of Christian and Muslim leaders and scholars to a conference in October that will mark the anniversary of the publication of A Common Word.
...
Dr Williams acknowledges that Christian belief in the Trinity is "difficult, sometimes offensive, to Muslims" but has said "I believe that for the sake of open and careful dialogue it is important to try and clarify what we do and what we do not mean by it". He begins by affirming the Christian belief in the unity of God.

Why won't Archbishop Williams stand up to bigots?

Why does Rowan Williams bow down before those belligerent African Anglican bishops and their conservative supporters who view homosexuality as "unnatural" and a "sin"? By doing so he is not only betraying the spiritual welfare of gay Anglican communicants but also undermining any claims his church has to be established asks Will Self in The Evening Standard, UK.

Read more »

Williams once believed gay relationships comparable to marriage

UPDATED
In a private correspondence conducted eight years ago, Rowan Williams, now the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote that gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage, according to Ruth Gledhill in The Times.

Read more »

Inevitable! Untenable! Rowan Williams and his letters

There is rather more fallout from the revelation that the Archbishop of Canterbury holds a position on gay relationships that we already knew he held but had never seen him state so clearly than seems entirely necessary. People are telling Ruth Gledhill that a split in the Communion is now "inevitable," and Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail that Williams' position is now "untenable."

At moments such as these, a seasoned gambler would bet on evitability in the first instance and tenability in the second because whether this is a put up job or not, it sure looks like one, and people will begin to see that.

The Archbishop of Canterbury responds

Earlier in the week we had coverage of the release of letters written by the Archbishop of Canterbury about his private views on the question of the sanctity of same-sex unions.

This statement appeared on the Archbishop's website:

Read more »

Comment is free: "I am not the Archbishop of Canterbury"

Have a look at Jim's article on the Comment is Free section of the Guardian's Web site:

Read more »

"Sole test of Orthodoxy"

Last week a series of letters were released in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, discussed his personal views on the morality of same-sex relationships. We had coverage here, here and here.

Read more »

Clear as mud

A transcript of the Archbishop of Canterbury's final press conference at the Lambeth Conference is now available. You can also listen to it online.

Beginning at the 21:10 mark, Dr. Rowan Williams attempts to offers some clarity to the old argument about what he means by a moratorium on same sex blessings. Note the first bold faced section. He certainly seems to be saying that the proposed moratorium on "same-sex blessings" is on the authorization of rites for same-sex blessings, not on the practice of providing such blessings.

However, note the second bold faced section. Here Williams conveys the impression that some Episcopal dioceses have authorized rites for blessing same-sex relationships. This isn't the case. So what "practices" is he talking about? Are those "practices" unique to the "American" church, or do they take place in many provinces--including the Church of England?

Is the archbishop simply having trouble articulating what he means? Is he poorly informed about the state of play on this issue in the Episcopal Church? Or is he using TEC as a prop in a self-exculpatory charade? Same-sex blessings are widespread in the Church of England. Many of them are quite public, as the service at St. Bartholemew's, London, in May made clear. The only discernible difference between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England on this issue is that some Episcopal bishops acknowledge publicly that blessings take place in their dioceses and are willing to admit that they are not troubled by this.

That wouldn't seem a distinction significant enough to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to let himself off the hook in assigning blame for the "strain" in the Communion. But that seems to be what he is doing.

One of the problems around this is that people in different parts of the world clearly define 'public' and 'rights' and 'blessing' in rather different ways. I'd refer I think to what I said in the address this afternoon. As soon as there is a liturgical form it gives the impression: this has the Church's stamp on it. As soon as that happens I think you've moved to another level of apparent commitment, and that I think is nowhere near where the Anglican Communion generally is. In the meeting of Primates at Gramado in Brazil some years ago, the phrase 'A variety of pastoral response' was used as an attempt to recognise that there were places where private prayers were said and, although there's a lot of unease about that, there wasn't quite the same strength of feeling about that as about public liturgies. But again 'pastoral response' has been interpreted very differently and there are those in the USA who would say: 'Well, pastoral response means rights of blessing', and I'm not very happy about that.

(Question about moratoria and 'gracious restraint' and time limits.)

The indaba groups had a lot of discussion about whether moratorium should have a time limit on it, most do. I think frankly it is very difficult to come to a common mind on this at present and, I think a phrase used by the Primates 'unless until a wider consensus emerges' is about as specific as it's got in the past so I don't think we're much further forward than that at the moment.

Archbishop, two of the three moratoria refer to actions that have happened mostly and exclusively in the Episcopal Church the lady from integrity posed a question about why lesbian and gay Christians were being sacrificed and that point has also been made by Susan Russell – are you putting a squeeze on the American Church to get into line?

I'm saying that some of the practices of certain dioceses in the American church continues to put our relations as a communion under strain and that some problems won't be resolved while those practices continue. I might just add perhaps a note here that one complication in discussing all this is the assumption readily made that the blessing of a same sex union, and or the ordination of someone in the act of same-sex relationship is simply a matter of human rights. I'm not saying that is claimed by people within the Church, but you hear that from time to time, you hear it in the secular press and that's an assumption that I can't accept because I think the issue about what conditions a Church lays down for the blessings of unions have to be shaped by its own thinking, its own praying. Now, there's perfectly serious theological reflection on this in some areas – I'm not saying there isn't - but I don't want to short-circuit that argument by saying it's just a matter of rights. Therefore to say that the rights and dignities of gay and lesbian people as people in society is not what we're disagreeing about - I hope and pray anyway.

The Guardian takes note

Riazat Butt of the Guardian has written a brief article about Bishop John Bryson Chane's column on the Lambeth Conference that appeared on the Cafe earlier this week.

She writes:

His comments, in an article called Stop the Scapegoating, published on a US website, are the most scathing yet about Williams, and he is the first US liberal to break ranks with his church and condemn Lambeth. Bishops from the Episcopal church maintained a united front at Canterbury, despite internal divisions over central issues, and remained on-message by stressing the positives. His assessment is more critical than the one issued by primates from the breakaway conservative movement the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon).

Do you agree with her interpretation of the column?

Archbishop of Canterbury encourgages cooperation on MDGs

Lambeth Palace:

On the eve of the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Millennium Development Goals in New York, the Archbishop of Canterbury has underlined the commitment of the Anglican Church to continue to work for the eradication of poverty.

In a video message the Archbishop has backed calls for a renewal of the pledges made by the international community in 2000, and spoke of the need for the Anglican Church to work in harmony with governments and NGOs around the world in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

View the archbishop's video message (transcript here (scroll)):

See our coverage of tomorrow's UN meeting.

We remain dumbfounded why some in our church who claim an affinity with Anglicans in Africa persist in mocking the MDG's.

English archbishops on Marx and the markets

Rowan Williams has written a searching moral examination of the free market financial system which has been badly caricatured in initial news reports. It contains this sentence: "Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else." How anyone gets from this mild criticism to headlines proclaiming that the archbishop has praised Marx, is difficult to fathom. You can read it for yourself in the Spectator, whose own headline writers have done Williams no favors.

A key passage:

To grant that without a basis of some common prosperity and stability, no speculative market can long survive is not to argue for rigid Soviet-style centralised direction. Insecure or failed states may provide a brief and golden opportunity for profiteering, but cannot sustain reliable institutions.

Without a background of social stability everyone will eventually suffer, including even the most resourceful, bold and ingenious of speculators. The question is not how to choose between total control and total deregulation, but how to identify the points and practices where social risk becomes unacceptably high. The banning of short-selling is an example of just such a judgment. Governments should not lose their nerve as they look to identify a few more targets.

Behind all this, though, is the deeper moral issue. We find ourselves talking about capital or the market almost as if they were individuals, with purposes and strategies, making choices, deliberating reasonably about how to achieve aims. We lose sight of the fact that they are things that we make. They are sets of practices, habits, agreements which have arisen through a mixture of choice and chance. Once we get used to speaking about any of them as if they had a life independent of actual human practices and relations, we fall into any number of destructive errors. We expect an abstraction called ‘the market’ to produce the common good or to regulate its potential excesses by a sort of natural innate prudence, like a physical organism or ecosystem. We appeal to ‘business’ to acquire public responsibility and moral vision. And so we lose sight of the fact that the market is not like a huge individual consciousness, that business is a practice carried on by persons who have to make decisions about priorities — not a machine governed by inexorable laws.

Meanwhile, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is blasting "short sellers," whom he refers to as bank robbers. Sentamu will preach tonight at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

The archbishops' criticisms of the financial system have generated considerable press coverage in England, and Simon Sarmiento has a round up at Thinking Anglicans. Reuters is on the Sentamu statement, which some UK stockbrokers don't care for.

The Guardian has one comment on each bishop's statement.

One observation on these issues in the Anglican context: Neither archbishop has much of an audience in the United States. Most of those likely to agree with their economic critique, their interest in the Millennium Development Goals, their concerns about global warming and their opposition to a univalent American foreign policy, are alienated from them by their unwillingness to speak out against the flamboyant homophobia of other Anglican leaders such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Henry Orombi of Uganda and Mouneer Anis of Egypt. Those who cheer the archbishops' tacit embrace of bigotry disagree with them on most of the political issues. The conservatives get the better end of this deal. The archbishops opposition to the Bush administration makes nothing happen, while their opposition to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church has devastating effects.

Without commenting on the arguments they are advancing here--it isn't clear that either of them understands short-selling--one is still left to wonder how to respond when the archbishops say something one agrees with?

"Three cheers for the abettors of bigotry!" ?

"God bless your irrelevant hearts!" ?

Williams visits Lourdes

The Archbishop of Canterbury visited Lourdes earlier this week, the site where the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared to St. Bernadette. He was there taking part in the observance of the 150th Anniversary of the events. While there he gave a sermon and did not qualify any of his descriptions of the Virgins apparitions at the site. This has given rise to a number of stories published afterwards noting that this tacit acceptance of the Blessed Mother's appearances are a first for a post reformation Archbishop.

In his sermon the Archbishop called attention to the fact that prior to the apparition 150 years ago, the people of Lourdes believed they knew all there was to know about the Blessed Mother. And that St. Bernadette's initial attempts to tell of her visions were filled with stumbling and struggles to express the experience to others. From this Williams draws the lesson that Christians today may take comfort in St. Bernadette's success and the acceptance by so many of the new knowledge of Mary that she shared.

But that message seems to have been lost in the reactions. They have focused instead on the implicit endorsement of the visions.

According to an article in the Church Times:

"The Archbishop’s visit to the shrine was criticised by the Revd Jeremy Brooks from the Protestant Truth Society, who described Dr Williams as behaving like a “papal puppet. . . All true Protestants will be appalled. Lourdes represents every thing about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation rejected.”

An article in the Daily Mail reports that others have similar criticism:

"His words shocked millions of Protestants worldwide because they not only signified a break with Protestant teaching on the Virgin Mary but also Dr Williams’s personal acceptance of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is explicitly linked to the apparitions."

