Comments: still more on the Times interview

Susan Russell is, as usual, spot on. Does the ABC ever imagine how gay Christians, gays in the C of E, would feel his words? Does he have one spark of empathy with others?

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 4 October 2010 at 6:25pm BST

It is strange indeed for me to find myself defending the ABC - but I rather suspect, having now read more of his words, the 'wound' he speaks of is the whole situation. The way gay clergy are vilified. The way, especially, even celibate gay bishops cannot speak of their orientation. The way the church has been divided. The way people from a genuinely different culture have been made to feel sidelined. The way the opportunity for dialogue has become an occasion for haranguing and vilification - and this on both sides.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 8:19am BST

Susan Russell has persuaded many people that Rowan Williams regards homosexuality as "a wound in the side of the Church" and has stirred up a lot of rage about this.

But this is what RW actually said: "“I was very well aware of letting people down,” he says. Letting down your friend, Dr John? “Yes, of course, of course.” Is it true, as I read somewhere, that you knelt down and asked his forgiveness? “Let’s not go there. I regard private conversations as private. But, yes, I was conscious of that as, in a sense, a wound in the whole ministry from the start... making the judgment that the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point.” Unity was more important? “Well, yes, not an easy choice. I won’t elaborate.""

The wound in question is church division due to disagreement about homosexuality, not homosexuality as such, which RW clearly does not view as a wound.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 10:01am BST

The fact is RW has continued to use language choices that indicate a failure to have actually listened to lgbt persons, "wound" being one of them. His interview in Belgium is perhaps infamous for his failure to understand how that could be and was used to harm lgbt persons. Elsewhere he has spoken of Gene Robinson in terms that imply nothing less than that Gene is a wound and worse. And Gene even took him on in New Orleans over it.

He seems so stuck in his own world of the head on this that I have to ask at this point, "get out much?" How about meeting with the families of children bullied to suicide before flapping the jaws again in another interview.

As Mark Jordan reminds us, pay attention to the language, to the rhetoric. Williams has shown a penchant for the passive putdown of lgbt persons and it is time to stop pretending he is neutral ethically, culturally, politically, or ecclesially in relation to us. He goes on to talk of Scripture and Tradition in a way that does not question, does not admit that a tradition of each is self-criticism of the text and lived history. He fails to mention the Book of Creation at all. No, his language continues in its passive style to justify ecclesial violence toward us, and whether or not Susan Russell misread his words, her understanding of his overall thrust is spot on.

Posted by Christopher at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 3:02pm BST

Spirit of V2, while I agree with you about what Rowan said, and what he meant, there is still a problem in the third necessary element in effective communication: how he is heard. He is himself aware of this dilemma, as he mentioned at the General Convention last year; that he can hardly say anything without his words being misunderstood. But this is precisely why Delphic or Bardic utterances, such as "Pass" do not help his situation. He seems simply to be unable clearly to say, "This is what I think... and this is my task as ABoC" -- which is what he means, but which is not being heard well. Perhaps he lives under the shadow of other Primates past and present who had and have no intention of preserving such nice distinctions, and did and will bulldoze their private agendas, whether at Lambeth or in Synod.

My issue has always been: unlike the English Monarch, the ABoC is not constitutionally bound, either in England or certainly in the Communion (which has no governing law to speak of) simply to be the mouthpiece of General Synod or the Lambeth Conference. I think that the Archbishop would actually benefit by more boldness both in expressing personal opinions, and in clarifying that these opinions do not constitute the law (or consensus) of the church. I do not believe he was appointed to the position he holds in spite of his theological views, but because of them. To embushel that particular light seems to me not to be productive, either of the peace and harmony he hopes for, or the advance from the status quo which might be possible. The status quo ante is no more, and it isn't coming back. Do we move forward, or simply fall apart by the death of a thousand schisms.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 3:31pm BST

"The wound in question is church division due to disagreement about homosexuality, not homosexuality as such, which RW clearly does not view as a wound."

Maybe so, but it would be nice if he could be clearer and more careful in his choice of words, wouldn't it? I don't think I've ever heard him say anything unequivocally positive about the place of gay people in the Church: it's all just problems, trouble, wounds, etc, and nothing else.

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 5:54pm BST

Rowan was very positive when he came to speak to a group of gay clergy (The Clergy Consultation) at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine, led back then by Malcolm Johnson.

