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:
The Church of England has taken great risks in its bishops and archbishops through the twentieth century. It has even not been afraid to appoint controversial and untested figures to the most senior position in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The best and most inspiring archbishops have usually been the riskiest appointments: think of William Temple, who struggled with his faith in early life, contributed to radical theological documents, but went on to inspire the country during the Second World War as leader and architect of the Welfare State. Or Michael Ramsey, who had virtually no parochial experience but became a trusted and inspirational public intellectual during the 1960s, holding the church together during a time of enormous social change.
From the beginning of Williams’ archiepiscopate there has been a sense of panic in the wider Anglican Communion. Threats of excommunication led to emergency measures, which resulted in the production of several documents that eventually coalesced in the Covenant.
Williams has carried the burdens of conflict, and has shown a huge commitment to unity. But perhaps he has found that the cost of reconciliation is too high: there has to be a will to be reconciled and for a decision to be made that no amount of talking can bring about, and Williams may have been too reticent to speak and too willing to listen. It is for the next archbishop to work out once again the limits of diversity, and when to speak and act after the process of listening. After all, the Indaba process is not just about listening to those with whom one disagrees, it is also about making a decision. That is when the real powers of reconciliation will be tested.
Read it all here.