All of this is probably a reminder that the Elizabethan settlement which managed to hold catholic and protestant tensions in an uneasy truce was not an easy thing to manage. The fault lines are still present in the Anglican Communion to this day.

Archbishops' criticism of financial system continues to reverberate

The Financial Times carries this tidbit:

"Market freedom has become an absolute, a kind of fundamentalist religion in itself," Dr John Sentamu said, the Archbishop of York, adding: "You know the joke about how many economists it takes to change a light bulb. The answer is: 'None. The market will sort it out."

But not everyone in England considers the criticisms of western financial systems by the Archbishops of and York and Canterbury a laughing matter, especially since the Church of England has benefitted from short selling, a practice that Sentamu lambasted in a speech last week.

Again, The Financial Times has the story:

The Church of England faced charges of hypocrisy yesterday over its leaders' attack on short selling and debt trading after hedge funds pointed out that it uses some of the same practices when investing its own assets.

Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, said it was right to ban short selling, while John Sentamu, archbishop of York, called traders who cashed in on falling prices "bank robbers and asset strippers".

Hedge funds pointed to the willingness of the church commissioners to lend foreign stock from their £5.5bn ($10.2bn) of investments - an essential support for short selling - and derided the pair for not understanding shorting. "They are trying to shoot the messenger and . . . deflecting attention away from the dramatic incompetence of bank executives," said Hugh Hendry, of hedge fund Eclectica Asset Management. "Short selling is the pursuit of truth."

The Washington Post says the archbishops' criticisms are part of a larger debate about greed fueled by the fall of some "flamboyant financiers."

Perhaps, but one still wishes that they were better informed.

Bishop Alan Wilson and Bishop Pierre Whalon do an excellent job in demonstrating that Archbishop Williams' comment about Marx was misconstrued (seemingly deliberately) by the media, but Giles Fraser's column in Church Times points out the weakness of Archbishop Sentamu's argument about short selling--without naming any names.

Rosh Hashanah greetings

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, sent a greeting to Jewish leaders and communities for the festival of Rosh Hashanah, marking the start of the Jewish New Year.
In his greeting the Archbishop spoke of the "mutual and public support for the Millennium Development Goals" at the Lambeth Conference, and also paid tribute to "the way in which all the religions and their leaders can act together for the common good of humanity".

The text of the greeting begins:

To our Jewish friends in the household of faith

As you move from one year towards another and into the High Holy days, marking the creation of humankind, I am glad once again to be able to extend my warm greetings of friendship and appreciation to you on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah.

We have been able to share much together in this year past which has been significant, enjoyable and fruitful for the future and I look to be able to build on this in the year ahead.
In the Lambeth Conference held in Canterbury the bishops of the Anglican Communion were able to welcome Sir Jonathan Sacks to address them and with Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield and Rabbi Danny Rich to share in mutual and public support for the Millennium Development Goals in the presence of the Prime Minister. These were both an unprecedented witness to our friendship and esteem, and also a sign of the way in which all the religions and their leaders can act together for the common good of humanity.

Read the rest here.

Rowan Williams gives post Lambeth Conference interview, on Dostoevsky

Stuart Jeffries at The Guardian:

His job is to try to hold the Anglican church together through its darkest days for centuries. So why on earth did the Archbishop of Canterbury take last summer off to write about Dostoevsky?
...
I ask why Rowan Williams took three months off last summer to write this book.
...
he explains

Read more »

It's actually rather pleasant

Giles Fraser is having a good time in the USA:

The morning brings a fine smoke over the mountain lake. The forest trees of North Carolina rise majest­ically from the surface of the water. This is all the church you could ever want for.

We wade through the lilies, chest-deep in muddy water. “Will, I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Back on the bank, the congregation strikes up the magnificent spiritual: “O sin­ners, let’s go down, down in the river to pray.”

All the news is being made by the nonsense secession of the diocese of Pittsburgh from the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 26 September). So the impression is given that this Church is a snake-pit of acrimony. Yet, on the ground, in the parishes, things are so different.

The liturgy is prayerful and ima­ginative, the preaching orthodox and lively, the congregations wel­coming and alive. At least, that is my experi­ence. “Has Rowan Williams actually been to a service in an Episcopal church since he became Arch­bishop?” a friend asked me re­cently. Perhaps he has, but I could not think of an occasion.

And, no, I do not admire the Episcopal Church just because it has made a costly prophetic witness to the truth of the gospel over homo­sexuality. Media coverage has given the impression that it is a one-trick pony. That is nonsense. Churches here are vibrant and genu­inely diverse.

'A Common Word' on the economic turmoil

From the Communiqué from A Common Word conference released office of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

We, the Christian and Muslim leaders and scholars gathered for the Conference on A Common Word and Future Muslim-Christian Engagement from 12 to 15 October 2008AD/1429AH, give thanks to Almighty God for the opportunity to meet together and grow in mutual understanding, trust and friendship.
...
We live in an increasingly global world that brings with it increased interdependence. The closer we are drawn together by this globalisation and interdependence, the more urgent is the need to understand and respect one another in order to find a way out of our troubles. Meeting at a time of great turbulence in the world financial system our hearts go out to the many people throughout the world whose lives and livelihood are affected by the current crisis. When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, we are all tempted to think solely of ourselves and our families and ignore the treatment of minorities and the less fortunate. In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbour, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards. We believe that the divine commandment to love our neighbour should prompt all people to act with compassion towards others, to fulfil their duty of helping to alleviate misery and hardship. It is out of an understanding of shared values that we urge world leaders and our faithful everywhere to act together to ensure that the burden of this financial crisis, and also the global environmental crisis, does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor. We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth's resources.
Speaking of the markets and priorities, Ruth Gledhill is blogging that a Financial crisis looms for Anglicans:
word has reached me of a meeting this morning about the finances of the Anglican Communion, specifically the Anglican Communion Office in north-west London. This office is quite heavily dependent on income from the US. While none of the trust capital is affected, being secure in property in some of the 'best' areas of the US, investment income has apparently gone through the floor. This means that projects currently funded by such organisations have to be assessed and prioritised. One insider in the US tells me: 'I think ACO has been in a bad way even before the current situation. I am in the minority of TECers who would like to see us spend the money we give them on something more meaningful. Additionally, there are ethical issues involved in supporting a group of people so eager to throw gays and lesbians under the bus.'
Gledhill likes to run ahead of stories; as usual, wait for more evidence no matter what the plausibility.

ABC meets with deposed bishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams met with deposed bishop of Pittsburgh, Bob Duncan last week. Duncan was in London to meet with disaffected members of the Church of England.

As ENS notes, while addressing the media last week,

Duncan said that the "institutions of the Anglican Communion are in a season of real re-evaluation," adding that he thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury "has not found it possible, in terms of what he believes the limitation of his office are, to have done the things that actually would have secured the role of his office over the long haul of the 21st century. This is not an office which, in terms of the life of the Anglican Communion for the future, is going to look anything like it did for the previous century."

Threats, it seems, are rewarded with attention.

Read the ENS report on Lambeth Palace's confirmation of the meeting between Williams and Duncan.

During his tenure he has met more often with Duncan than any other American bishop with the exception of the Katharine Jefferts Schori. Nor has he ever, to our knowledge, attended a worship service in an Episcopal Church.

Rowan Williams busts a move

PASSERS-BY looked on in amazement as the Archbishop of Canterbury led hundreds of worshippers in song and dance in the streets of Plaistow.

Dr Rowan Williams was joined by up to 300 people at a service at St Philip and St James Church to celebrate the centenary of The House of The Divine Compassion.

Story and a photo in the Newham Record.

Earlier posts in The Lead's Anglicans bust-a-move series.

Putting Resolution B033 behind us

Update: read Herb Gunn's encyclopedic account of the saga of B033, and the statement of dissenting bishops.

Last week, the Chicago Consultation hosted a gathering of bishops, activists and General Convention delegates at Seabury Western Seminary. The group’s three goals, as stated on its Web site are:

• To strengthen the movement toward the blessing of same sex relationships.
• To advance the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in all orders of ministry.
• To strengthen the Anglican Communion’s witness against racism, poverty, sexism, heterosexism, and other interlocking oppressions.

In planning for General Convention, the group began to ponder the issue of Resolution B033 passed in the waning minutes of the General Convention in 2006. It states:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

There is general agreement within the Chicago Consultation that something has to be done about that second "Resolve", but the group is looking for input on which tack should be taken in attempting to get rid of it, or at a minimum, to reduce its influence.

The CC has considered three strategies, but there may be others.

1. Outright repeal

This is the strategy embodied in a recent resolution passed by the Diocese of Maine:

RESOLVED, that the Diocese of Maine calls for the repeal of B033, passed at the 75th General Convention and be it further

RESOLVED that the Diocese of Maine calls upon the 76th General Convention to refrain from restricting the field of potential candidates for future episcopates on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and to reject interference from outside the Convention that would attempt to affect its parliamentary process or negate the polity of The Episcopal Church, and be it further
RESOLVED that the Diocese of Maine maintain its commitment to participation in the Anglican Communion and to the listening process described in the Windsor Report. And be it further Resolved to direct its deputation to the 76th General Convention to submit a resolution to this effect. ("RESOLVED that the 76th General Convention will refrain from restricting the field of potential candidates for future episcopates on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and will reject interference from outside the Convention that would attempt to affect its parliamentary process or negate the polity of The Episcopal Church.")

Straight forward and plain spoken. Some, however, worry that such a resolution cannot pass the House of Bishops, whose members are fresh from the Lambeth Conference at which Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, urged a continuing moratorium on the consecration of GLBT people in committed monogamous relationship from the episcopacy. So, what about

2. Clarifying the nature of B033

This approach is embodied in a resolution passed by the Diocese of Rochester.

Resolved … that this 76th General Convention affirms that standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction are not bound by any extra-canonical restraints—including but not limited to the restraints set forth in Resolution B033 passed by the 75th General Convention—when considering consents to the ordination of any candidate to the episcopate.

In a way, this resolution simply seeks to call the Church’s bluff. B033 does not compel bishops or Standing Committees to vote against a gay candidate for the episcopacy; that would require a change in the canons, rather than a simple resolution. However, both the Episcopal Church—particularly its House of Bishops—and the Anglican Communion, have frequently behaved as though B033 had the force of law. This resolution makes it clear that it does not.

But some worry that this approach, while it certainly undercuts the authority of B033, does not go far enough in stating opposition to that resolution. So what about…

3. Sunsetting B033

This strategy has yet to be embodied in a resolution. It is based on the notion that the best way to get past B033 without bogging down in a fight over whether we are technically repealing it is to pass a more recent resolution with different content.

GC2006 “call[ed] upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

GC2009 can just as easily “call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to” fill in the blank “when considering whether to consent to the consecration of candidates to the episcopacy.”

abide by the non-discrimination provisions in Title 3 Canon 1 Section 2” might work.

