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The New Yorker on the impending departure of the ABC

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:

Those priests, many of whom he had taught, talked instead about the urgency of the social gospel, and about “the old Rowan Williams,” the professor who believed that “history matters” and that time matters. They said it was Williams who had changed, that he was “bending over backwards” to save a bad marriage, as one of the women priests I met then put it, adding, “It would mean so much for the Church if he were to say, just once, ‘I want to be the one who welcomes women to the House of Bishops.’ ” It seemed to the women, and to the gay priests waiting in line behind them—and indeed to most of the country’s liberal clergy—that their archbishop wasn’t bending over enough to save the marriage he had made with them. The choices he had were simple: he could lead the Church of England, which was eager for his attention; or he could continue to reach out to the churches that ignored him; or he could resign. He was tired, and, being a good man and a Christian in evident anguish, he resigned. I think that he missed the old Rowan Williams, too.


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Juan Oliver

The Death of the Covenant (was William´s resignation the result? –don´t know) is interestingly addressed in a recent article by John Milbank. It´s a valuable article because of some salient points:

It actually spells out what the “Anglican Covenant” was about.

1. It’s wonderful to have the cat out of the bag: The “covenant” was NOT caused by the ordination of Gene Robinson. I had traced its genesis to before the ordination of Barbara Harris, with a sudden impetus after that, and already present in the Virginia Report.

2. The Covenant was the misguided stepchild of questionable attitudes about the meaning of a) catholicity and b) church unity –attitudes that began to lose their currency with the revolution in the philosophy of knowledge begun in the ’60’s, known as post-modernism. (ie., ALL knowledge is contextual –including theology). Only God in Godself, is absolute, and Aquinas already explained we cannot now that completely, so our ideas about God are also necessarily contextual.

3. Milbank assumes that catholicity means something like the church is the same in all cultures. This is patent nonsense –especially coming from an Anglican! The church of Jesus Christ is variegated, variable, diverse, and culturally adaptable. VATICAN II said so, so did the Jesuits in China and Paraguay, Ss. Cyril and Methodius, and Augustine of Canterbury. “Catholic,”, if it is going to mean “universal,” must mean that people do not have to leave their cultures in order to be Christian. For this reason if no other (though there are more) any attempt to make the life of the church in both faith and morals univocal is bound to fail, for human beings are equal, but not culturally the same.

4. The vatican, still living in the XVIth c., and simply reacting to the varieties of Protestant dissent, will not give up. Univocity is their only game. We should have noticed that when years ago cardinal Kasper told the English (Anglican) bishops that ecumenism would be easier “when you are more like us.” The bishop of Salisbury and NT Wright went appropriately apoplectic.

5. It seems to me that people who are interested mainly in power cannot live with dissent are always interested in uniformity of belief and practice. They are also rarely creative sorts. Constantine, Charlemagne, etc. could not abide variety of practice in the church, so mobilized towards univocal statements free of nuance –like Nicea, and like the imposition of the Roman Rite in France and –eventually– Spain. True leaders know that without a variety of opinions and practices there is no progress, for creativity always involves trial and failure, and a certain level of comfort with not knowing what’s going on. Artists have this in their bones. politicians lack it in droves. The same kind of thinking was present, I need not remind us, at the American genocide of the XVI c. at the hands of the Spanish and of the English starting in the XVIIth. (back then the Brits took lessons from the Spaniards :>) This “it will be best for you to be more like us” lies at the heart of colonial oppression, and so i doubt many a serious thinker the developing world would agree with Milbank.

6. Those in power are always taking about the unity of the Church. What they mean is agreement, or uniformity, not unity. Christian unity, however, cannot be based either on cultural homogenization nor theological goose stepping, but on baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, where he broke down all dividing walls. That does NOT and cannot mean that one side of the wall had to become like the other, but that though different, people were united in redeeming love, not homogenized. The church is one already, for Christ is one and one with the Father. That’s what we say we believe, not that it WILL be one.

I’m really sorry to witness the resignation of perhaps the most intelligent –and holy? AC we have had in our lifetimes, but I am also relieved that a profoundly misguided notion of what constitutes church unity is not taking further hold.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Vicki !!! “Unlike all of you…”

What kind of language is that? Black and white thinking “you’re either with us or you’re against us” if one doesn’t support the Covenant?

“Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.” Do so with our brothers and sisters all over the globe. In this way, we serve the Gospel of Jesus, not the rather odd and excessively authoritarian Covenant of Rowan.

I’ve worshipped in a number of places around the globe. Communion is important. And we’ll always have it in some form or other when we are focussing on the one Gospel. Even though I’m Anglo-Catholic, I’m Protestant enough to believe the communion amongst us people is more important than one via a weird and intolerant body of old men. What does the church look like when that generation passes? Be nice if they were preparing the way, rather than having the rest of us watching the clock.

E Sinkula

Really Vicki? ALL of us do not want communion with our Anglican brothers and sisters? We never said that here. What we don’t want is a centralized system to run a communion. When two or three are gathered Jesus is there remember? We cannot gather by a piece of paper, but by relationships.


Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

A few quotes came to mind as I was reading this “sympathetic” view of Rowan soon-to-be-former Cantuar

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1, NRSV)

or rather my favorite for language –

“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

Perhaps it is time for Rowan to “stand in the crucified” place as he has asked so many of us to do, whether we willed it or not.

On a less “preachy” side, I think that Tobias probably has the correct reading on Rowan. Ultimately, Rowan was “unable to serve two masters (causes)” and ended up losing them both. It is a strong lesson for those who would consider pursuing a similar course in the future. Hopefully, we have all learned something here.

tobias haller

Nicole, I used those “scare quotes” intentionally to distance myself from those categories. But it is important to note the facts of the situation, and in England especially the party-lines are rather more clearly drawn than in the US.

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