Comments: Does the CofE offer any moral leadership?

That sums it up. Sorry, but it does.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 12:39am BST

This contemptuous dismissal of the ABC is so very sad -- and so very accurate.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 1:27am BST

I am inclined to believe that Bruce Anderson, in his dismissive account of the Archbishop of Canterbury's leadership role in the present situation of moral ambivalence in the U.K., is rather missing the point - especially in his comments on the ABC's seeming lack of initiative on the treatment of problems of sexuality in the Anglican Church.

Although many of us may be frustrated with the lack of progress with these issues in the Communion as a whole, it must be acknowledged that the ABC is really in a deeply-cleft stick. Whatever he does, in promoting the cause of one or another side of the current arguments; for or against the inclusion of women and gays in the ministry of the Church (or even within the congregations of the Church), he is bound to be criticised by the opposition for being one-sided.

Whatever his private understanding of the place of women and gays in the Church and in ministry might be (and he has made it clear in past writings that he is critically affirming of both), as 'primus-inter-pares' and Archbishop of Canterbury, he must be seen to be striving for unity in the Anglican Communion - even before trying to address the perceived inequities that are being advocated by various conservative and reactionary constituencies within the Communion.

However, the time will come when this straddling the fence on these important issues of justice will have to end. Perhaps, though, what we should not at this time expect, is that the ABC has either the power or the will to face this. The prophetic action of the Anglican Churches of the US and Canada have already make their mark in the sand. It may be that therein lies the path to renewal and rivival of the ethic of 'semper reformanda' which was one of the catch-cries of the Roman Church at Vatican II, and which could well become the watch-word for future Anglicanism in the free world.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 1:38am BST

What Leonardo said!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 6:55am BST

"Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is said to be clever. The main evidence for this is his ability to dress up accessible thoughts in incomprehensible prose."
This is a cheap and ignorant remark, as anyone who has given themselves to reading his work with a serious and open mind will know.

Posted by MH at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 8:51am BST

When even intelligent people sometimes find you opaque, it's time to take seriouslly the message that clarity at its best can equal being so much the master of one's subject-matter that one can then put it into simpler English. All of us can learn buckets from CS Lewis or Chesterton, and from Tom Wright.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 8:53am BST

I remember being in a Bishop's Palace full of clergy listening to Rowan, many, many years ago.
Talking to folk during the day and afterwards not one of us had a clue what he was going on about.
This included a number of us who could argue the toss about Wittgenstein.

Did I dismiss him because of that?
No, but I have plenty of other grounds as evidenced in this thread.

Posted by dodgey_vicar at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 9:40am BST

It seems to me that the ABC is making the mistake of trying to keep everybody happy. It cannot be done. It is not leadership. Leaders need to make sure everybody is heard, and all issues are aired. Then they need to find a way forward knowing that some, may be many, will be hurt and distressed. That is what leadership IS.

Posted by RosemaryHannah at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 9:47am BST

Why should the internal sexuality debate stop senior representatives of the CoE to think and write about the theology of assisted dying?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 10:19am BST

Yes Fr Ron - of course the ABC will be accused of taking sides by opposing parties. In those circumstances the moral choice is pretty do the right thing as he believes it.
This he clearly has not done - though in the end he will have to answer for it on Judgement Day.

Posted by Neil at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 10:34am BST

It may or may not be the case that the ABC is up to the job of keeping the welding between the divergent groups withing the AC up to scratch, and it might be stated that that particular task is beyond anyone.

But just because people conflate several things it does not mean that one of the conflated bits isn't correct. I personally feel that the ABC does obfuscate matters, and even in such a short exposition as "Silence and Honey Cakes" the style is not so much dense as plainly unclear in the way the ABC goes about unpacking historical and textual relationships. I would agree therefore that what the ABC might consider a strength, subtlety, is a weakness not in terms of his ability to think but in terms of the effectiveness of his articulation.

Also, there *is* a lack of moral conscience within the CofE; there seems to be no place to discuss the difficult and painful matters that inhabit our minds as we bodily go to church; this may be to do with the way our English culture still avoids politics and religion in polite society but I would not readily take my moral bearings from the Church, either from the 'clarity' camp, Wright etc., nor from the 'subtlety' camp: the former case is full of strident cant, the second full of erudite nonsense.

When people were amazed at Jesus, it is because he spoke with authority while at the same time turning notions of power, leadership and the Law on their heads. We have any number of leaders in the Church at the moment, but unfortunately none that speaks with authority.

