Jun 1, 2010 at 3:14 PM
Archbishop Rowan Williams should always be honored for what he has done as a theologian, and I do so honor him; and he should be honored as the Archbishop of Canterbury and in that capacity I also honor, respect, and love him. I hope that this respectful critique is seen as an expression of the love I feel for the person and the office.
Archbishop Rowan’s Pentecost letter shows him to be continuing on a course that is creating a different kind of Anglicanism, more like the centralized, doctrinalized polity of the Roman Catholic Church. Added to this, the exercise of control by the Archbishop lacks the straightforwardness of the Roman polity.
For example, the Lambeth Conference was explicitly advertised as a non-legislative meeting; indeed we voted on nothing. However, lo and behold, through a non-transparent “consensus building” process, the bishops present (and so, in Archbishop Rowan’s thinking, the Communion) have affirmed the three moratoria put forward by the Windsor Report.
Here it is also important to note that the Windsor Report itself has been reified and given the status of a central Anglican document of faith and order, not by the test of time and use, but by the Archbishop and those who agree with him saying so.
When an Empire and its exponents can no longer exercise control by might, an option is to feint, double-talk, and manipulate. Such tactics have been in the fore with Archbishop Rowan since the confirmation of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. The deployment of the Windsor Report and the manipulation of the Lambeth Conference, as cited above, are prime examples. The archbishop’s Pentecost letter is the most recent example.
In the Pentecost letter, it looks like he is disciplining errant provinces of the Communion, while only a little concentration shows that the underlying goal is to assert his power to be the disciplinarian. Archbishop Rowan is intent on a covenant with punitive measures built in. The bishops of the Communion expressed their distaste for a punitive covenant, and so the archbishop has stepped up to be himself the judging authority he has been unable to build into a covenant.
Other examples in the Pentecost letter:
All three moratoria are supposedly to be attended to, but the packaging of the letter on the Anglican Communion website makes it clear that it is Mary Glasspool’s consecration that has galvanized the archbishop into action.
The archbishop says that primates of disciplined provinces are free to meet together. Surely these primates do not need the archbishop’s permission to meet together. This is another example of promoting the illusion of the archbishop’s power.
By taking offending provinces out of the conversation with ecumenical partners, the archbishop subtly implies that such conversation is dangerous and contaminating, exactly as was done with Bishop Robinson and LGBT voices in general at the Lambeth Conference.
That this is Archbishop Rowan’s Pentecost letter, given the layers that are not meant to draw us into more and more limpidity, but rather to obscure, I am saddened by such an offering from a theologian who has produced work of great profundity and luminosity in the past.