He could hardly have been more positive about affirming same sex couples with a celebration of eucharist.

He was very positive when he gave the Michael Harding Memorial address. When you give an address in honour of the dead, you don't turn round years after, and say, "I was prof throwing out a few ideas." No, he was a minister first and foremost, with a sacred trust to the living and the dead.

None of this 'wound' stuff. No wonder I am so fed up with him (language censored) and feel betrayed. No wonder I am not alone in that.

I'm sure Tony Blair put him in at Canterbury to be a moderniser and take things forward in the Church. Rowan had given no hint in the run up to the appointment that he would be turning clock back

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 9:19pm BST

He is a very poor communicator. He appears to have no concept that people will not put as much effort into trying to hear him as he puts into writing. He does not appear to really understand HOW people hear.

This does not, however, mean that he intended queer folk to hear him say that he though they were a wound, when he intended to say that the current terrible situation was causing hurt all round.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 10:51pm BST

What we all need to remember here is that Rowan Williams did not leap at the opportunity to become Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact, he is reported to have expressed a degree of discomfort at the thought. The fact that he did, eventually, accede to the post seemed, at the time, a victory for reason over the prejudice of his predecessor, whose own attitude to gays was very different from that of Rowan.

It was in George Carey's term as ABC that the infamous 'Lambeth 110' prejudice was brought into the dicussion, muddying the waters on the homosexual question - in a way that was seized upon by the notoriously fundamentalist prelates who now give their allegiance to what has become known as the *Global South* contingent. Bishops like Akinola, Jensen and Venables rejoiced in their moral high-ground stance, thus establishing credentials for a new type of oneupmanship in the Communion, based on sola scriptura and a dubious moral purity model.

Archbishop Rowan, though Primus inter Pares, has only one vote in the Lambeth proceedings, and no matter how devoted he might be to bringing about rationality in the arguments for inclusion, he is powerless to rule upon what has become a divisive issue in the Communion - based purely upon his own opinion as to the integrity of homosexuality as a neutral status within the range of human seuxal responses. His public statements on this issue have always been attuned towards what he conscientiously sees as more truly representing the official 'tradition' of Anglican theology - as expresseed in its public statements.

For Archbishop Rowan to more forcefully express what might well be his own personal views on the issues involved, would be for him to imitate the prejudice of his predecessor, who publicly supported (& still supports) the negative views of the self-styled 'Global South' Primates. This, seemingly, Rowan is not willing to do. What is very important for all of us to remember - something which the previous ABC did not - is that Rowan is being morally conscientious in his subordination of his own view - and not taking advantage of his own office to over-rule his contemporaries as a Primate of the Communion.

This is where Anglicanism differs from Rome. The ABC cannot ever rule over the rest of the Communion as a sort of Pope. This is antithetical to the spirit of Anglicanism. It is both our strength and our weakness. Like it nor not, in Archbishop Rowan we have a person of prayer and of high principle, who does not take his position as primus inter pares lightly - not wanting to over-ride what he sees as 'The Mind' of the Church on issues which have yet to be resolved by the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 3:06am BST

I may be wrong but given RW is such an erudite theologian with a well stocked mind, he may have used the word "wound" because half consciously perhaps he had in mind Antonio Rosmini's famous book "The Five Wounds of Holy Church" Just a thought.

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 5:39pm BST

'His public statements on this issue have always been attuned towards what he conscientiously sees as more truly representing the official 'tradition' of Anglican theology - as expresseed in its public statements.'Rev Ron Smith.

This is not the case.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 10:17pm BST

I'm not sure about this "terrible communicator" meme -- after all no churchperson has communicated as much, on so many subjects, with so many people -- and not in bland, sanitized churchtalk but with the individual quirkiness, delphic or bardic as it may be, that ensures his words linger in memory.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 4:40am BST

He does not understand when you need to use easily understood phrases which help listeners pick up on what you are saying, and when you can write with subtle intensity, so that those who have a greater interest in depth, and the linguistic ability to appreciate such things, can follow them. I fear, however much one can craft words, an inability to distinguish between a mass audience and a literary reader, makes one a poor communicator.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 8:08am BST

Sorry, but Rowan's not that bright, nor do I believe we're seeing any "quirkiness" - just absence of thought and a blindness to the quality of words, made up for, Rowan thinks,in quantity.