Posted by MikeM at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 10:53am BST

The problem with this analysis is that it starts from a particular view of what is 'moral' and expects any organisation to make those sort of noises

As I think I would probably disagree with Anderson's opinions, I have, thus, no interest in the institution of right-wing morality

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 11:14am BST

One wonders whether the ABC has the humility and insight to learn from comments others make about his actions and his communication limitations. His actions speak either of intellectual inability or dishonesty (apparently unlikely?!?!?) or a stiff neck and an insistence that the world rise to meet his "standards" rather than a flexibility to meet the world on it's own terms. Fortunately, it is never too late for prayers.

Posted by ettu at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 12:02pm BST

"When even intelligent people sometimes find you opaque, it's time to take seriouslly the message that clarity at its best can equal being so much the master of one's subject-matter that one can then put it into simpler English."

When I was in college, a member of the history department taught a course in teaching methods, and a friend of mine took it. He told his students that they could call themselves masters of a subject when they could prepare a lecture on it for a university seminar, for a high schoool history class, and for a grade school class. I am trying to picture the ABC explaining the Anglican Communion to each group ...

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 1:08pm BST

I'm wondering if I am alone in hearing a subtext of people wishing that ABC would spend more time on the real job he was appointed to in the CofE than he does worrying about the Communion issues that go with the honorific primus inter pares. If he spent more time with his local church, would he perhaps better understand communion issues? Perhaps he has become too isolated from the real life of the church in situ.

Posted by David Bieler at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 2:26pm BST

Considered simply as a piece of prose, Dr. Williams's latest effort is almost illegible.

But perhaps he wanted it that way.

Posted by New Yorker at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 2:45pm BST

Much of the reason Rowan and others cannot lead is that we - I at least - do nt want to be lead. One reason I could never be RC is that I want to have the freedom to think for myself.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 3:19pm BST

Perhaps the author decries a lack of moral clarity within the CofE and the ABC's office because his idea of what is "moral" doesn't square with what others' idea of what "moral" is?
Perhaps he perceives onje vision of what is "moral", and others have a different vision?
If he's calling for open, honest, vigorous debate in which all sides respect the moral and ethical integrity of those they disagree with, I'm all for it.
But, to exaggerate, if he pines for the days of autos-da-fe for those considered immoral or degenerate, one could argue those were days of absolute moral clarity, but leave me out.

Posted by peterpi at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 6:06pm BST

I'm with RosemaryHannah. I think.

If RW simply had led in favor of Anglican space and intellectual best practices leeway? So that the differences were graciously and accurately aired? Then we'd have that much at least. Not so, alas.

No sooner had top levels gotten the account asked, To Set Our Hope On Christ; than it was shelved. In no sense considered an Anglican Report at the level of, say, Windsor?

RW could go on to lead, all in favor of a global big tent where we could simply agree to disagree in this hot button queer folks area, and get on with church life in areas where we still intellectually and spiritually connect, even across some remaining Anglican differences.

But no, RW had to fall in, with the utterly contemptible and lying trope that the modern western democracies' reintegration of queer folks into overall productive citizenship is -gasp- horrible, dirty, demeaning, immoral - and we are all in alleged danger of catching a fatal case of the icky queer cooties. Is tagging modern truth and fairness as nothing but immoral, near to a sin against the Holy Ghost? Is it, False Witness Against Neighbors?

To correct? Well, RW, start. Say that personally, you've changed your own mind. Be honest about your minority opinions. Then do and say that, regardless of your own views, the global big tent is standing. Will stand on your watch. Continue to invite all Anglicans to the tables. When some holier than thou types skip out, let us all know they are welcome to return, next time. Preach clearly in public: Our big tent is still standing. Lay out with your fine bright mind, all the reasons why queer folks is a secondary domain of changed thinking at best. Not creed.

Not a reason to collapse all big tents.

RW has a made up mind. He's two tracks. A grade school teacher, separating the bullies from their frequent targets, the queer kids.

Sadly, RW still thinks the queer kids are the source of the problem. He knows better, but still ...

RW says he holds no grudges. Knowing that plenty of other rightwing Anglicans do and will hold grudges, count on it. They will police, punish. Count on it. They believe no ethical or theological power can exist, aside from police, punish.

