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Read more of Deryl Davis’s interview about Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams with the Rev. David L. Moyer, president of Forward in Faith, North America:
On Rowan Williams and the issues dividing the Anglican church:
I’ve never met him face to face, but I’ve had conversations with him and I regard him as a man of great pastoral integrity, from my experience with him and from what I’ve learned from others who have known him for years.
For the past 30 or 40 years, the Anglican Communion has been wrestling with these lightning rod issues of the ordination of women, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and now the whole hot issue of same-sex marriages. Rowan Williams comes out on a very liberal, revisionist side of those issues, whereas I and the people I work with maintain an orthodox position, what the church has always taught and believed through the centuries. But Dr. Williams is the type of man who will respect the corporate mind of the Anglican Communion. He realizes that he is a radical thinker; he is a theologian who ponders things; he writes extensively. But yet he has come out publicly to say, “It’s one thing for me to do that in my own capacity, but now as the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, I have a moral responsibility and a pastoral responsibility to uphold the mind of the Anglican Communion” as enshrined for instance in the Lambeth conferences, where the bishops meet every ten years.
Dr. Williams takes what I would call a revisionist point of view He’s on the liberal side of those issues. He’s very convinced and committed to those positions personally, but yet since he has become the Archbishop of Canterbury he has said he wants people to have unity as much as is possible with differing theological passions. I think it’s a very difficult thing that he faces, but I certainly honor him and put my confidence [in him] that he can do this. He is committed, I believe, to working with such people and keeping the Anglican Communion together as we wade through challenging and difficult times. What I’m putting my confidence in is his willingness to say, when he represents the Anglican Communion as its spiritual head, that he will speak forthrightly, upholding the corporate mind of the Anglican Communion, of the historic teachings. He realizes how serious it is for him to do that.
I believe that Archbishop Williams will defend the rights of all within the Anglican Communion. But I think he will see his role not so much as defending people’s rights and having things politicized. I think he sees himself as one who can bring people together to talk and to pray and to seek to honor one another, but realizing that there could be points where the differences are irreconcilable. For instance, he has said recently that if the Church of England passes legislation for the ordination of women to the episcopacy (as the American church has done), he knows that this would cause a major problem that is irreconcilable, a major fracture in the Church of England that would ripple out farther in the Anglican Communion. There’s a sizeable group of clergy and lay people in the Church of England who simply could not abide by that. I do believe, from what I know of him and what he has said, that he would seek some creative form of accommodating, of providing a place for traditionalist clergy and lay people in order to avoid the breakup of the Anglican Communion.
I believe that Archbishop Williams is a liberal thinker, but yet he also is steeped in the tradition of the church-what has been passed down from generation to generation. He is not going to abandon that. It’s a dynamic. He’s sitting in the middle of polarities; it’s a real pull. Here is a man who’s a very bright man, a very creative thinker. But yet he’s rooted in something that’s very historic and in something he knows he has a particular role of stewardship for. He really has been entrusted with a major role in the Christian world as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
On separation and support:
The big issue right now as I see it worldwide is the issue of homosexuality and particularly same-sex blessing. It’s a hot button issue. Obviously, same-sex blessings introduces into the church a new morality, a new understanding of human relationships, and Archbishop Williams knows that this could be something to could lead to schism and separation.
I am prepared to offer my support to Archbishop Williams in prayer and hopefully develop a personal relationship with him, if I would be granted that. He has stepped into a huge job; he’s been called to be the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion in a very difficult time, and I think we need to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, he is the Archbishop of Canterbury, so let’s pray for him. Let’s support him. Let’s let him grow into the role. I would want people to grant me the same latitude, the same privilege if I were in his position.