Rowan Williams and consensus

The Guardian on Tuesday had a profile of Rowan Williams, full of comment on his suitability to lead the Anglican Communion in its current crisis.

The tone is set by a quote from an unnamed ‘archbishop from outside the church [of England]’ saying, amongst other things, ‘He looks for consensus where there is none…’ And this is an incredibly resilient motif in comment on the current situation: Rowan Williams is, apparently, beset by a naïve belief that everyone could get along if they sat down quietly and talked about it all, and he keeps on acting as if that were a possibility, refusing to take the bull by one or other of its pointy horns.

Yeah, right.

The whole strategy of Williams and of those who have been working closely with him has been to find a way forward that (however sadly) takes it for granted that there is at present no consensus, and that there is no consensus waiting ready in the wings. Instead, he and others have asked how the Anglican Communion can develop a structure that will allow it to admit that there are presently irreconcilable differences, that no reconciliation of those differences is yet visible on the horizon, that they are indeed serious enough differences to prevent any kind of full communion between the differing parties (rather than being matters on which we can simply agree to differ) – but that they are not differences so fundamental as to mean that there must be a complete separation into two or more distinct Communions.

Of course, GAFCON and others think this is a disastrous strategy, a product of Williams’ insipid weakness. Instead, they think that there are irreconcilable differences between them and their opponents within the Communion, that there is no resolution to these differences visible on the horizon, that these differences are so serious as to prevent any kind of full communion between them and their opponents – but that they have not reached a point where their only way forward is to break away and form a separate Commmunion.

Oh, wait a minute…

One Thought on “Rowan Williams and consensus

  1. Pete on July 18, 2008 at 2:57 pm said:

    Stephen Bates appears set on assisting in the destruction of the Anglican Communion through his incendiary comments here and elsewhere. I always come away from reading his articles feeling slightly dirty…

    Rebecca Paveley’s recent interview of Rowan Williams (published in Church Times as “Defiant amid the doubters”) is much more helpful. The following excerpt from the article seems to be in complete agreement with what you’re talking about above:

    He [Williams] insists that, despite the Jerusalem Declaration, the Anglican Communion will still continue in some form, albeit weakened. “The kind of fellowship we will have may be different, less immediate. That is hard. That is a loss, and there will always be a sense of loss and not feeling all right. But the reality is: we are where we are. We may be less obviously at one for a few years, but that doesn’t let us off the obligation to keep listening to each other.”

    Perhaps Bates could benefit from reading your “Difficult Gospel”. Have you considered sending him a complimentary copy?

    (By the way, I am just getting to the end of that book, and am greatly enjoying it. Having read a few of Williams’ books and a number of his occasional pieces, I have benefitted enormously from your explication of the unifying themes underlying Williams’ theology.)

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