Sunday, 25 October 2009

Rowan's role

It has been fascinating over the last few days to read the reactions from various quarters to the Pope’s offer of a safe haven for disaffected Anglican clergy. Rather like in a bad marriage, all the past resentments and grievances bubble to the surface, everyone points out each other’s faults, all the different factions jockey to get what is rightfully theirs out of the whole shenanigan.
John Hind, Bishop of Chishester, has announced that he might be walking out. Meanwhile, Forward in Faith, at its meeting in London, introduced some domestic comedy by stating that their grounds for possible separation as not only the introduction of women bishops but also the Church’s, “attitudes to sexuality.” This statement, coming from Forward in Faith, a group notorious for Anglo Catholic high camp, is rich to say the least. Colin Coward, on the Changing Attitude blogspot, is NOT amused, in a scathing article entitled, “Let’s Pretend”, he points out that,
“ Both John Broadhurst and John Hind and the flying bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough know that they pastor many gay male Anglican-Catholic priests.”
Quite a lot of naming and shaming in Coward’s article, I get the feeling that someone who knows most of what there is to know about various people in the C of E is itching to name more than a few home truths...
Meanwhile, some have suggested that Rome has not exactly been above board in wooing those ready to jump ship. Lord Carey has been reported by Ruth Gledhill as “appalled” by the apparent contempt shown by Rome in failing to consult the Archbishop of Canterbury and notifying him only a few weeks in advance.
My personal view, and many may disagree with me, is that Rowan Williams has been treated appallingly by many within and outside Anglicanism. Kendal Harmon (Titus online, courtesy of Anglican Mainstream) has displayed his contempt for what he sees as William’s laxity and lack of authority by describing Rome’s offer as,
“ a huge indictment of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Many conservative commentators have used the Vatican’s announcement to put the knife in, describing Williams as, “taken by surprise”, “ignored” and “completely unaware” and many web sites have clearly selected the most unflattering photos, such as the ones featured here. There are also clear signs that many liberal commentators are not so sweet on Williams. The MCPU’s recent response to his actions over Anaheim was tantamount to an accusation that he lacks the integrity to be true to his convictions or to make clear to others the limits of what he is and is not willing - or indeed able -to do.
While I do not believe Williams is, or should be, above all criticism, I think the level of carping in some quarters lacks generosity. He is not someone who sees his role as to police the various squabbles in Anglicanism but primarily as a spiritual leader. Grace and forbearance with each other are the Christian virtues that he has offered as a means to unity, but his recent comments about a “two track” Communion do show that he is realistic enough to know that, for the time being at least, we may need to live separate lives.


  1. I am not one of Pope Benedict's biggest fans, but as usual I try to be as fair as possible to all sides. I accept that he was approached by various Anglo-Catholics within Anglicanism, so perhaps he is responding to a request for help. However, his actions can clearly be construed as a criticism of what is happening in the Anglican Communion. It looks a lot like interference to me. Whether or not he is right in offering to welcome disaffected Anglicans to the RCC, it is the lack of respect shown to Rowan Williams which I have a huge objection to. If the roles were reversed I'm sure he would appreciate Rowan keeping him in the loop about being approached by members of his church. If, as Lord Carey suggests, Rowan was not consulted and only given two weeks notice about the announcement, then this is unacceptable on the Poe's part.

  2. It is also bad timing ( I think)with the women bishops issue coming up in February in Synod - I'm not saying that is deliberate?
    I agree about the lack of respect to Rowan Williams but I can't imagine him making the complaint about it that has been suggested, can you?

  3. I'm not aware that Rowan actually complained? What has is he reputed to have said?
    The timing is very bad. I can't honestly say whether or not it was deliberate, but it wasn't very well thought through. Perhaps had there been more consultation with the likes of Rowan, it may have been. ;)

  4. Hi Cleo,

    No, he hasn't complained but ( according to Ruth Gledhill) Lord Carey has suggested that he should complain,

    "Lord Carey has called on his successor as Archbishop of Canterbury to complain to the Pope in person about not being consulted over plans to admit disaffected Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church. "( Times October 24th)

    I was just saying that I can't imagine Rowan Williams making any such complaint, can you? It doesn't seem to me to be in his nature?

  5. Ah yes I see. No, I can't see Rowan complaining, not publicly at least. One of the many things I admire the man for is his diplomacy. He is, however, well within his rights to raise the matter with the Pope. If he went offering to set up seperate ecclesiastical structures in the Communion to accomodate disgruntled Catholic clergy, I'm sure the Pontiff wouldn't hesitate to make his feelings known!