Alarming words from Rowan Williams

I finally tracked down a url for this interview that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave to a Tanzanian newspaper just before he left that country. You may have seen it elsewhere by now, but I am posting it here because I think it is a significant document. (You might want to copy the text into a word document; it is difficult to read online.)

If widely circulated, I believe it will significantly handicap Bishop Jefferts Schori in her efforts to persuade our Church to accept the difficult recommendations being urged upon us by the Primates. I say this in part because Rowan Williams asserts that gay people living in relationships should not be ordained Not ordained as bishops, mind you, but simply not ordained. In the wake of the meeting in Tanzania, both he and Peter Akinola have spoken out against gay ordination. Akinola is under the mistaken impression that the Primates’ communiqué touches upon this issue. It does not. But these two statements, one on the heels of the other, suggest if we accept the current recommendations of the Primates, other “recommendations” will soon by on their way.

Perhaps more alarming, Williams’ statements demonstrate that he has an embraced a view of the Communion that vests unprecedented authority in his office and that of the other Instruments of Unity. No such authority has never been conferred upon the instruments by the member Churches of the Communion, but Williams seems to have joined the Akinolytes in behaving as though it has. This leads to the use of profoundly troubling language about “standards” and “teachings” within the Communion.

The distinction between a belief that is held by a majority of the Churches in the Communion and one that is an enforceable “standard” would not seem to be difficult for a man of Williams’ intellect to make, but, increasingly, he fails to make it. Likewise, his view that Lambeth resolutions constitute “teachings” that command allegiance is patently false.

If however, we are going to start throwing resolutions at one another and demanding submission, how about this one:

Union Among the Churches of the Anglican Communion – Encyclical Letter 1.5

There are certain principles of church order which, your Committee consider, ought to be distinctly recognised and set forth, as of great importance for the maintenance of union among the Churches of our Communion.

1 First, that the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members.

2. Secondly, that when a diocese, or territorial sphere of administration, has been constituted by the authority of any Church or province of this Communion within its own limits, no bishop or other clergyman of any other Church should exercise his functions within that diocese without the consent of the bishop thereof.

3. Thirdly, that no bishop should authorise to officiate in his diocese a clergyman coming from another Church or province, unless such clergyman present letters testimonial, countersigned by the bishop of the diocese from which he comes; such letters to be, as nearly as possible, in the form adopted by such Church or province in the case of the transfer of a clergyman from one diocese to another.

This foundational piece of work from the Encyclical released with unanimous approval after the Lambeth Conference of 1878 would seem to deserve at least as much respect as the 1998 resolution on human sexuality. But Williams’ comments suggest a willingness to disregard it. His current position indicates to me that at this delicate moment, everything about the way we govern ourselves is up for grabs. The archbishop is attempting to bestow moral legitimacy upon positions that are politically expedient and nothing more.

We lack the influence to stop him in this disingenuous pursuit, but it is essential that we call attention to his behavior and consider its implications for the wellbeing of our Church.

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