Rowan Williams’ fear of the mob

Editorial thoughts about Theo Hobson on Rowan Williams in The Guardian.

If Theo Hobson’s analysis is correct, then one can read Williams’ hostility to the Episcopal Church as not only grounded in anti-Americanism and his inherent suspicion of capitalism (something common to lefties of a certain age in England) but in what Hobson terms anti-liberalism.

The Episcopal Church may, if the author is correct, represent the logical consequence of what a church looks like in a society where ideas compete in an intellectual and social market-place.

His “communitarianism” is not the community of the town meeting and certainly not of the market place, but faith regulated by wise people–ahem, wise men!– who mediate the faith from the top. His idea is of a community where values are not so much shared among its people, but communicated to and corporately enforced through the structures of the church in concert with the state. Thus his sympathy for sharia law in the UK and with Pope Benedict’s anti-secular, anti-European tirades.

So, while it was permissable for him to speculate (as he later called it) about the permissibility of same-sex marriage as a mere bishop (even as ABW), he could not support it as Archbishop of Canterbury because for him such ideas can only be imposed from above by “the community” (aka the heirarchy). He really thinks that the centralized Anglican Communion run by a few wise men can make wiser decisions and do better theology (in his view) than a church where a grass-roots church live in concert and tension with Bishops who collegially teach an historic, biblical faith in a market-place of ideas.

His Anglican Covenant shows his bias: that change can only proceed at a pace determined by the most conservative archbishop and that only the community as mediated by Archbishops can determine who is in conformity and who is not.

It is why he tried to subvert the Women Bishops legislation with the “parishes can choose their own bishops” poison pill to satisfy those opposed to women’s ordination. It was not women he was opposed to…it was decision making by Synod where mere clergy and laity have a voice equal to–or at least in tension with–Bishops.

If Hobson’s understanding of Williams is correct, then the Episcopal Church is his worst nightmare. (And he is not so fond of the Scottish Episcopal Church nor the Church in New Zealand nor Wales nor Canada nor South Africa nor Brazil, to name a few more.)

In the end, Williams echoes the ancient Tory fear of the mob.

Read Hobson’s article here.

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