Paul Elie profiles Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for The Atlantic:
And yet the people around me weren’t denouncing him as the oppressor; they spoke as if he, not their friend Gene, was the one engaged in an unending struggle against impossible odds.
He is. At a time when Christianity is twisted into a pretzel over the issue of homosexuality, Rowan Williams—alone among the top Christian leaders—is trying to carry on a conversation about it. His approach has been quixotic, at times baffling. But the long-term goal seems clear: to enable the church he leads to become fully open to gays and lesbians without breaking apart.
Read it all.
Also see Justine Isola’s interview with Elie:
JI: You write in your piece that “The Body’s Grace,” Williams’s 1989 lecture to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, has been highly controversial. Can you talk about why it’s so provocative and powerful?
PE: Well, one of the many ways that it’s striking is that Williams isn’t speaking as a manager or politician. He’s responding as a human being and as a pastor. He’s concerned not so much for the structure of the church but for the experience of the people in his care. And he roots his argument in a novel, not in scripture or doctrine. He must have been reading Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, four novels about colonial India and the British there, when the expression “the body’s grace” grabbed him. So in the talk he midrashes the expression and finds his way back to some home truths about Christianity. Here he is a married man, a church leader, working off a novel. It’s a very striking way to approach gay sexuality.
In Elie’s interview of Williams, the archbishop said,
I think the challenge that God is putting to us is this: Granted the differences of conviction, with how much positive expectation and patience can you approach the other? It doesn’t mean you stay together at any price, but it is a matter of whether we can demonstrate to the world a slightly different mode of operation than that which the world commonly operates with.