Integrity maintains a data base on all known resolutions regarding the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the life of the Church. They are also sponsoring a survey that addresses some of the issues raised above.

Which approach makes the most sense? Which one can work? Your thoughts are welcome.

Here is some of our coverage of B033 from the Daily Episcopalian, June 2006.

Pittsburgh breakaway says ABC has no moral authority

The National Post, in Canada, is reporting that dissident former Anglican and Episcopal churches in Canada and the United States say they will form a new conservative jurisdiction in the next year though it may be difficult if the Archbishop of Canterbury does not approve.

Parishes that have left their national churches over the issue of same-sex marriage and a general trend toward liberalism want to create a single "province" that would report to a conservative North American bishop who shares their values.

"I believe the next year will be critical," said Rev. Peter Frank, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, which voted last month to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church. "The first proposals will be formed in the very near term, in a matter of weeks, frankly."

Mr. Frank said that any opposition from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be moot because the spiritual head of Anglicanism has lost his moral authority.

"Frankly, [he] is not in a position to do anything. At this point, the leaders of a majority of the world's Anglicans are going to recognize us when we [separate]."

But he added it would make it more difficult if Mr. Williams did not give his blessing.


Read it here.

One has to wonder who this single authority will be? Venables of the Southern Cone? Akinola of Nigeria? Orombi of Uganda? and what will happen if they disagree on ordination of women or the Real Presence or lay presidency?

9/11: Where the hell was God?

The Times is carrying excerpts from the biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. One segment is called: September 11, where the hell was God?. Archbishop Williams answers that God is in the midst of the suffering. All the easy answers about God were tested in the experience of being in the midst of the attacks on the World Trade Center:

On September 11, 2001, Rowan Williams was due to address 22 spiritual directors from across the US in a church-owned building next to Holy Trinity, Wall Street [New York], on 'the shape of a holy life', and reached the venue, 74 Trinity Place, at 8.35am. His host was the Rev Fred Burnham, director of the Trinity Institute, an educational foundation attached to the neighbouring church. The two went up to the 21st floor. Burnham was sitting in his office when the World Trade Centre's north tower was hit at 9.03am; and even though Flight 11 came from the opposite direction (Trinity Place is south of Ground Zero), the noise sounded like a sonic boom. Burnham raced to the room where Rowan was and cried that 'some cowboy' had just gone through the sound barrier. Then came a scream: one of the secretaries could see what had happened through her window. Burnham, Rowan and the others joined her to look. Though aghast, they assumed that the crash was accidental.

After a few minutes of watching smoke spurt from the north tower and debris flying by, they decided to go down to the studio where Rowan would give his speech. It was not until the second tower had been hit that everything changed.

Suddenly, as Burnham recalled later: 'We knew we were in the middle of a war zone and this was not a happy day.' Burt Medley, one of his colleagues, suggested that the Archbishop be asked to lead prayers, and this happened almost spontaneously. Rowan's words were like balm; the group began to feel more composed. Not only did he pray about the obvious things - the loss of life, the general anguish - he also began to lift up to God the anxieties of everyone in the room.

For 20 minutes they were able to watch a television monitor showing what was happening at the World Trade Centre, but then the first tower disintegrated with a colossal roar, 74 Trinity Place itself began to shake, and the monitor went blank. When it flashed on again a short while later, the group became more aware of what had happened. At the same time, smoke and soot began to enter their auditorium. The urge to move was confirmed by security staff, who came to guide them towards the bowels of the building via a service stairwell. It was thought that the absence of windows and air vents on this route would make respiration easier; but this hope proved to be misplaced. Some of Rowan's companions went back upstairs to the nursery that was also housed in the building; there they found blankets, which they tore up and moistened with water, to provide impromptu face masks.

Scarcely able to breathe, yet convinced that the atmosphere in the street was more treacherous, Burnham felt close to death. 'We were pretty much told to stay where we were and the most profound moment of the whole day, for me, was when five or six of us were gathered on the landing in the stairway, where the air had become virtually suffocating and I began to think, Well, it's worse outside, and I don't know how much longer we can tolerate this, maybe we've got 15 minutes, and beginning then to realise I would die.'

Elizabeth Koenig, a friend of Rowan who teaches at New York's General Theological Seminary, now laid a hand on the Archbishop's shoulder and said: 'I can't think of anyone I'd rather die with.' At that moment Burnham felt enclosed in 'a circle of love' that he would never forget.

'We were bonded for life. We became comrades in the face of death. And there was in the group a total submission and resignation to the prospect of death. No fear.'

Their thoughts of the hereafter were interrupted by screaming harbingers of the here and now. Police officers had broken down a back door of No 68 and were ordering everyone to evacuate, knowing that the second tower would almost certainly collapse soon. Rowan's group descended two flights of stairs and emerged into a cataclysmic scene on Greenwich Street, parallel to Trinity Place. Everything lay covered in ash and shards and personal belongings - bags, books, shoes.

They began making their way towards the southern tip of the Financial District, from where ferries and buses were escorting people to safety. The distance was small - barely 700 yards - but before the group had covered a block and a half, the second tower came down. They turned to see the elephantine dust cloud sweeping towards them. Again, the group thought it highly likely that they would die and Burnham recognised Rowan's courage. A woman on the staff of Holy Trinity was paralysed by fright. One of her colleagues asked the Archbishop if he would help; he put his arm round her and walked her down the street. They were breathless and coated with soot by the time they reached the Staten Island ferry terminal. The group approached a trailer with an open door and were welcomed inside by a group of construction workers. As in certain fictional tragedies, a macabre scene was briefly tinged with humour. One of the builders decided that everyone needed to turn to the Lord. He began to lead prayers himself, unaware that there were clergy by his side.

Half an hour later the air was clearing and the police began evacuating people on buses. The Trinity group were driven slowly up East River Drive, on Manhattan's eastern edge, and down 32nd Street to the junction with Fifth Avenue. From there, Rowan walked to his hotel and was able to contact his secretary by phone and to leave a message for [his wife] Jane that he was all right. Over lunch and a bottle of wine, the Archbishop and Burnham began to shed tears. Burnham set off for home towards the end of the afternoon, leaving Rowan to work on a brief article for that week's Church Times. 'I'm obviously very glad to be alive,' he wrote, 'but also feel deeply uncomfortable, and my mind shies away from the slaughter.'

The following day he managed to reach St John the Divine Cathedral, where he was due to give a lecture, with time to spare. He was immediately asked to celebrate an unscheduled Eucharist at the high altar and agreed to do so. Burnham was inspired.

'When [Rowan] got to the rubric for the homily he was totally surprised; he hadn't expected to preach, so he preached off the cuff. He went back to an encounter that he had with an airline pilot on the streets at 7am that morning. The pilot said to him, 'Where the hell was God?' Rowan's answer was that God is useless at times like this. Now that's pretty shocking, but actually what he then went on to unpack is that God didn't cause this and God [was not] going to stop it, because God has granted us free will, and therefore God has to suffer the consequences of this like we do. So in a sense he exonerated God...'

Rowan gauged each intercession so as to address a different facet of the disaster. At first the response ('Hear our prayer') to the invocation 'Lord, in your mercy' was quiet. Then Burnham sensed a swell of feeling throughout the congregation.

'As they realised how he was touching them, each one individually, they began to shout their response and by the time he finished, the response was like a football game...I was standing there with tears streaming down my face and I could hear people on all sides of me sniffling...in a magnificent way Rowan had liturgically connected with the people. And it was profound.'


Read it here.

Blogging the Compass Rose meetings

The Rev. Rick Lord of the Diocese of Virginia has been blogging from the meetings of the Compass Rose Society in Canterbury.

Note the prominent role played by at this meeting by members of the Windsor Continuation Group, a group put together by the Archbishop of Canterbury to accomplish no one is quite sure what. The only thing that can be said with any certainty about this group is that not one of its members supports gay ordination. As a result Anglicans who favor gay ordination are understandably suspicious of its power and its pronouncements. The Rev. Lord quotes Bishop Clive Hanford, the chair of the group as saying that trust has broken down within the Communion. But Hanford himself has played a role in breaking down this trust by supporting the formation of a separate Anglican province in North America for those who would like to break from the Episcopal Church. Why exactly should Episcopalians trust a man with those views?

The Rev. Lord has two entries on the wisdom of Rowan Williams. These might wear a little thin on readers who have noticed that for all his brilliance, Williams' bottom line throughout this controversy, which he helped create by nervously convening an emergency meeting of the Primates in October 2003, has been that gay people must suffer for the sake of the Communion.

Church of England still can't sign Anglican Covenant

The Church of England is legally prohibited from signing the proposed Anglican Covenant on which Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has hung his hopes for saving the Anglican Communion. We reported on this two days ago and nothing has changed, but really, it can't be overemphasized.

The Anglican Church of Australia is also an established (that is, state-chartered) Church, and may face difficulties similar to England's although I don't know that for sure. Additionally, the leaders of the semi-schismatic GAFCON movement, which include several African primates have already rejected the most recent draft of the covenant.

The question then is why conversation about the covenant is frequently framed as follows: Will the North Americans sign it? If not, will Rowan throw them out?

The covenant, it seems, faces far more serious problems than whether the Episcopalians and the Canadians will sign on, yet the media won't give up on this story line, and neither will those who grasp at any impediment available to deny gay and lesbian Christians the birthright of their baptism. Unfortunately, one member of the latter camp is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seldom misses an opportunity to make it seem that the future of the Communion hinges on North American's willingness to betray the GLBT members of their churches.

For further discussion of this issue, visit this thread on Thinking Anglicans and pay particular attention to the comments of Martin Reynolds who writes, in part:

Take the matter of the statistics recently reported to the Design Group on the responses from Lambeth.

There were 670 questionnaires issued at the Lambeth conference – only 370 bothered to fill them in and only 343 of these find their way into the statistical survey! So though they claim some 64% approval for the idea of a Covenant – in fact only 37% of those polled at Lambeth registered their contentment and only just over 24% of the bishops eligible to vote are known to be content.

The attempt to poll those not present has not been a success, we are told. In this case silence cannot be seen as consent – indeed rather the opposite might be assumed.

That 300 bishops should have shrugged their shoulders and trashed the questionnaire is an amazing fact bearing in mind how vital to the future of the Communion this new covenanted relationship was claimed to be. There was a massive input at Lambeth, Drexel’s introduction no fewer than FIVE separate lectures on the present draft – TWO whole indaba sessions – and still 45% of the bishops who TURNED UP – and were a captive audience - couldn’t be bothered to comment in this short questionnaire..

Taking into consideration the pathetic responses to the Covenant from the Communion’s Provincial structures – it is plain to see that there is no will for this – no will at all. If I were associated with this proposal I would be ashamed at the lack of genuine engagement that Provinces (other than TEC!) have shown to this proposal, and the failure of the Lambeth bishops to engage and approve of it.

Archbishop of Canterbury reflects on Advent

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury is featured on a youtube video reflecting on Advent and waiting. He suggests ideas for preparing for the coming of Christmas that are beyond a calendar and daily chocolates.

