Monday, 7 December 2009

A case of misplaced priorities

From Ruth Gledhill's blog, commenting on the Archbishop's response to the episcopal election in Los Angeles.

"Critics are understandably questioning why speak out on this so forcefully, while showing such restraint on Uganda. It is probably in vain to point out that one concerns a matter of national governance, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to speak, and the other a matter of Anglican ecclesial polity, in which he is perfectly justified in taking a stand.

The fact is, whatever the ecclesiological jurisprudence, it looks bad. Very bad indeed. Changing Attitude does a good job of explaining why.

I wish I could do something, write something, to help the Archbishop get out of this mess.

But it feels impossible. His difficulties I fear are truly manifold. "

RG is one of Britain's best and most highly regarded Religious Affairs correspondents and is pretty friendly towards Rowan Williams on the whole. She is trying (gamely) to offer some sort of defence of his Sunday morning Press statement. Her use of the words"in vain" reveal her understanding that this is a pretty feeble defence, but it's the best she can do with the scanty material she has. The idea that the ABC cannot comment on issues of National Governance is simply not credible. The "Faith in the City" report made clear comment on such issues many years ago.

No, Rowan has erred hugely in reacting so swiftly and clearly: the horrid contrast with with his silence towards the Bahati Bill and the Church of Uganda's early support of it is dreadful. Nothing in the American actions threatens hundreds, thousands of lives, yet it is promptly condemned. When even your friends, who are happy to pop friendly articles into the public domain reassuring everyone that you really are appalled (courtesy of a good but unattributable source), feel that you have put yourself publicly into a position that looks utterly compromised, then truly you are in deep doo-doo. The current occupant of Lambeth Palace has, I fear fatally, lost all moral credibility in Anglican Communion matters. The Covenant is dead in the water. If one of the key instruments of Communion (the ABC) cannot be trusted to be impartial, but will always been seen as siding with one grouping even when it is manifestly utterly morally wrong, then no Province from the other side of the debate will sensibly submit themselves to a issue resolution process that is intrinsically skewed against their freedom and viewpoint.

In trying to save the Communion, Rowan has lost it. Which is tragic, given that he is, without doubt, a good and holy man.


  1. "a matter of national governance"? Given Bishop Abura's appaling statements last week, the church is well and truly in the middle of the mess which is Uganda. that ABC can comment harshly & negatively about one Anglican Province sticking to its canons, whilst ignoring another Anglican Province condoning state-mandated murder is not just, is not humble, and is not right! Whether or not one agrees with the stance or actions of the TEC, they have acted legitemately within the scope of their Canon Law. The Ugandan situation & Anglican Bishops who are promoting and supporting this Bill in that nation is a seperate issue, and must be challenged by the ABC and other churh leaders. ABC ignores it at his peril, and sadly the peril of many others.

  2. Amen to your post and the commentary on it!

  3. It's odd that the Anglican Church in Uganda is behaving in this way, since they presumably supported Lambeth 1.10 (1998), which committed the whole Communion to 'listening to the experience' of LGBT people.

  4. I am sure I have said this before on one blog or another, but I will say it again: since when do basic violations of human rights fall within the untouchable province of National Governance? An offense of this type against one is an offense against all! Or do we need to repeat the question put to Jesus: who is my neighbor?

  5. Everybody is your neighbour, as I understand it. The tax collector, the prostitute, even the priest who can't manage to get out of his rack for the dawn Easter service (you know who you are ...)

    Even, in fact, the bearded Most Reverend one, who is probably trying to do the sort of international political dance his experience as a Christian Socialist theologian has failed to train him for. Don't doubt where his heart is - look at the "Not-the-Bishop-of-Southwark" wibble from the late '90s.

    Much of the complexity and humanity of the teaching of Christ seems to have been forgotten by people following the simplicity of the strictures of Paul. Based, as they were quite obviously (and not necessarily wrongly) on the Old Covenant of which he was a member.

    I'll stop throwing gravel at people's windows now ...

  6. The wider political community rallies. I won't be there - it's a long way from Falkirk. But not too far from +Rowan's Lambeth gaff - less than a 1/2 hour walk according to Google. Maybe he could show a beard for an hour or two?

  7. Show a beard? In the circumstances, there is a higher chance of Martians landing in Huddersfiels on 10th December!