Wednesday, July 29, 2009

+++Rowan Williams Reflects

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has reflected (a very Rowan-esque thing to do) this week on the recent actions of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church to open the ordination process to homosexuals, transsexuals, and try-sexuals (people who will try anything sexual) and to "develop" liturgies for same sex blessings.

I won't post the whole reflection here, but I'd like to share and comment on a few pieces myself:

From 1.1, "No-one could be in any doubt about the eagerness of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention to affirm their concern about the wider Anglican Communion."

This is perhaps the most amussing part of the whole reflection to me, because it seems to be that very thing that many, many poeple doubt, including his fellow senior bishop NT Wright.

From 2.8, "...a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires."

This is one of the clearest statement I have ever seen +++Rowan make regarding same-sex relationships, and it seems he comes down here clearly on the side of orthodoxy.

An important point from 2.10, "...if society changes its attitudes, that change does not of itself count as a reason for the Church to change its discipline."

And finally, some very wise words about how the local church responses to various concerns from 3.12, "When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe."

Rowan, without being unkind or vicious, manages to draw a line in the sand and spell out the consequenses for those who cross it. Not consequenses that he will impose with the heavy hand of the See of Canterbury, but consequenses that the line-crossers will bring upon themselves. It is not the clear anathama of the progressives that many of the orthodox were hoping for, but it is substantial none the less.

Also, a few commentaries of note on Archbishop William's reflection that I'd like to point out to my readers:

First, one by A.S. Haley (also known as the Anglican Curmudgeon) is probably the best one I have read so far, and I commend it to you heartily.

Others that are worth your time are those by Matt Kennedy, Peter Ould, and Jordan Hylden. I am still waiting for ACI to respond, and when they do, I'll let you know.

Overall, I am moderately pleased with Rowan's actions so far, although I am aware this puts me in a very, very, very small minority seeing that he has now managed to throw the progressives into a tantrum right along with the usual conservative poopooing of his efforts (here, here, and here). I will concede that Rowan's way forward is not altogether "strong" or "clear," but neither is is tyranical, mean-spirited, or proud. His prayerful, patient, and almost-to-a-fault-kindness and forebearance, though not a very popular way to lead, do have the smell of Christian to me. Many would accuse him of being "weak" or a "coward," but he seems to be attempting a difficult path of orthodoxy and unity that, to his mind, is faithful to the Jesus he worships, winning him precious few friends along the way. Quite a cross to bear and hardly the behavior of a coward. I will keep him in my prayers, and I hope others will do the same.

***UPDATE*** Roman Catholic church issues statement of support for Rowan Williams:
In a statement July 29, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity noted Archbishop Williams' concern for maintaining the unity of the Anglican Communion through common faith and practice based on Scripture and tradition. The Vatican office "supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the church," the statement said. "It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion."
Read it all here.

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