The Church of England has an Advent Calendar to assist with contemplation of the season here.

Trinity Wall Street offers a calendar here.

A download of Advent08 for your iPod or MP3 player is available here.

These begin on November 30.

Reviewing Rowan

A. N. Wilson has reviewed the new biography of Dr. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, for The Times of London. He likes both, the bio and the bishop.

Christmas message from the ABC

Human beings, left to themselves, have imagined God in all sorts of shapes; but – although there were one or two instances, in Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, of gods being pictured as boys – it took Christianity to introduce the world to the idea of God in the form of a baby: in the form of complete dependence and fragility, without power or control. If you stop to think about it, it is still shocking. And it is also deeply challenging.

Read more »

The unprincipled God

For Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury remembers Karl Barth who preached in 1931 about the action of God which is not based on principles but on unconditional love.

Williams writes:

Christmas is supremely the story of a God who is not interested in telling us about principles. First comes the action – God beginning to live a human life. Then comes the appeal: do you love and trust what you see in this human life, the life of Jesus? Then the implication: everyone is capable of saying yes to this appeal, so no one is dispensable. You don't and can't know where the boundary will lie between people who belong and people who don't belong.

The 20th century built up quite a list of casualties around "principles" in Barth's sense. Various philosophies solemnly assured us that the human cost is really worth it, because history will vindicate the sufferings and sacrifices of the present. Keep your nerve, don't be distracted by the human face of suffering, because it will be all right in the end; we know it will because the principles are clear.

Fortunately the Western world has not for a long time seen the real horrors that this entails in terms of brutality and devastation. Yet we are not completely immune from appealing to "principles" in order to help us avoid some of the harsher consequences of our policies and preferences. They may in themselves be good and positive principles, not like the destructive ideologies of the past century. But we're bound to be uncomfortably aware at the moment that what looked like a principled defence of some of our economic assumptions (this is what real wealth creation means and there is no other coherent way of defending it) seems more ragged and vulnerable than it once did.

The unprincipled question won't be silenced: what about the particular human costs? What about the unique concerns and crises of the pensioner whose savings have disappeared, the Woolworths employee, the hopeful young executive, let alone the helpless producer of goods in some Third-World environment where prices are determined thousands of miles away?

People react impatiently to this, asking why religious believers should be taken seriously when they talk about economics. Fair enough. But the whole point is that the believer doesn't want to talk about economics, only to ask an "unprincipled" question – to make sure that principles don't simply block out actual human faces and stories. How we make it all work is vastly complicated – no one is pretending it isn't. But without these anxieties about the specific costs, we've lost the essential moral compass.

So Christmas doesn't offer an alternative set of economic theories or even a social programme. It's a story – the record of an event that began to change the entire framework in which we think about human life, so that the unique value of every life came to be affirmed and assumed.

Whether we realise it or not, the reason we are shocked by the mass killings under Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot, by the indifference of a Mugabe to raging poverty and epidemic, is because this story has made a difference to how our civilisation thinks about universal human dignity.

The God of the Christmas story (and the rest of the Gospels) doesn't relate to us on the basis of any theory. but on the basis of unconditional love and welcome. That act of free love towards the entire human race changed things – even for those who didn't and don't share all the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity. And for those who do share those convictions, loving God and one another is a defiance of all programmes and principles designed to preserve only the wellbeing of people like us.

Read it all.


ABC's Christmas sermon - salvation begins close to home

Two Christmas messages, one from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other from The Most Rev'd Martín Barahona, Bishop of the Episcopal Anglican Church of El Salvador and Primate of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America:

Lambeth Palace has issued this press release:

In his Christmas sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury says that one of the lessons of the coming of Christ is that people shouldn't waste time waiting for larger-than-life heroes to bring comprehensive and total solutions to the ills of the world. Christ came in an unexpected way and did not meet the expectations that he would usher in a golden age.

"The gospel tells us something hard to hear - that there is not going to be a single charismatic leader or a dedicated political campaign or a war to end all wars that will bring the golden age; it tells us that history will end when God decides, not when we think we have sorted all our problems out; that we cannot turn the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of God and his anointed; that we cannot reverse what has happened and restore a golden age."

This, he says, should prompt us to think hard about the meaning of salvation and our response to it:

" what can be done to show his glory? So often the answer to this lies in the small and local gestures, the unique difference made in some particular corner of the world, the way in which we witness to the fact that history not only goes on but is also capable of being shifted towards compassion and hope."

Dr Williams praises two small-scale projects he's encountered over the last year, one in the Holy Land brings together families of the victims of violence:

"..a network of people from both communities in the Holy Land who have lost children or relatives in the continuing conflict; people who expose themselves to the risk of meeting the family of someone who killed their son or daughter, the risk of being asked to sympathise with someone whose son or daughter was killed by activists promoting what you regard as a just cause. The Parents Circle and Families Forum organised by this network are labouring to bring hope into a situation of terrible struggle simply by making the issues 'flesh', making them about individuals with faces and stories."

And also a project in Zimbabwe bringing hope and building confidence in small communities in the middle of destitution:

"last week I spoke with someone helping to run a small community theatre project in Bulawayo, supported by local churches, working to deepen the confidence and the hope of those living in the middle of some of the worst destitution even Zimbabwe can show. Signs of salvation; not a magical restoration of the golden age, but the stubborn insistence that there is another order, another reality, at work in the midst of moral and political chaos"

Nearer home, Dr Williams says that the coming of Christ at Christmas should prompt people to become aware of the difference they can make in the middle of economic recession:

"To follow him is to take the risks of working at these small and stubborn outposts of newness, taking our responsibility and authority. In the months ahead it will mean in our own country asking repeatedly what is asked of us locally to care for those who bear the heaviest burdens in the wake of our economic crisis without waiting for the magical solution, let alone the return of the good times."

The Most Rev'd Martín Barahona, Bishop of the Episcopal Anglican Church of El Salvador and Primate of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America writes:

Read more »

Archbishop Williams' Christmas sermon

In his Christmas sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury says that one of the lessons of the coming of Christ is that people shouldn't waste time waiting for larger-than-life heroes to bring comprehensive and total solutions to the ills of the world.

Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year message

The Archbishop of Canterbury's message this year will invite his hearers to take a moment and rethink their values in the coming year. Specifically he calls for us to focus less on material wealth and more on what society can do for children and its most vulnerable members.

From the BBC:

"The archbishop will say he understands that people are filled with "anxiety and insecurity" about entering the new year with amid so much financial uncertainty.

He will say: "There are fears about disappearing savings, lost jobs, house repossessions and worse.

"While the headlines are often about the big figures, it's the human cost that makes it real for us."

However, the archbishop will say that the events of the last few months should be viewed as an opportunity to think about wealth and security - and what "treasure" actually is.

The full text from here follows:

Read more »

ABC addresses General Synod

The Communion we have: it is indeed a very imperfect thing at the moment. It is still true that not every Primate feels able to communicate at the Lord's Table alongside every other, and this is indeed a tragedy. Yet last week, all the Primates who had attended GAFCON were present, every one of them took part in daily prayer and Bible study alongside the Primates of North America and every one of them spoke in discussion. In a way that I have come to recognise as very typical of these meetings, when talk of replacing Communion with federation of some kind was heard, nearly everyone reacted by saying that this was not something they could think about choosing. We may have imperfect communion, but we unmistakably want to find a way of holding on to what we have and 'intensifying' it – to use the language I used last summer about the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Read more »

Rowan Williams profiled in The Atlantic

Paul Elie profiles Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for The Atlantic:

And yet the people around me weren’t denouncing him as the oppressor; they spoke as if he, not their friend Gene, was the one engaged in an unending struggle against impossible odds.

Read more »

Rowan Williams at General Convention?

We have heard from a pair of well-placed and unrelated sources that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may be coming to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Anaheim in July. These reports are still unconfirmed, but details from the two sources are similar. They suggest the ABC would arrive on the first or second day of the convention, possibly participate in some sort of forum about the world economic situation, offer a meditation at the daily Eucharist on the third day of convention and then depart. A number of other Primates are invited as well. We will keep you posted.

Susan Russell weighs in.

Archbishop of Canterbury talks about Lent

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, reflects on Lent as a time to: "Sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter".

Read more »

At some point, someone will ask Rowan Williams this question:

But we are not holding our breath:

Has the Anglican Communion, made any inquiries into what Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria knew or did not know about the organized massacre that took the lives of at least 660 Muslims in the Nigerian town of Yelwa in 2004?

Read more »

Pullman lauds Williams, but asks if his strategy is working

Philip Pullman, author of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy was recently profiled in The Times of London. Among the issues he discussed with Alan Franks was the current state of the Church of England, of which he is not a member:

Read more »

Williams: a vision of the world and the humans in it free from possession

The evening Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a lecture entitled "Renewing the Face of the Earth: Human Responsibility and the Environment."

An excerpt:

Read more »

The Archbishop of Canterbury's own shortcomings on climate change

As we reported earlier, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has given a speech on climate change. The headline at The Church Times' blog reads: "Archbishop of Canterbury: Religious communities "failing profoundly" in climate change response."

Read more »

ABC has a word with the BBC

The story behind the story is the sheer number of stories of how the Church of England is dealing with the fact that the UK is no longer a Christian nation.

The Telegraph
:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has complained to the Director General of the BBC about the decline of religious programming at the Corporation. Dr Rowan Williams warned Mark Thompson at a meeting at Lambeth Palace that the broadcaster must not ignore its Christian audience.
...

Read more »

Capturing the castle through the back door

The most recent draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant, which we wrote about yesterday, speaks at some length about the powers that will be exercised by the various Instruments of Unity or Instruments of Communion. Indeed, almost every recent document dealing with Anglican governance speaks of the instruments as though they are at least as old and as well-established, as say, the three branches of the United States government. Yet the attempt to invest these instruments with ecclesiastical authority is barely a decade old, has never been examined in any formal way by the member Churches of the Communion and has never even been approved by the so-called instruments themselves.

However, by speaking as though the system that they wish to create already exists, proponents of a more top-down form of governance may succeed in wearing down resistance to a system of ecclesiastic arrangements in which individual churches are gradually forced to cede power to the global Communion.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury: the meaning of Easter

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, reflects on Easter as a journey:

Read more »

Bigotry or death?

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica is the deliberate fear mongering engaged in by men like Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Gregory Cameron, the deputy general secretary of the Anglican Communion. At one news conference after another they suggest that the Communion will rupture if the anti-gay measures embedded in the proposed Anglican Covenant and the report of the Windsor Continuation Group are not embraced and enforced. While they might dispute the characterization, the choice these religious leaders are putting before the Communion is a simple one: bigotry or death. Either the Communion embraces open-ended moratoria on the blessing of same-sex relationships and the consecration of gay bishops and a set of disciplinary procedures to punish wayward provinces and individual bishops or the sky falls.

