Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Rowan Williams: rabbit in the hat?

Much interesting discussion this morning about Rowan’s address last night. He laid out exactly what the position is, in terms of our people see each other from both sides of the divide. All I’d want to add is that the vast majority of people here are on neither side of a divide, but somewhere in between. Both in capturing the content of the various positions, and in his method, he seemed to have caught matters exactly correctly.

Under the surface I also took his method as a good one to copy, where you only speak of others using terms they would use of themselves, putting yourself in their position. This makes a refreshing change from some of the hostile suspicion and namecalling that has taken place, which is in itself unworthy of the people concerned.

Our group this morning felt we needed to begin with reality. We can all fixate on “if only’s” — if only the US bishops hadn’t proceeded, if only Lambeth 1998 hadn’t been so mismanaged and poorly led, if only the Nigerians had come. All this is fantasy. The Chief Rabbi’s holy pragmatism was a better starting point. Rowan is inviting us to be more humble, to listen, to repent, to enlarge our hearts. This means dying to our fantasy rallying points and hostile preconceptions, so that we attain a state of reality, responding to the call to life of the Lord who called Lazarus to life. If, on the other hand, we just cant let go of that stuff, then we stay in the tomb. The life of Anglicanism does not depend on the institutional wellbeing of Anglican structures, which will plainly have to morph, bend and perhaps even break. It’s a simple spiritual choice, really.

To think of Rowan as some master-technicial whose job is to develop some bolt-on solution, like perpetual motion or nuclear fusion, is a cop-out. What he can do is
  1. to put us back in touch with the healing resources of Scripture and core Christian tradition
  2. cast honest and godly visions,
  3. bring home to people the realities of what they are really saying,
  4. model the processes he commends,
  5. scope the realities of this passing world for us, but also those of a world which will never end.
All these things he is dong trasparently honestly and effectively. Those who seem to prefer authoritarianism, sour puritans or fantasy Romanists, don’t know what a big opportunity we’re being given to get real, and so to see God revealed (as in Galatians text at the beginning of the retreat) in us...


Mr John Cooper said...

Thanks for your continued updates from Lambeth. It makes a change to read reports from the event where the individual writing them actually knows what is going on and can take a more long term approach to things.

Have to ask though, the photos on todays post are very good, how did you manage to get such high quality closeups of the Archbishop while he was speaking?

With Warm Regards Ever


Erika Baker said...

"Under the surface I also took his method as a good one to copy, where you only speak OF others using terms they would use of themselves, putting yourself in their position."

Seeing that the divise issue are lgbt people, all I can say is that I hope one day the church will even speak TO them.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Jon — great perk of this job is high quality closeups of Rowan!

Erika — I think you are exactly right. I have mentioned before the gospel value of speaking directly to people. I believe the pragmatic reason it has not been possible to do so formally at this conference is grounded in the fallen-ness of the world, not the heart of the gospel.

I know you didn't mean it at all this way, but I am trying to watch my language to be very careful about any suggestion that the problem "is" lbgt people. I lived in the East End of London in the racist early 60's when the problem "was" what were quaintly called "coloured people" — I used to think I was coloured, and looked forward to meeting someone translucent! The problem, for me, is our cultural inability to integrate mind, passions and will about lbgt people — our problem, not theirs.

Mr John Cooper said...


On the substance of your discussion within the comments I have to ask something really.

"The problem, for me, is our cultural inability to integrate mind, passions and will about lbgt people — our problem, not theirs."

Dare I say it shouldn't be a problem to start with? Thinking back on your earlier comment upon Racism, how many of your friends would you introduce by mentioning the colour of their skin. Eg here is my milkbottle white friend john?

Surely the challenge presented to us, both by life around us and the stories within the bible (e.g. Tax Collector up the tree) is that for Jesus such devisions didn't even factor.

He chose to have 'joe bloggs' builders (fishermen) as his disciples and cheesed off the religious hierarchy.

Dunno, just wanted to 'unpack' (as the lingo goes) the idea of what happens when you say lgbt people 'aren't the problem, the problem rests with us' as to what you are trying to integrate.

As ever, looking forward to your musing.

with regards


liturgy said...

Bishop Alan
On reading Archbishop Rowan’s address I identified more with your sentiment “that the vast majority of people [here] are on neither side of a divide, but somewhere in between.” I, hence, could not follow you to your next sentence “he seemed to have caught matters exactly correctly.” I would not even present our communion’s position one-dimensionally, linearly – with two sides and people “somewhere in between.” In my better moments I would shy away from caricature and oversimplification as the ABC appears to have done in this case, and have usually understood him to be more nuanced. I am concerned that there will be very very many, myself included, whose position is not articulated in this address, as the sentence of yours I highlighted indicates, so that a polarised piece may itself, clearly unintentionally, contribute to polarisation.



Bishop Alan Wilson said...

John, I have a great sympathy for what I think you're suggesting. I quite agree I should be able to introduce you as my friend without having to say your race. I hope this becomes more possible in more arts of the world. The sayings of Jesus that I puzzle over here, actually, are his contact with the Syrophonician woman, and the woman at the well, where he clearly worked out of the conceptual eyes of a first century Jew.

I suppose I have observed that to many people from various cultures, and as a matter of fact rather than ideal, lbgt people are seen in different lights mentally (they exist and have to be taken into account), emotionally (like them or hate them), and in terms of what should be (on a scale from objectively disordered (RC), to fully integrated. I'd like to see people’s reactions less disconnected from each other, more integrated perhaps.

Bosco, I think you're right. I find, though, that in situations of uncertainty, people are very thirsty for simply definitions and will find them, by hook or by crook, all over the place. hey also hold out some potential to clarify confused matters, but always abscure truth as well as revealing it.

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