In the end, simply writing theological tomes, acquiring degrees, etc. is no demonstration of brilliance. Being asked to speak somewhere is no hallmark of the articulate. At the very least, his words show a blundering stupidity - given the fact that he gave a politicized apology for his words on the gay "lifestyle" shows ignorance is no longer the problem - a blundering stupidity in his unexamined use of words. His sheer inability to grasp the need to examine subtext and nuance proves his "brilliance" to be questionable! Frankly, if he was hesitant in taking the post, I think it was a subconscious realization, now made painful fact, that his appointment to Canterbury would prove the Peter Principle. He's certainly risen to the level of his own incompetence.

Now, he's trying to present himself as some ecclesial "Mouth of Sauron," without personal interests or goals but following the great "Communion Will."

Not just "peace in our time," but also "I was just following orders!" all in one desperately unhappy appointment.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 8:36am BST

"This does not, however, mean that he intended queer folk to hear him say that he though they were a wound, when he intended to say that the current terrible situation was causing hurt all round."

If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 12:03pm BST

I am with Mark Brunson.

As to Father Ron Smith I say what I said to Rosemary Hannah; If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 12:09pm BST

"It doesn't work" might just mean "it doesn't please me". People seem ready to hyper-ventilate about every perceived infelicity in the Archbishop's language, which is not particularly helpful.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Friday, 8 October 2010 at 8:01am BST

'"It doesn't work" might just mean "it doesn't please me". '

No. What it means is it doesn't work.

Rowan's inability - complete inability, not mere "infelicity" - to comprehend the weight and import of his words make him a menace. If anything, given the series of absolute blunders he's made, he should be very careful about his words. The fact that he isn't means that he's either too stupid or too self-involved to do so. Either way, he is in no way fit to speak to, let alone *for*, a communion.

If one makes a claim of some special charism that puts the episcopacy in a position to lead the people of God, by virtue of God's Will and the Holy Spirit, the one cannot then fall back on the "Well, I'm only human!" argument as excuse for stupidity or insensitivity. If you want to indulge your failings, step down from the cathedra, as you have no place speaking for the Body of Christ. Unfair? No. Rather reasonable expectations for someone who claims that there can be someone in the position that Rowan has repeatedly tried to claim for Anglican - and, for that matter, Roman Catholic - bishops. If bishops are allowed to excuse themselves on that basis, then they have no more innate authority than any other person in the church, and their only power and authority is merely administrative/managerial. Don't try to play both Everyman and God's chosen prophet at the same time.

That's all there is to it. Desperate attempts to excuse him are more than unhelpful.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 8 October 2010 at 11:43am BST

"That's all there is to it. Desperate attempts to excuse him are more than unhelpful."

- Mark Brunson, on Friday -

What is unhelpful, Mark, is to not give the Primus inter Pares Archbishop some degree of latitude in his public utterances. At least, they are not as corrosive of normal human response as that of the Global South Primates, who are intent on an 'ethnic cleansing' ritual against homosexuals within the Church. Rowan is definitely not of this category! Nor is he coldly dismissive of gays.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 9 October 2010 at 12:55am BST


Not acceptable, Ron. Sorry.

I don't recall if you are gay or not, but I am, and this statement, in its clumsiness, was as cold and callous as you can get, and more destructive, in some ways, than the GS garbage because it comes from someone who is supposed to know better.

"Degree of latitude?!" The man is present as a bishop standing in the place of Christ and you want to give him a degree of latitude you wouldn't give a politician or a celebrity?! I can understand someone in the ordained ministry doesn't like hearing that they accepted being held to a higher standard, but you all did. You are no longer private citizens, and the excuses do not cover bishops. If he can't master his public utterances, either stop making them or step down. As for "Primus inter Pares" - I think you'll find he destroyed that title irrevocably for himself, and it will take generations to repair it with the rest of us. Perhaps having a man who claims the position before God this particular archbishop herding verbal bulls into the china shops of others' self-respect, but I don't. He is no pastor, still less "Primus" anything. If I'm being unhelpful to this sham of a "conversation" that's been going on, then, by God, I'm glad - would that I could burn it to the ground in Christ's name, and leave the sinking ship of a false communion!

Not. Acceptable.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 9 October 2010 at 8:56am BST
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