Read more »

ABC meditation for General Convention Worship

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Meditation

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury responds to General Convention

The Archbishop of Canterbury has posted his thoughts on the actions of the most recent General Convention.

His paper opens:

Read more »

Tuesday roundup of reactions to ++Rowan's reflections

UPDATED: see below, including Chicago Consultation

Reactions from evangelical, conservative Episcopalians/Anglicans and others to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Reflections on the actions of The Episcopal Church General Convention actions for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, and transgender persons in the life and ministry of the church:

Read more »

Choice and the Archbishop

Sam Candler observes that Archbishop Williams' essay is mostly descriptive, but is also diagnostic and prescriptive. Here's what troubles Sam:

It is the way that Archbishop Rowan uses “choice” which is bothersome, as if it would be as easy for someone to choose a homosexual lifestyle as it would be them to choose a certain way of being Anglican. At their deepest levels of identity, neither homosexuality nor Anglicanism is a choice. In particular, Anglicans have claimed that Anglican Christianity is a gift; and part of that gift is a joint realization of local grace and global grace. I understand that certain formal parameters of an Anglican Covenant have yet to be developed, notably any “two-way” system. However, it seems to me a distinctly un-Anglican maneuver to sever local autonomy from global communion. Those very poles, taken together within one orbit, are exactly what define the structure of the wider Anglican tradition.
Read it all.

Some conservative response to the ABC's statement

Julia Duin of the Washington Times has dug out some responses to the statement by Rowan Williams regarding the actions of General Convention. The headline is "Anglican leader foresees two paths - Archbishop's essay draws fire":

Read more »

The Mad Priest is on a roll

No one has illuminated the danger that the proposed Anglican Covenant presents to the Church whose leader is proposing it as well as the Mad Priest.

First this, then this, then this. Money quote:

Read more »

Williams embarassed by the time things take

The Telegraph reports:

[Dr Rowan Williams] admitted he is sometimes embarrassed by the time the Church of England takes to keep up with changes in society.

Read more »

The bee's knees

Your Café keepers have been remiss in keeping our readers informed of the news buzzing out of Lambeth Palace. August is an especially sleepy time in the Church of England, and there's been little news out of the COE Media Centre, so there's no excuse for missing this story:

Read more »

ABC: "Economics is too important to be left to economists"

Perhaps I'm thin-skinned, but when the Archbishop of Canterbury says "economics is too important to be left to economists" my initial reaction is to take it as an attack on my profession. I hope, however, he shares my view that theology is too important to be left to theologians -- by which I mean to imply also that he shares my view that every profession should be open to criticism, growth, and insight from nonprofessionals. For the common good. (Tangentially, economics comes from Greek for "management of the household." It is about good stewardship of society's resources, not about how to line ones pockets.)

Read more »

'A better future?' Or just more bickering?

Savitri Hensman, a UK-based writer who works in the "voluntary sector in community care and equalities," has penned "A bettter future for the Anglican Communion?" Hosted by Ekklesia, it's a well-researched, Bible-flecked reflection piece representing the views of one member of the Church of England with respect to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ABC's passionate engagement with matters pertaining to the The Episcopal Church.

Read more »

TEC Executive Council expresses concern with current draft of Anglican covenant

Executive Council expresses concern with covenant's disciplinary section
Response to communion outlines divergent views on current draft
By Mary Frances Schjonberg in Episcopal Life

Read more »

The consecration invitation: lost in the mail?

The Porvoo churches may be in full communion, but they are suffering something approaching a full communications breakdown. Or so it would seem. Blame the UK postal strikes?

Read more »

ABC affirms Anglican holiness

Archbishop's sermon at All Saints' Margaret Street, London

Sunday 01 November 2009

. . . within our Anglican family we need to go on telling a few stories about those who have shown us that it is possible to lead lives of Catholic holiness even in the Communion of the See of Canterbury!

Read more »

Chicago Consultation asks PB, ABC to oppose anti-gay bill in Uganda

CHICAGO, IL, November 20, 2009—The Chicago Consultation today asked the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; Dr. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies; and the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, to speak out against draconian anti-gay legislation introduced in the Ugandan Parliament last month.

Read more »

Rowan tweaks Benedict on unity, women's ordination

Updated. Reuters and the New York Times read the speech that the Most Rev. Rowan Williams gave at the Vatican this week as both a defense of the Anglican Communion and a mild rebuke of the Roman Catholic approach to ecumenism. The Times of London thinks that the Archbishop could do a little more tweaking. Bishop Alan Wilson says that Williams speech signals another kind of unity, not a juridical unity and not a homogenized church but something deeper.


Read more »

No good reason for silence

Andrew Brown of the Guardian rejects the arguments of church officials, American and English, who think they should keep silent about the anti-gay legislation currently before the Ugandan parliament:

Read more »

Inclusive Church critiques ABC's covenant

Thinking Anglicans blog has posted two documents from the UK's Inclusive Church which offer comment on the proposed Anglican Covenant and are in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter from last August.

Read more »

PB interviewed on NPR in Atlanta

The Presiding Bishop was interviewed on the Atlanta National Public Radio affiliate on the state of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion:

from WABE in ATLANTA, GA

6 years ago, Eugene Robinson became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. But internal battles continue. Some parishes left the church, to join other parts of the Anglican Communion. This summer, the church's General Convention resolved that the screening process for new bishops is open to gays and lesbians. Two years ago, Episcopal leaders had said they'd hold off on gay bishops. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told WABE's Denis O'Hayer that's not a contradiction.

Listen to the interview

Rowan Williams, Jon Bruno on Glasspool consent process

Both Rowan Williams and Bishop Jon Bruno have provided food for thought following the election of Mary Douglas Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, to one of two Bishop Suffragan positions filled over the weekend in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Read more »

The ABC and the POTUS: two of a kind?

On the Sojo.net's "God's Politics" blog, LaVonne Neff compares the current resident of the White House with the current residence of Lambeth Palace. After expressing her admiration for Obama and Williams, she asks two important questions.

Read more »

Rowan Williams sorta kinda speaks on the Ugandan bill

In an interview with the Rev. George Pitcher of The Telegraph, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sorta kinda opposes the ugly anti-gay bill now being considered by the Ugandan parliament. For some reason, he remains unable to speak the simple sentence: "I oppose it". Nonetheless, he wouldn't even go this far when the Church of Nigeria twice pushed anti-gay legislation, so perhaps this is a kind of progress, for a man who says homophobia is wrong, but apparently believes that policies that benefit the most virulent homophobes in the Anglican Communion are matters of church order and therefore to be judged by a different standard.

Read more »

Breaking: Final Text of Anglican Covenant

UPDATE: Lionel Deimel has prepared a word by word comparison of Section IV with the Ridley-Cambridge Draft in pdf. Click Here

The final text of the proposed Anglican Covenant has been posted along with a video message from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The controversial fourth section is below:

Read more »

Williams gazes down deep well;
sees own face

The Pluralist doesn't much care for the Archbishop of Canterbury or his Covenant:

Read more »

1776 and All That

Elizabeth E. Evans writing a guest column on Reuters religion blog:

While there is dissent from other voices in the Communion, at the moment there is an element in the Anglican crack-up that seems familiar. After all, American Anglicans lived without prelatical supervisors for hundreds of years — and then had to go to Scotland to get Samuel Seabury consecrated as bishop in 1784 because he couldn’t take the oath of loyalty to King George III.


What are the consequences of not signing the covenant?

A few stray thoughts on the Anglican Covenant and the recent meeting of the Central Committee of the Anglican Communion (I can't bring myself to accept the power-grab-by-name- change that Rowan Williams has affected by calling this thing a Standing Committee, so I am using another name).

Read more »

His Christmas letter to Rowan

In today's Observer, Diarmid McCulloch skips his letter to Santa, preferring the parchment and quill instead for cheering up the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read more »

Between Uganda and L.A., a sad double standard

On the Guardian, Steven Bates has a good encapsulation of where things stand in the Church of England: liturgical opportunity at Christmas ... waning good will ... and a cup of cold tea for Rowan Williams.

Read more »

Covenant not "a penal code", says ABC

It is perhaps a good thing that the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks that the new Anglican Covenant will not be "a penal code." (Phew!) This piece in the Church Times lays out the essentials of the Anglican Covenant, and is (thankfully) a quick read.

Read more »

Rowan and the terrible, horrible,
no good, very bad decade

Updated: The Queen once said she had an "annus horribilis." So what would the ABC call the "noughties?" "La Década Perdida?"

Read more »

ABC's statement on Haiti

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams offers a message of support to the people of Haiti, and encourages people to give generously for aid work:

Read more »

Decoding the Anglican Covenant by Lionel Diemel

Lionel Diemel takes a stab at decoding the controversial Section 4 of the Anglican covenant, and even offers some quite interesting diagrams to try to answer the $64,000 question of, "What would really happen when serious disagreements arise among churches of the Anglican Communion?" Curious? Read on.

Read more »

Is it ethical to walk away from a mortgage?

Is it ethical to walk away from an underwater mortgage? The Church of England and its partners in a massive New York City real estate deal gone sour just did. By doing so the church cut its loss to $78 million or 1 percent of it portfolio.

Read more »

God, mammon and the ABC

The Archbishop of Canterbury told this year's Trinity Institute that the global recession arose, in part, from a fundamental disconnect between economic activity and morality. His speech comes in the wake of the news that the Church of England will lose about $78 million invested in the largest real estate deal in American history as well as involvement in a controversial mining operation in India.

Read more »

Rowan Williams in Newsweek

The Cafe has been reporting all week on the Trinity Institute program held yearly in New York which this year featured the Archbishop of Canterbury as one of the keynoters. The irony of having the Primate of All England speak in a city where the Church of England has lost significant capital on ill fated real estate speculation has not been lost on many.

Read more »

Caught in a contradiction

The Rev. Geoffrey Hoare heard Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, defend the proposed Anglican Covenant last week in terms that directly contradict the archbishop's own convictions about maintaining relationships:

Read more »

ABC speech: comments, news, tweets

A round up of comments, blogs, tweets, and news reports on the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech to the General Synod of the Church of England:

Read more »

ABC bemoans "megaphone tones"; "silence of cynism"

The addresses that Rowan Williams delivered at The Trinity Institute and at General Synod are old news by now, but there is commonality between the two that may have gone unnoticed. One commonality is the use and misuse of language.

Read more »

Rob Tish: "Read the bill, it's worse than they are telling us"

Rob Tish has put together another must see video, this time explaining how many ways you can be dead under the anti-gay bill before the Ugandan parliament.

Read more »

Williams "deeply worried" about plight of Mideast Christians

Rowan Williams in is Jordan today and while worshiping at the traditional site of Our Lord's Baptism, the Archbishop expressed his grave concern at the "eroding" Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Read more »

On the Jordan, ABC Williams lays a church cornerstone

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was in Jordan a few days ago to help lay the cornerstone of John the Baptist Church, The National reports.

Read more »

ABC honored by Russia

According to BBC News:

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has been awarded a top Russian honour recognising his love of the country and its literature.