Any signs of track two thriving? Hammer will come down, heavy, mean.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 7 August 2009 at 7:08pm BST

"The Roman Catholics have a difficulty: their version of the homosexual imbroglio is still causing difficulties and undermining their self-confidence." And the point is ...? In fact, our Catholic reality is that we have a 120 strong congregation of predominantly LGBT Catholics, the subject of a formal agreement with Catholic diocesan authorities, and including arms-length 'expression of interest'from the Vatican, worshipping and undertaking other pastoral and educational activities in one of Soho's Catholic parishes. The liturgy includes a bidding prayer on the 3rd Sunday of each month for those who have requested prayerful support as they enter civil partnerships or mark anniversaries. As a prominent Anglican priest said, "No way could this happen in the Diocese of London,with the current state of play!" The only difficulties caused are for those fundamentalist Catholics who demonstrate outside the Church building, against the Eucharist, presuming to know and judge the internal conscience states of those who try to worship in spirit and in truth, integrating faith and sexuality. So much for undermined self-confidence!

Posted by Martin at Saturday, 8 August 2009 at 11:53am BST

How good to hear on the web about a thriving Roman Catholic Parish in the heart of London that consists of a majority LBGT congregation - with the implicit authority of the local diocese and without being hounded by the Vatican! Would that the C.of E. could proudly witness to the same sort of inclusiveness - a quality not normally associated with our co-religionists in the RCC.

Thank you Martin, for sharing this heartening news with us here on Thinking Anglicans. Would that we had more encouraging news from our own patch to share with you and your friends. May God give you the assurance of God's continuing power to uplift the lowly and empower the voiceless.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 10 August 2009 at 2:12am BST

Ron the parish is not a gay is a church where a Mass for gay and transgendered persons is held twice a month.

Rome are rather slow in their actions and they just closed down a similar provision in a US diocese.

There is apparently a battle going on behind the

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 7:17am BST

"There is apparently a battle going on behind the scenes."

So much more honest and resepctable than the very public struggle we are having.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 8:55pm BST

I'm rather frustrated with the disparaging comments about Rowan Williams in this thread. However frustrating his decisions as archbishop, I have to admit that I don't find his theology particularly, well, obscure, though I do find it much less riddled with logical incompetence and mere rhetorical flair than Chesterton, Lewis, and the bunch. I think I'd agree that Williams is not so good at writing simpler expositions (Tokens of Trust is better than a lot of creed-based books, but it's not especially good, especially for Williams). Perhaps you all like your theology to be nice and simple and easy to understand without much effort; I, for one, think that all such theology is plainly not up to the task of retaining a proper sense of mystery and all too often just keeps Christians dumbed down. Certainly, my head will probably explode if I hear the ridiculous lord-liar-lunatic argument one more time, or have someone tell me that original sin can be empirically verified.

I suspect that much of the hostility to Williams is political. For what it's worth, as someone with a fully inclusive attitude towards homosexuality, I admire Williams for not ruining the prospects for inclusion by making more than half of the Anglican community completely split. It's bad enough as it is, and we don't really win any battles if our opponents just go away (the whole battle metaphor is inappropriate in the first place because what we're trying to win is the judgment of our opponents!) Perhaps I'm just more patient than the rest. Then again, I'm an American, so it's probably a bit easier for me.

Posted by djr at Wednesday, 19 August 2009 at 8:07am BST

"Perhaps I'm just more patient than the rest. Then again, I'm an American, so it's probably a bit easier for me."

That depends - are you personally affected by it?
If not, it's easy to be patient.
It makes a difference when something isn't about a nice theological problem but about your life.

I love Rowan William's theology and I can see the absolutely impossible position he is in. And yet, if you ignore the hurt tone from some here, you have to accept that the arguments are nevertheless largely fair.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 19 August 2009 at 10:59am BST

"Perhaps you all like your theology to be nice and simple and easy to understand without much effort; I, for one, think that all such theology is plainly not up to the task of retaining a proper sense of mystery and all too often just keeps Christians dumbed down." - djr -

I must say that I agree with 'djr' on this point.
Rowan Williams may not be as understandable at first sight as some might like. But then, even Jesus taught in parabolic style. Perhaps, if one prefers the more direct, and combative, style of theologising, one should look up 'Virtue-on-line' There you will find, granted, a rather defective theological stance and style - but clear enough. That's why the 'dumbed-down' fans of David Virtue all love it. It excites their animosity.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 12:39pm BST
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