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The Church - The burden of being a fair-minded Archbishop.

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The Church The burden of being a fair-minded Archbishop MARY ANN SIEGHART "WHY and how Churches come to find themselves no longer on speaking terms is a subject of dismally contemporary relevance," a book reviewer in the Church Times writes. He should know, for the author is Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. The ostensible subject of his article is a book on the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity in the 9th century, but today's Archbishop is as much embroiled in what he calls a "futile and nasty quarrel" as Photius of Constantinople and the Pope were then. "Culture and politics as well as theology", says Dr Williams, drove apart the Churches around the Mediterranean in the 9th century. In the 21st, culture and politics also play as large a part as theology in defining the arguments over homosexuality in Anglican Churches. Culturally, Dr Williams is a liberal. There are those who believe that it was his accession to the archbishopric that emboldened liberals elsewhere in the Anglican Communion to take action that they knew would infuriate conservative evangelicals. Within months of Dr Williams taking over at Canterbury, the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada announced that it would conduct blessings for same-sex relationships and the Anglican Church in America elected an openly and actively gay Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson. ...read more.


In the first paragraph of their statement, in words that sound as though they came straight from Dr Williams's pen, the primates affirmed "our firm desire to remain part of a Communion, where what we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us". Dr Williams has always been attracted by this aspect of Anglicanism; that it is a Church that can allow diversity of opinion. However, this raises two problems for him. One is that, as Archbishop, he has to put forward views that represent the mind of the Church rather than his own. Yesterday, on Radio 4's Today programme, he said that Gene Robinson's consecration should not go ahead. Yet this is a man who has railed against the hypocrisy of a Church that allows gay bishops if they are in the closet. On last night's Conversations with Rowan Williams on Channel 4, the Archbishop declared: "One of my worries, at the moment, is that we are losing the ability to tell stories about ourselves, about a continuous self that evolves in relation to God over time." How he is telling his own story is becoming problematic. He has broken up his self-hood into bits: one bit is what he has to believe as Archbishop of Canterbury; another is what he believes as a gentle and liberal theologian. ...read more.


I did tell him that if it became a problem and he was criticised, I'd back him." May 2002: "Some of what has been said through the centuries about homosexual behaviour by the Church is not quite adequate to what we now understand. That is my personal view." November 2002: "I don't think I would (ordain a practising gay) at the moment. It becomes a matter not just of my personal view but for the discernment of the Church." December 2002: "What at first sight seems absolutely straightforward when you look in the Bible, when you look a bit harder, may not be." May 2003. Statement made with primates: "The question of public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. We, as a body, cannot support the authorisation of such rites." June 2003. On Canon Jeffrey John's appointment as Bishop of Reading: "Confidence in the ability of a new bishop to minister to those in his pastoral care is a centrally important matter and it is clear that serious questions remain in the Diocese." October 2003. Calls for Gene Robinson to stand down: "I believe that on a major issue of this kind the Church has to make a decision together. If the Church were ever to change its view (on gay clergy) it would have to be because the Church as a whole owned it, not because any one person's conviction prevailed." ...read more.

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