Read more »

Rowan Williams honored by Russian government

The Archbishop of Canterbury was honored for his contributions to increasing the understanding and deepening the relationship of the UK and Russia. "The Order of Friendship" was awarded at a London ceremony attended by the Russian ambassador on behalf the President of Russia.

Read more »

ABC welcomes Pope's visit to Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK:

Read more »

ABC Holy Week reflections

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will offer reflections during Holy Week. The first one is setting the stage into which the Gospel of Mark enters, how a person of that day would have encountered it and heard it, and how it tells that God in Christ is changing everything. A podcast will be available following each lecture:

Read more »

ABC Easter message

From the Anglican Communion News Service

When St John tells us that the disciples met behind locked doors on the first Easter Day (John 20.19), he reminds us that being associated with Jesus Christ has never been easy or safe.

Read more »

Williams speaks out on child abuse scandals

Ruth Gledhill blogs that the Archbishop of Canterbury has commented on the child abuse scandal now rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

Read more »

Rowan Williams' unnecessary apology

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has apologized for saying in passing something that is incontestably true: the Catholic Church in Ireland, which has knowingly sheltered child rapists for decades, has lost all credibility.

Read more »

Church as institution: Good or Evil?

Over the weekend there was much talk about the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' comment on the Irish Catholic Church. The comment was a 14 second bit in a much longer and very interesting program on the church as institution and religion in society with Williams, Philip Pullman (author and critic of the institutional church), Mona Siddiqui (Muslim and academic) and David Baddiel (comedian and atheist).

Read more »

ABC thinks Bush & Blair misunderstood religion in Iraq

On BBC Radio 4, Dr. Rowan Williams wades into the issue of religion in Iraq, making the claim that Blair and Bush had merely a partial "Western" experience of Christianity which led to misunderstandings about the role of religion as they waged the invasion and liberation/occupation of Iraq:

Read more »

ABC to Global South: there are no quick solutions

The Anglican Communion News Service has published the text of the video by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Global South Gathering. The ABC is in discussions around the world about consequences for The Episcopal Church:

Read more »

Richard Dawkins interviews the ABC

Richard Dawkins interviews the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury. Dawkins asks how Williams reconciles his scientific view of evolution with believing in miracles:

Read more »

Complicity is too mild a word

Yesterday, the Observer carried an editorial that could have been taken from the pages of The Café. Headlined: The church must not be complicit in gay persecution in Africa, it began:

Read more »

ABC responds to Glasspool consecration

Once again, timing reveals Rowan Williams is more interested in appeasement than justice. Labeling it "Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion" [Word doc] does not mask that fact. The latest from Lambeth Palace. The bottom line, as predicted:

Read more »

ABC welcomes South African bishops letter

Without further comment or elaboration, the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday "welcomed" the letter written by South Africa's bishops.

Read more »

The self-trivializing Anglican Communion

Like the rest of the Episcopal Church, I woke up to the news on Friday that the Archbishop of Canterbury was going to ask two of our representatives to step down from formal ecumenical dialogues with the Orthodox Churches, and reduce our representative on the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order to observer status.

Read more »

The ABC should practice a little "gracious restraint" of his own

Café contributor the Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn has written a letter in response to Rowan Williams' Pentecost Letter:

Read more »

Talking points

These talking points from the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs have been in the works for a few weeks. They are the latest in a series of releases on church governance and other issues, and might have gone quietly into that good night had the Archbishop of Canterbury not provided a news peg. Click Read more to have a look.

Read more »

The incredible shrinking Archbishop of Canterbury

In excluding members of the Episcopal Church from Anglican bodies engaged in ecumenical dialog Rowan Williams was no doubt trying to send a message to... well, someone or other.

Read more »

On governance and human dignity
in church versus state

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the new Parliament in St Margaret’s, Westminster, emphasizing the dignity of all persons. In the meantime, the fall out from his Pentecost letter continues.

He told the MPs:

Read more »

Rowan to Katharine: don't wear your mitre in England

From Hugh Muir's Diary in The Guardian:

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the US church and the first woman ever to lead an Anglican province, preached at Southwark Cathedral last weekend despite muted hisses of disapproval by conservative evangelicals. But close observers would have seen there was something missing: no mitre on her head. Who could be responsible?

Read more »

Ecclesial temper is Caiaphas rather than Christ

jdd commenting on the story that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the Presiding Bishop permission to preach and preside at Southwark Cathedral on the condition that she not cover her hair.

A quote from Williams’ one-time teacher seems apropos (a Scottish Episcopalian, no less):

Read more »

Griswold wore mitre at Southwark

Ordinarily it would not be news that in 2006 the Most Rev. Frank Griswold, then presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church USA wore his mitre at Southwark Cathedral. But these are not ordinary times.

Read more »

Lambeth Palace investigating #mitregate

Ruth Gledhill has this report on #mitregate quoting her The Times article:

Read more »

Diana Butler Bass covers #mitregate

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, forbade his ecclesiastical equal, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church ("Presiding Bishop" is the American and democratic term for "Archbishop") to wear her mitre while preaching in an English cathedral. In addition, Lambeth Palace ran the ecclesiastical equivalent to a background check on Presiding Bishop Schori--just to make sure she was rightly and duly ordained.

Read more »

Colin Slee speaks out on #mitregate

Ruth Gledhill:

Read on for what Dean Colin Slee [of Southwark Cathedral] told The Times today.
...
'I can say that female bishops have preached relatively recently in both Salisbury and Gloucester Dioceses and worn their mitres with the respective permission of the Diocesans.'

Read more »

If we are to be an international church, then why not go Roman?

Lucas Mix, a college chaplain at the University of Arizona, raises a very good question on his blog. It seems that the Anglican Communion is in the midst of deciding for itself if it is to be an international body or a family of national autocephalous churches. The arc of the actions that were initiated with the Virginia Report back in 1997 and leading through to Windsor compliance commission of today would seem to indicate that we are moving in the international direction.

Read more »

Lambeth Palace on "the issue of vesture" AKA #mitregate

In the latest episode of Southwark, Lambeth Palace refers to #mitregate as "the issue of vesture". At least LP didn't choose the words "wardrobe malfunction."

An American Episcopalian received the response below to his email concerning his "disappointment ... in the manner in which our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was treated during her recent visit to Southwark Cathedral." (We have omitted the correspondent's name.)

Read more »

ABC/ABY show how
not to do evangelism

On the very week to the Church of England issues a major report on evangelism (forward by the ABC and ABY), the ABC and ABY announced their cunning scheme to appease traditionalists within the church by putting women bishops in a second tier. Maggi Dawn is no longer willing to defend the two men:

Read more »

Lionel Deimel: Has Rowan Williams done us a favor?

Lionel Deimel wonders whether the Archbishop of Canterbury has done our church a favor by kicking Episcopalians off of Anglican ecumenical bodies:

Read more »

ABC speaks at #methconf on covenant, and women

Rowan Williams spoke before the Methodist Conference in Portsmouth, England where he spoke on the subject of covenant and mutual recognition between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. He was cautious in his remarks according to this report from Christian Today (UK):

Read more »

Rowan turns rough

Paul Handley, editor of the Church Times has a column on the Comment is Free section of the Guardian's website describing the advent of the "new" Rowan Williams:

Read more »

Conflict swirls around the Archbishop of Canterbury at Synod

Between the controversy over plans to ordain women as bishops in the Church of England, the coming decisions on the Anglican Covenant and the decision to not appoint Dean Jeffrey John as bishop of Southwark, it's been a hard month for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now there are reports that members of his House of Bishops are ready to oppose his leadership.

Read more »

Interest groups react to vote on archbishops' female-bishops scheme

Following yesterday's defeat at the CoE's Synod of the archbishops' scheme to provide for softened episcopal oversight by women (the story from yesterday is here, and it's engendering quite a discussion), a number of associated groups are throwing forth commentary on what's being termed an impasse.

Read more »

Rowan lectures Lutherans

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, offered the keynote address today to the Lutheran World Federation and his lecture topic was "Our Daily Bread," arguing that, " We may focus so closely on the rights of human persons that we lose sight of their beauty and dignity, the beauty and dignity that help to feed us. " A thoughtful theologian offering words of beauty and hope; how will these words be understood and lived out?

Below is an excerpt.

Read more »

Pope not 'fishing' on UK visitation

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols says that despite recent overtures to Anglicans through the instrument of an ordinariate, Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip to the UK isn't for tossing out lures.

Read more »

Malcolm French on opposing the Covenant

Malcolm French of the Simple Massing Priest blog offers a strong critique of the proposed Anglican Covenant, as well as a call to arms:

Read more »

ABC: "threat to desecrate scriptures is deplorable"

Added: Pastor of the Dove Center says he has cancelled plans to burn copies of the Koran.

Read more »

Rowan Williams: "No problem" with celibate gay bishops

In an lengthy interview published in the Times this weekend, Rowan Williams reflects on his ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury, his sense of personal failure in failing to support Dr. Jeffrey Johns' election to the bishopric, and that he believes gay celibate Christians can serve as bishops in the Church of England.

Read more »

In Williams interview, what makes the news?

In the blogosphere's dissection of recent remarks made by Rowan Williams that gay bishops are okay as long as they're celibate, Church Mouse thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury made a classic media-relations gaffe.

Read more »

ABC will travel to India

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will travel to India, next week:

Read more »

Rowan Williams weighs in lightly on legalism and zeal

In the midst of a 16-day visit to India, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is thinking a bit about religious controversy and legalism.

Read more »

On pilgrimage, Rowan Williams to swat political flies

Still on pilgrimage to India, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams may be about to be used as leverage in local elections. (Ahem!) Not that it's new that he should find himself an unwitting chess piece. Still:

Read more »

ABC interviewed in India

Rowan Williams was interviewed in India by The Hindu Newspaper on wide-ranging topics:

Read more »

ABC and the Sticky Wicket

The Archbishop of Canterbury took a break from one sticky wicket for another. ++Rowan Williams could be found in Telford launching a new ale "Sticky Wicket" instead of pressing his desire for the so-called Anglican Covenant. According to Ekklesia:

Read more »

ABC to visit Vatican

Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams will visit the Vatican on November 17th:

Rome Reports: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will visit the Vatican
From Catholic News, Rome Reports

Read more »

ABC writes to primates about meetings

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the primates concerning the primates meeting in late January 2011 in Dublin. The letter, dated October 7, calls for subgroups of the primates to meet prior to the meeting, and also proposes changing the structure of future primates meetings. The full content of the letter has not been made public, but George Conger has this report:

Read more »

Jeffrey John on Colin Slee: 'always surprisingly un-scared'

Jeffrey John preached the funeral of Colin Slee yesterday. Here is the text of that sermon.

Read more »

Will he invoke the Holy Spicket?

Word came yesterday that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will in fact preside at the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011.

