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Graceful, yes, but of necessity? Rowan Williams’ inter-church partners

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.

Originally a progressive Anglo-Catholic who supported the ministry of women and gay people and a brilliant scholar, he has long been fascinated by the Orthodox church and its rich spiritual heritage. His doctoral thesis was on Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky, and he has also written on icons and Russian writers Bulgakov and Dostoevsky.

When he took office, he soon came under pressure from fellow Anglicans – largely conservative evangelicals – to support a more centralised structure for the communion, up till then a family of autonomous churches, and oppose equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people. But this was reinforced from a different quarter: the Vatican.

In visits to Rome in 2003 and 2006, and on many other occasions, he was urged to act on these issues and women bishops. The Eastern Orthodox church suspended dialogue with Anglicans after a partnered gay man became a US bishop, increasing the pressure.

What do you think? Have Williams’ relationships with a few branches of Christianity hurt Anglicans’ chances of future dealings within potentially wider partnerships?


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Savi Hensman

Correction – it was in fact the Oriental Orthodox churches which suspended dialogue, though the Russian Orthodox church also reacted extremely negatively to Gene Robinson’s consecration.


I feel the gorge rise when I think that Kasper was present at Lambeth to spout his bigotry, even as Gene Robinson was locked out.

Why didn’t/doesn’t Rowan spend more time listening to his own people, rather than taking orders from popes and patriarchs?

June Butler


@Mary Anne: Enjoyed the points you raised. Were we to see areas where we could work together to eliminate suffering, reduce conflict, things of that sort, meetings with Rome might be useful. But none of that seems to have happened; instead, we see the pope trying to recruit Anglicans. Which is fine, but it doesn’t strike me as a particularly poignant expression of friendship or good faith.

Eric Bonetti

Mary Anne Chesarek

Amen to Fr. Tobias’ comment. I have long wondered why we are so eager to reunite with the RCC. They are treating their nuns shamefully (full disclosure: I am a graduate of a Catholic college and have nothing but respect and love for nuns,) and have shocked the world with their handling of the child sexual abuse scandal. I hope the next ABC will not waste precious time and energy on meetings with the Pope that yield nothing more than colorful photo ops. Every time Anglicans make a progressive move (ordination of women, ordination of LGBT persons), we get a warning from the Vatican that this represents a grave impediment to reunification. If we’re really following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, then who is functioning as the impediment?

tobias haller

Too much Anglican “ecumenism” is really a search for some kind of validation. We do not need the approval of Rome or Constantinople. If they are willing to work with us in the advancement of the Gospel, fine, but if their agenda trends otherwise, I’d let them do their own work.

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