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:

Dr. Williams will leave behind a complex legacy. His efforts to try to hold the worldwide Anglican Communion together have had mixed results. The majority of bishops from Africa and Asia did not attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference, instead setting up a different meeting. In addition, many Anglicans in Scotland, England, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa, and other places expressed dissatisfaction with the Covenant, arguing that the Anglican Church had held together for centuries without these kinds of formal agreements in place. In addition, many liberals have felt betrayed, as Dr. Williams expressed support for gay and lesbian persons as an academic and later as Archbishop in Wales.

Many in the Episcopal Church greeted Williams’ appointment as archbishop with enthusiasm, and continue to admire his scholarship and seek inspiration in his spiritual writings. However, his attempts efforts to seek a middle ground were felt by some to come at the expense of the Episcopal Church’s efforts to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians more fully in the life of the church, and many resented his unwillingness to speak against dioceses that broke away from the church and forced it into costly litigation. His removal of Episcopal Church representatives to some international Anglican bodies — but not the initial removal of representatives from churches which interfered in the internal workings of the Episcopal Church by setting up rival churches — was seen as yet another double standard.

Chicago Consultation statement on resignation:

During Archbishop Rowan’s tenure, he was often at odds with the Episcopal Church over its efforts to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians more fully in the life of the Church. We regret the friction that has existed between him and our church, and look forward to working with him and his successor toward an Anglican Communion bound together by an ever-deepening commitment to shared ministry between parishes, dioceses and provinces, and ever-greater respect of the gifts and vocations of each of its members.”

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. To learn more about the Chicago Consultation, visit www.chicagoconsultation.org

Now questions of who will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury are being raised.

TIME asked if the next ABC will be black.

While there are a few contenders to replace Williams, the favorite is widely thought to be the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, a Uganda-born Brit….

While Sentamu is an obvious contender and his appointment would mark the first time a black cleric was appointed to the position — not an insignificant triumph — he could hardly be more different from Williams. With Sentamu’s staunchly conservative outlook (he’s repeatedly voiced his objections to homosexuality and has taken up a controversial side project as a columnist for Rupert Murdoch’s latest venture, The Sun on Sunday), a new era of division within the Anglican church would be a near certainty.

Stephen Bates writing in The Guardian:

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

Bookies’ early favourite, though at 63 would be older than Williams. Loud, self-confident, a relentless self-publicist and ambitious. Originally a refugee from Uganda, where he became a judge and narrowly escaped execution by Idi Amin, he would be the first black archbishop of Canterbury and for that reason a populist choice. Many bishops, though, suspect his intellectual coherence, consistency and judgement. He has come out against the government’s plans for gay marriage – bad timing if he wants to endear himself to ministers – and also wrote what many regard as an over-effusive column, welcoming Rupert Murdoch’s new Sun on Sunday with a “wow!”

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London

Third ranked bishop in the CofE but also older than Williams and decidedly lukewarm about women’s ordination. Probably the most intellectually able bishop, a smooth political operator, a friend of the royal family and a stately, witty episcopal figure well able to rise to state occasions. Early experience as archbishop Robert Runcie’s chaplain (so he knows what the job involves). He is bored by church politics but dealt adroitly with what he saw as the “bloody mess” of St Paul’s Cathedral’s handling of the Occupy protest outside its front doors – bishops do not usually get involved in the daily operation of their cathedrals. Astute and avuncular, he has some inkling of the way the press works from having been once, briefly, church correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.

Graham James, Bishop of Norwich

Probably the current insiders’ choice for archbishop. A safe, cautious selection, though also an Anglo-Catholic, he too was chaplain to Runcie and his successor, George Carey. He is well liked and respected, but would he provide the inspirational leadership or the intellectual agility and self-confidence that the church needs?

Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Bradford

An outside choice, certainly this time and from a slightly (seven years) younger generation than the others. An able communicator and keen blogger, but only recently a diocesan bishop (but so was Carey). Maybe next time round?

Here are the odds at paddypower, a betting site.

Who is your choice?

UPDATE 9:15 p.m. EDT

Reuters reports:

The [Church of England] also looks set to reject the Anglican Covenant, Williams’ plan to heal a rift created between western and African churches when a Canadian Anglican diocese approved blessings for same-sex couples in 2002 and the Episcopal Church, U.S. Anglicans, appointed (sic) an openly gay man as bishop in 2003.

Led by Archbishop Peter Akinola, the then head of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America denounced these innovations as un-Biblical and built a network that threatened to break away from the Communion.

Several U.S. and Canadian parishes and dioceses switched their allegiance from their liberal national churches to conservative African churches. Others formed their own Anglican Church of North America, which claims over 100,000 members.

Williams, who worked tirelessly to keep the churches together, championed a plan to give the Communion the authority to tell member churches when they overstepped doctrinal boundaries and shut them out of some international Anglican committees if they did not pull back.

The plan originally called for stiffer sanctions against churches that did not heed the Communion’s call to stay in line with the other members. But this faded in successive versions of the Covenant, disappointing conservative churches who originally backed it as a way to discipline liberal churches.

Only a few national churches have now approved the final proposal and the Church of England, where many members think it centralizes Anglicanism too much, looks set to reject it because a majority of dioceses voting on it so far have said “no”.

That would scuttle the project, said Jim Naughton, editor of the U.S. church news website Episcopal Cafe. “What kind of Anglican Communion is it if the Archbishop of Canterbury’s church isn’t part of it?” he asked.

Differences over issues of human sexuality persisted, he said, but the spectre of schism has faded in recent years.

“A lot of the firebrand leaders in Africa have retired and their successors are not as interested in going toe to toe,” he said. “As a result, the furor is dying down.”

The Economist comments:

The next archbishop may have to make tougher choices. Does he speak for and to a secular and multi-cultural nation which knows little of theology but still looks to church to provide dignified and historically resonant mood music to mark important public and private moments? Or is he ministering to a hard core of committed believers, in which case the things he says are bound to jar with many people, including some Christians?

Episcopal News Service offers an excellent roundup of events and comments from around the communion.

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6 Comments
  1. Pamela Shier

    I’d go with Justin Welby, Durham.

  2. A Facebook User

    I like Archbishop John Sentamu. He seems like he’s tough enough to deal with everyone.

  3. A Facebook User

    -Nicole Porter for above…

    -Nicole Porter

  4. Peter Pearson

    These interesting times just keep getting more interesting. Whoever it may be, there will be blessings and new challenges to face. In the mean time, there is work to be done.

  5. Bill Dilworth

    I’ve noticed that media stories are tending to call the Archbishop of Canterbury things like “head of the world’s Anglicans” and “spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.” I have to admit that I find that a little odd – I was taught to see the office as the focus of unity (back before we had various Instruments for that sort of thing), but not “spiritual leader” in any official capacity. Were he the “spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion,” rather than that of the Province of Canterbury and the Church of England, you’d expect that the Anglican Communion at large would have a say in his election, wouldn’t you? As well as provide the pool of nominees. As it is, his selection is strictly a UK affair. Am I wrong in not seeing +++Rowan and his predecessors as my “spiritual leader” or the “head” of the Anglican Communion?

  6. tgflux

    I think it’s just that the media lops off the “Among Equals” part of “First Among Equals”, Bill. [That, and viewing the world through Vatican-style-leadership glasses]

    JC Fisher

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