Read more »

ABC and nativity scenes

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticized attempts to ban public nativity scenes and carol singing "out of sensitivity to the supposed tender consciences of other religions." It is too bad that Williams' seemingly cheap shot at those who try to preserve space for other faiths and non-believers gets more headlines than the Williams' message of how Christmas and the story of the birth of Jesus reaches out to those who are in the midst of wondering if there is any hope in this life.

Read more »

People Magazine profiles Rowan Williams

No, not a story from The Onion. People Magazine is profiling the officiant for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding.

Five Things to Know About Will & Kate's Wedding Officiant

Read more »

Christmas letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Ecumenical Christmas Letter:

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon from the Anglican Communion News Service , economic justice, Christian marriage, and solidarity with those who are persecuted for their faith entwine in a message of hope:

Read more »

ABC on 400 years of the King James Version

What are you doing to celebrate the King James Version's 400th birthday? The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams reflected on this event in his New Year's Message:

Fatal flaws in ABC's approach to reconciliation?

Savitri Hensman, writing in The Guardian, says that the Archbishop of Canterbury's approach to reconciliation fails because of a flawed approach.

Read more »

Of margins and the proposed Covenant

Peter Owen at Thinking Anglicans has this small bit of good news amidst a larger report about the next General Synod of the Church of England, which meets next month:

Read more »

ABC statement on David Kato's murder

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is currently in Dublin for the Primates' meeting, has made the following statement regarding the murder of the gay human rights activist David Kato Kisulle in Uganda:

Read more »

Anglican Communion: The shape of things to come

Paul Bagshaw has written an essay on the state of the Anglican Communion after the most recent Primates Meeting, and his thoughts are similar to mine. The threat of the primates dictating terms beyond the borders of their own provinces ebbs as the threat of a Communion run by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a London-based bureaucracy flows.

Read more »

Rowan Williams takes a stand on church's role in same-gender weddings

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to recent advances by the British government to incorporate church buildings and liturgies into the weddings of same-gender couples. The move throws into sharp relief a number of restless questions.

Read more »

What exactly is Rowan Williams saying about the new civil partnership bill?

We are still trying to unravel the Sunday Telegraph article about Rowan Williams' seeming opposition to a proposed British law that would lift the ban on blessing same-sex civil partnerships in religious ceremonies.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury laments Pakistan's blasphemy law

From the Anglican Communion News Service:

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams writing in The Times newspaper:

Read more »

ABC Letter to the Primates

A letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion:

Read more »

He's a focal point not for unity, but for disgruntlement

When Lionel Deimel asks "Why is Rowan such a disappointment?" you kinda want to sit up and take notice.

Read more »

To love and to cherish. (obey?)

With all the media coverage on the upcoming royal wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William, there's not been much of a religious angle to the news. But the hordes of reporters working the London beat rather than global war zones, have finally stumbled across some news of interest to people familiar with the Book of Common Prayer:

Read more »

ABC warns against forgiving too easily

The Daily Mail reports on the Archbishop of Canterbury's scheduled Good Friday broadcast on BBC1, What is the Point in Forgiveness?:

It may be a key Christian principle but forgiving too easily can be dangerous, the Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested.

Read more »

ABC: No one falls outside God's love

Archbishop’s Ecumenical Easter Letter 2011 - 'The victory is won'

God has, from all eternity, loved us: and, when we realise that fact, nothing else can finally shape our minds and hearts. We are anchored in that love: it does not protect us from harm, or from hard decisions, or from emotional turmoil and profound grief, or anger at the pain of the world.

Read more »

ABC on the Royal Maundy

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated today the tradition of the Royal Maundy.

The practice of distributing ''alms'' to the needy or worthy on the Thursday of Holy Week dates back centuries and is an important annual event in the Queen's calendar.

Read more »

Dear Lulu

The Telegraph's Damian Thompson shares a story of a little girl writing a letter to God and the response she got when her dad forwarded it to "the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace."

Read more »

ABC on Narnia

lampNarnia.jpeg Each year during Holy Week the Archbishop of Canterbury gives a series of lectures. This year he discussed Narnia:

Read more »

ABC on OBL

In a press conference the Archbishop of Canterbury took questions on Osama bin Laden:

Q: Do you believe that the killing of Osama Bin Laden is justice for the 9/11 attacks and indeed other attacks? And was the US morally justified in shooting him even though he was unarmed as the White House now admits?

Read more »

About those redactions

If you have been reading the Colin Slee memo on archbishops behaving badly and wondered what was redacted from the original document, we can now say that what is missing is the cover letter by Slee's daughter (a good call, we think), and the second of two appendices. The reason for this redaction, we assume, is because it contains an email exchange between Slee and Chris Smith of Lambeth Palace, who has not given anyone permission to publish the exchange.

Read more »

The Slee memo: more reaction, more reporting.

Response to the Colin Slee story continue to flow in.

Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow keeps the blog What's in Kelvin's Head. He writes:

Read more »

Williams calls for super-injunctions on privacy

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was quoted in British press yesterday speaking in support of the need for information to be restrained in the case of high-profile people attempting to keep their public personas intact.

Read more »

The ABC attacks "Big Society"

The news sites in Britain and the church blogs are lighting up with the news of the Archbishop of Canterbury's newest essay in which he attacks the cuts being made to the social welfare nets in England.

As the Economist puts it:

Read more »

Continued reaction to Archbishops editorial

Updated. The press and the bloggers in the UK are still reacting over the Archbishop of Canterbury's turn as guest-editor at the New Statesman.

Read more »

Leaping Lesbians in Lambeth Palace

Mary-Benson-aged-73-003.jpg

Read more »

Archbishops of Canterbury and politics

The Church Time reports on a study which shows that the three most recent Archbishops of Canterbury have been “con­sist­ently controversial political figures.”

Read more »

Not the Archbishop of Canterbury

One man in Kent is tired of being confused with Rowan and has written The Guardian to complain. KentOnline takes it from there.

Read more »

ABC has concerns about Kenyan clergy ordained for England

The Archbishop of Canterbury's office has released this statement on the proposed "Anglican Mission in England." The tone is calm but the concerns are evident.

Read more »

Is the ABC romanticizing the church?

Savi Hensman, Ekklesia, wonders if the Archbishop of Canterbury is guilty of romanticizing the church in Africa and elsewhere while ignoring the human rights abuses in those places:

Read more »

A bloggers' debate: Should Rowan Williams resign?

Our friends the Rev. Lesley Fellows of the No Anglican Covenant group and Adrian Worsfold, who blogs as The Pluralist are having a running, written debate about whether Rowan Williams should resign as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read more »

ABC fires PR director

The Rev. George Pitcher's contract as the Media Director to Archbishop of Canterbury will end after only one year.

Read more »

In Ghana, Rowan reaps

Just when you thought gay bashing in the Anglican Communion would take a holiday, in spite of the failure of the Archbishop of Canterbury to show by word and example that gays are deserving of the same rights as all human beings, it reappears. Destination? Ghana. Not surprisingly, Anglican bishops are involved.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury's message to the people of Norway

Reposted from Eurobishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has sent his prayers and sympathy to the people of Norway following the tragic events in Oslo and Utøya last Friday.

Read more »

The Church of England in all its glory and complexity

Matthew Engel of the Financial Times' magazine has written an institutional profile of the Church of England. It won't tell those of you who read this blog regularly much that you don't know, but it is an excellent encapsulation of the issues that challenge the church, from the parochial (declining attendance and revenues) to the global (intolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians.)

Read more »

Rowan Williams in 1988 on homosexuality

A pamphlet entitled "Speaking Love’s Name; Homosexuality: Some Catholic and Socialist Perspectives" written in 1988 had an introduction from Prof. Rowan Willams. It a name we recognize, but a voice we've rarely heard.

His writing refers to a resolution at the 1987 synod of the Church of England in which the traditional teachings of sex being reserved for the state of holy matrimony was reaffirmed.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury on riots

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reflects on the "unrest" in England. Williams is going to Parliament today. According to Twitter™, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu will also attend to lead prayers and speak:

Read more »

ABC speaks in House of Lords about UK riots

A full transcript of the Archbishop's speech follows, or listen to the podcast [7Mb].

Read more »

Rowan Williams to visit Zimbabwe in October

The Archbishop of Canterbury is traveling to Zimbabwe in hopes of being able to stop the ongoing violence caused by renegade Anglicans under the leadership of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.

Read more »

Rowan Williams reflects on 9/11

Posted yesterday on the LambethPress YouTube channel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams reflects in an interview on his experiences on September 11, 2001 nearby the World Trade Center.

Read more »

Rowan Williams stepping down soon? A quick look at a possible scoop

Jonathan Wynne-Jones' story on Rowan Williams' future plans is careening around the internet. It begins as so:

Read more »

If Rowan Williams steps down, who will succeed him?

Blogger Chris Hansen was underwhelmed by Jonathan Wynne-Jones' thinly-sourced story this week in which it was "understood" (by someone or other) that Rowan Williams had told friends he was planning to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury before his term ends 10 years from now, and possibly next year.

Read more »

At Canterbury Cathedral, banter and practical theology

A good public conversation noted on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' site:

Read more »

Gledhill says Williams' resignation is likely

In an interview on William Crawley's Sunday Sequence program on BBC Radio Ulster, Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent of The Times of London said she believes reports indicating that Rowan Williams will resign as Archbishop of Canterbury next year. You can listen here by clicking on the Listen Now button in the second box on the left.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury on Fresh Expressions and clergy

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams sends a video greeting to the Vital Church Planting Conference on September 5.

Read more »

Kunonga scorns ABC visit.

Deposed Bishop Nolbert Kunonga is unhappy that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is coming to Zimbabwe.

Kunonga talking points are as follows: he is not a puppet of the Mugabe regime, and that Williams is coming to Zimbabwe to spread colonialism and to promote homosexuality.

Read more »

Rowan Williams visits Malawi, Zimbabwe & Zambia

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams will pay a pastoral visit to the Church of the Province of Central Africa beginning today:

Read more »

ABC in Central Africa: Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia

UPDATED: The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is currently in Malawi as part of his visit to the Province of Central Africa. He met with the President on Friday according to the Anglican Communion News Service and the website for the Archbishop:

Read more »

Face injustice and the arrogance of 'false brethren' - Rowan Williams in Zimbabwe

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams preached today at a packed sports stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. More than 15,000 Anglicans were in attendance.

The text of his sermon follows.

Read more »

Rowan Williams urges acceptance of people with HIV


Rowan Williams urges acceptance of people with HIV while visiting Africa:

Read more »

World Day of Prayer and Action for Children

ACNS:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has released a statement in advance of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, which is on Sunday 20th November 2011.

Read more »

A community of communities

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, asks how religious communities can serve the well-being of the community, and reflects on power in a well-functioning society. He spoke at the Inter Faith Conversation 'Living Well Together in Britain Today', last Tuesday. Here is the talk on YouTube.

