01 January 2013

A Time of Transition

As 2013 begins, the time of Rowan ends and the time of Justin begins. In a short time we will see all the pomp and pageantry as a new Archbishop of Canterbury is enthroned. This morning The Guardian has an online poll asking if Dr. Williams has been a success. At this writing the vote is running 70% positive. The comments are running about 50 - 50. Of course there is no science to such polls, no selection or weighting of respondents. Still they are interesting and popular.

What do we say of Dr. Williams' tenure? As one of the small group of progressives who set out to defeat his Anglican Covenant initiative and largely did so (pending the Canadian vote,) I predictably say, "No he was not a good archbishop." I do not see the Covenant as the whole issue, but rather as a symptom.

This is a man who misunderstood his role and lost track of the values he should have defended. That is why he will be remembered as the archbishop who
  • threw his own gay clergy under the bus,
  • failed to obtain canon approval of women bishops,
  • used that failure to demean and insult Presiding Bishop Katherine,
  • contested the conservative government's planned marriage equality legislation,
  • went to Central Africa and sat silent as false prophets slammed the idea of equality for lgbt people,
  • predictably side-stepped the opportunity for hospitality offered by the blessing of, "gay unions,"
  • created and attempted to impose the Anglican Covenant,
  • dismissed conservatives from communion commissions to punish their less conservative churches,
  • lacked the moral courage to invite the bishop of New Hampshire to Lambeth,
  • sought and obtained special interest legislation allowing the church to stand not for equality and decency but for employment discrimination.
On the plus side, he finally resigned, and has, mostly by simply ignoring reality, avoided admitting the multiple schisms that have rent the church. Calling that unity is like calling a Speaker Boehner a leader.

Running through all of Dr. Williams' singular failures is a commitment not to proclamation, or people, but to institutions. If England like the rest of Europe sees employment equity as a minimum standard, do not force the church to change, get an exemption. It is that pattern that answers the poll.

Leaders lead, failures conserve. This archbishop set out to conserve and thereby failed. The Communion lies in tatters the victim of de facto schism.

This archbishopric in this lone lay person's judgement: abject failure. And yet, and yet, this is a person who dreamed greatly and rose high, in the service of the church. I cannot, and do not wish him ill. I hope his return to academe is a grand success.

2 comments:

Christal said...

It is my great hope that Welby will do some soul searching for what is right, good, and true for the Anglican Church. I wonder if you read the following from Williams?

http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2777/archbishop-appreciate-the-silent-conspiracy-of-generous-dedication

Jim said...

Have you ever read "the management of princes?" It is an obscure little work. The premises that if the bureaucrats can overwhelm the new prince with minutia, the color of the drapes, the correct height for guard's pikes, the menu for dinner, and other stuff of that sort.

I hope +Welby has read the book! Otherwise he can be controlled by the two bureaucracies: the CoE and the Communion's. It largely happened to Dr. Williams for a while.

I hope he is an improvement, but remember Dr. Williams was supposed to be the liberal Anglo-catholic, and this is the conservative evangelical's turn. Not that things worked out all that will on that scale with Dr. Williams.

We can only pray and wait. Interesting times ahead I think.

FWIW
jimB

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