Read more »

Rowan Williams on Christmas, Occupy, and 'WWJD'

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams fashions up some thoughts on Christmas and that whole "What Would Jesus Do?" meme. He comes around to the subject of how he guesses Jesus might be involved in the Occupy movement.

Read more »

The tragedy of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury

Andrew Gerns, who does the Friday news on The Lead, comments at his blog on an article in the Weekly Standard,by Joseph Bottum, titled with the alarmist The End of Canterbury: will the sun set on the Anglican Communion?

Read more »

Lambeth has new Secretary for Public Affairs

Lambeth Palace reports it has hired Kay Brock to serve as the Secretary for Public Affairs to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Brock was Chief of Staff to six Lord Mayors of London and Assistant Private Secretary to the Queen.

Read more »

ABC says: don't give up on the young

Sky News reports that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope sent New Years Messages that encourage society to pay more attention to youth and not to give up hope on them:

Read more »

Lady Runcie, a life remembered

Lady Rosalind Runcie, the widow of Lord Robert Runcie the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury died on Thursday. She was a remarkable woman who always struggled with her role as a clergy spouse and yet is said to have made an "important and vital contribution" to the life of the Church of England

Read more »

Williams and Dawkins debate belief in God.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams did what he does best when he met Richard Dawkins Clarendon House at Oxford University for a debate about the existence of God that turned into a discussion about the efficacy of belief in God.

Read more »

ABC steps up to defend LGBT people

There's an ongoing dispute at the UN Human Rights Council about the limits to the persecution of LGBT people. In a speech in Geneva this evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke out strongly against any decisions that would countenance laws criminalizing gay and lesbian people.

Read more »

The rest of the ABC human rights speech story...

UPDATE: see below

According to some there is a double message in the speech by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams to the World Council of Churches. On the one had he comes out strongly against abusive laws that discriminate and kills gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people but also supports discriminatory marriage laws in the name of religion:

Read more »

Lambeth Palace not amused

The Independent reports that Lambeth Palace is not happy with the Archbishop of York and his column in The Sun.

Read more »

The ABC wants you to support the proposed Anglican Covenant

There is no clearer sign that the proposed Anglican Covenant is in some trouble than the fact that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, feels the need to release a video in an attempt to enlist support.

Read more »

Does Rowan Williams understand the proposed Anglican Covenant?

Canon Alan Perry continues to offer some of the more incisive and effective criticisms of the proposed Anglican Covenant. Yesterday he took his scalpel to the recent video in support of the document released by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read more »

Tutu rips Rowan - updated

UPDATE: The Very Rev. Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Alban's, says the church is "the last refuge of prejudice" in The Telegraph today:

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury to address RC bishops

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has been asked by Pope Benedict XVI to speak to the 2012 Synod of Bishops, which will meet at the Vatican in October.

Read more »

Breaking: Rowan Williams stepping down at year's end

UPDATED: Rowan Williams will step down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of 2012 to become head of Magdalene College at Cambridge.

Read more »

ABC discusses his decision, also more reactions

UPDATED AGAIN (3:15 p.m. EDT) and AGAIN at 4:15 p.m. EDT below

UPDATED: (see below) From the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke to the Press Association following the announcement that he will step down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of December 2012 to take up the position of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Read more »

More comments on ABC resignation and who's next?

UPDATE: 9:15 p.m. EDT - see below
Anglicans after Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, an essay by Thomas Ferguson, dean of Bexley Hall, an Episcopal seminary in Columbus, Ohio and formerly The Episcopal Church’s ecumenical and interreligious officer:

Read more »

Williams the "red tory"

When Rowan Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury most of the liberal portions of the Anglican Communion were delighted. But, as we've heard repeatedly over the past couple of days, they were quickly disappointed. The problem Giles Fraser argues is not that Williams' changes his thinking, but that most people assumed he was liberal rather than a radical.

Read more »

Nigeria prays for anti-gay successor to Williams

A news release from the Church of Nigeria chides Archbishop Rowan Williams for not toeing the Nigerian line on Biblical interpretation:

Read more »

Rowan Williams interviewed

Coincidentally the Archbishop of Canterbury had on his calendar for today an interview on the occasion of an anniversary of the Fresh Expressions, an evangelism ministry of the Church of England. In addition to questions about Fresh Expressions and the place of the church today more generally, he is asked about the job of Archbishop of Canterbury, what has given him joy and how he has maintained his spiritual life.

Read more »

Dinner with Rowan

Years ago, before Rowan Williams became the Archbishop of Canterbury, before the time of incredible stress on the Anglican Communion, he and Jane Williams had an informal dinner with Malcolm Boyd and his partner Mark. Boyd looks back on that dinner, remembers what the future Archbishop was like, and thanks him for showing him the face of Jesus that night.

Read more »

The New Yorker on the impending departure of the ABC

Jane Kramer of The New Yorker offers her take on why Rowan Williams stepped down as the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Read more »

Share your views on the next ABC

UPDATED:
Anglican Communion News Service reports on an invitation to share your views on the ministry of the next Archbishop of Canterbury:

Read more »

Mr. Catolick is not fond of the Archbishop of York

It is safe to conclude that Mr. Tom Catolick does not believe that Archbishop John Sentamu would make a good Archbishop of Canterbury. We don't know much about Archbishop Sentamu. A number of the people involved in The Episcopal Church's attempts to work through its response to the Windsor Report at our General Convention in 2006 felt he inserted himself in the process in unhelpful ways. But it is difficult to say whether that says more about the man or the times.

Read more »

Who is responsible for leaks from the Crown Nominations Commission?

The Crown Nominations Commission, which will nominate Rowan Williams' successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, leaks. Strategically. And at least one leading figure thinks the leak needs to be plugged before the next archbishop is selected.

In a letter to the Guardian, Dean Jeffrey John wrote:

Read more »

Rowan Williams and the decline of religious institutions

In an essay for USA Today, Diana Butler Bass says the dilemmas that Rowan Williams faced as Archbishop of Canterbury are a sign of the times, but not in the way that most people think.

Read more »

Will Sentamu succeed Williams?

There's a great deal of chatter in the past few days about the possibility of the John Sentamu, the present Archbishop of York, succeeding Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are opinion pieces in the English press claiming that if he doesn't, it's because of racism. And there are articles talking about leaked concerns regarding his management style.

Paul Vallely for instance writes:

Read more »

A Rowan retrospective worth reading

Instant retrospectives on Rowan Williams' not-yet-concluded tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury are thick on the ground, but this one by Tom Sutcliffe stands out for its balance, nuance, and ability to compare Williams' style of leadership to that of his predecessors. Here is a taste:

Read more »

ABC selection panel: Dominated by liberals?

The Telegraph gives space today to those who feel that the panel charged with selecting the next Archbishop of Canterbury is dominated by liberals:

Read more »

Graceful, yes, but of necessity? Rowan Williams' inter-church partners

In The Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog, Savi Hensman argues that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' affection for Orthodox Christianity, together with a marked subservience to Pope Benedict XVI, have negatively impacted the ability of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion to stand up for people who need to be stood up for, and to effectively deal as full partners in the Porvoo Communion.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury: Queen's Diamond Jubilee

The Archbishop of Canterbury talks about The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the significance of the 60 year reign 'in which nationally and internationally so much has shifted'. The Archbishop praises Her Majesty's profound commitment to understanding and working with the flow of the changes that have taken place in society in this time, saying 'To have [a monarch] who has been a symbol, a sign of stability through all that period is really a rather exceptional gift.'

Read more »

The return of the real Rowan?

Commentators on Facebook are talking about the surprising sermon that the Archbishop of Canterbury preached this morning. They're wondering if this is the return of the Rowan that they remember reading before his appointment as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Guardian highlights the fact that the Archbishop didn't restrict his remarks to the occasion. He took on some of the powerful people in the good seats upfront too.

Read more »

Archbishop of Canterbury's message for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

The pre-recorded video is entitled "What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?" The entire transcript (courtesy of Anglican Communion News Service) is below:

Read more »

C of E "fit only for bigots and hypocrites"?

Nick Cohen of the Guardian is not so keen on the Church of England, and neither are the headline writers who called this piece "A church fit only for bigots and hypocrites." It includes this bit:

Read more »

"Help, my friends think I'm mad!' ABC at Youth Day

The Most Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury spoke with young people at Lambeth Palace.

Read more »

Rowan Williams in retrospect

As Rowan Williams steps down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury to return to academics, Mark Chapman offers his thoughts about Williams' time. From Thinking Faith: the online journal of the British Jesuits:

Read more »

Global South Primates: next ABC must 'address the ecclesial deficit' of Communion

A letter to Lord Luce of the Crown Nominations Commission from the Global South of the Anglican Communion expresses Global South Primates' desires for traits they wish to see in the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read more »

Watching the odds on the next ABC

You can not only see the current line the bookmakers have on who might be the next Archbishop of Canterbury but you can look at the history of those odds.

Read more »

The next Archbishop of Canterbury: surveying the field

We don't know who is going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, and we know little about some of Rowan Williams' most likely successors. That's why we find Laura Sykes' ongoing evaluation of the field so helpful. Visit Lay Anglicana and have a look.

Of Bishop James Jones of Liverpool she writes:

Read more »

Rowan Williams' fear of the mob

Editorial thoughts about Theo Hobson on Rowan Williams in The Guardian.

Read more »

Williams suggests restructure of ABC office, Kearon says not on ACC agenda

Updated (9:48 a. m.) with a statement from the Anglican Communion Office that calls the "Anglican presidency" element of the story into question:

Read more »

Justin Welby new odds on favorite for ABC

According to Church Mouse on Twitter:

Read more »

And now the race begins

The Crown Nominations Commission begins their work of choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury next week. Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian, summarizes the process including a run-down of possible candidates and what's ahead for the next Archbishop.

Read more »

Bettors like Welby's chances to succeed Williams

Online bettors think the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, will likely be chosen to succeed the Most Rev. Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read more »

Waiting for news of the next ABC

There will be no white smoke, and we know that the selection has to go to the Queen via the Prime Minister, but sometime today (or perhaps this weekend) we expect to hear who the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be. Giles Frasier prays that the next Archbishop will be given the gift of controversy. And here is a game you can play while you wait.

Read more »

CNC decision on ABC nomination "is not imminent"

The Times of London in a report by Ruth Gledhill:

The body responsible for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to agree who should be the successor to Dr Rowan Williams.

Read more »

UPDATED: Trying to peek behind the Crown Nominating Commission's curtain

The British press is full of stories about the reported failure of the Crown Nominating Commission to choose a successor for Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury at its recent three day meeting.

Read more »

London Times: CNC agreed on Welby as first choice

UPDATED: see below

With a caveat about the lack of named sources:

Read more »

ABC defends his outspoken approach

Archbishop of Canterbury defends his outspoken approach to the office as reported in The Guardian:

Read more »

Church Times: Archbishop of Canterbury's job is too demanding

The Church Times suggests that the Crown Nominating Commission has had a difficult time settling on a choice fo