Dr. Rowan Williams is the Alan Greenspan of the Anglican Communion.
People ask of Williams as they did Greenspan for simple answers.
Are you raising interest rates, yes or no?
Are you for or against same sex rites and the consecration of non-celibate homosexual bishops, yes or no?
Neither man can give a simple answer.
When Greenspan speaks, he gives us lectures on economics and talks about the various factors that are influencing the economy.
Williams talks about decisions made by the Communion as a whole, but does not give a personal answer (black or white) on gay ordinations or same sex rites.
Williams is willing to listen to V. Gene Robinson talk about homosexuality, and then listen to Bob Duncan. He will deny neither man their "truth," as they see it, but will not offer his own personal view as a tie breaker.
When he was in New Orleans at the House of Bishops meeting, Williams said two things about homosexuality which were not widely reported. The first thing he said was that homosexuality was not a disease. The second thing he said was that violence against homosexuals was unacceptable. As far as I know, few if anyone has ever said that homosexuality itself was a disease. HIV/AIDS is what you GET when you have anal sex. To confuse homosexuality with the disease itself is to confuse the issue. Secondly violence against homosexuals by heterosexuals is extremely rare.
A study in the "Journal of Interpersonal Violence" examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships and found that 90 percent of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners. A survey of 1,099 lesbians by the "Journal of Social Service Research" found that "slightly more than half of the [lesbians]" reported that they had been abused by a female lover/partner.
In their book "Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence," D. Island and P. Letellier report that "the incidence of domestic violence among gay men is nearly double that in the heterosexual population." Compared to the low rate of intimate partner violence within marriage, homosexual and lesbian relationships are far more violent than traditional married households.
One wonders why and how a brilliant mind like that of Dr. Williams' can so easily be duped.
Again, he did not endorse either the validity of same-sex unions or the legitimacy of homosexual bishops. He carefully side-stepped the issue choosing to focus on disease and attitudinal changes rather than behavioral changes by homosexuals.
Critical to understanding Dr. Rowan Williams and his Affirming Catholic mind is his Hegelian approach to issues, says a British theologian. "The Hegelian point is critical, because his contention on the gay matter is that the church has not (yet) decided to change its mind, nor that it would be wrong to do so."
Publicly, on the gay issue, he said he will abide by the consensus and teaching of the Anglican faith, but in private he expects that the church will change, but very slowly, and he would welcome the change, but might not be around to see it. For Williams, it also commits one to continual dialogue (thesis/antithesis) until a new agreement(synthesis) is reached; failure to reach that means one has not spoken or listened deeply enough. This was the cry of former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and continues on with Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori.
For Williams a decision to change the mind of the church about homosexuality, or any teaching for that matter, can only be made by the collective will of the Primates. The benchmark, to date, is the Windsor Report, though a Covenant is in the works that might supercede that report.
When the Primates met in Dar es Salaam in February, they all signed off on a statement giving the Episcopal Church a deadline (Sept. 30) to demonstrate fealty to the Windsor Report or face the consequences. Williams does not seem to be interested in having individual primates, archbishops, bishops, dioceses or clergy coming to their own conclusions and acting on them when the process for the Anglican Communion has to be reached by consensus.
When Williams came to New Orleans, he said very little. He made it clear, in language that might have appeared obtuse, that he would listen, make no judgment, but would take back what the bishops concluded and weigh it all against the whole. Everyone went away frustrated. The HOB used a lot of prevaricating language to say they wouldn't allow same sex rites because a General Convention had not approved same and promised not to ordain any more openly homosexual bishops. Later, Mrs. Jefferts Schori said she would never allow the church to go backwards in its support of the church's gay agenda, thus throwing sand in the face of what the HOB concluded.
It was like a 6-year old telling his mother, "Mummy, I promise to try very, very, very hard never to do it again." The mother knows full well he will. This was the message the HOB delivered to Williams and the Anglican Communion about same sex rites in New Orleans. They promised to try very, very, hard not to do it again, but within hours Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno fudged when told that a same-sex rite was being performed for two men even as he spoke.
This past week the Diocese of California urged its Bishop Mark Andrus to approve the trial use of three rites for formalizing the blessing of same-gender unions.
Williams seems to take the Episcopal Church at its word when Mrs. Jefferts Schori and the HOB say they will abide by the Windsor Report. He also took the primates at their word when every last one signed off on the Dar es Salaam communique.
So it should come as no surprise that Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe, who faces a revolt by some nine and possibly as many as 17 of his orthodox priests, wrote to Williams asking for clarification. Williams wrote back to Howe saying that the benchmark for the communion was loyalty to the Windsor Report, and only those who signed off on it would be considered true Anglicans "in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion."
"I have committed myself very clearly to awaiting the views of the Primates before making any statement purporting to settle the question of The Episcopal Church's status, and I can't easily short-circuit that procedure. Secondly rectors need to recognize that a separatist decision from them at this point would be irresponsible and potentially confusing."
Some commentators say that Williams was affirming a Catholic (he capitalized the word) view of the episcopacy rather than a Protestant view. They may be right. His catholic view of things is not Roman or even Affirming. It says that the national church is not the final point of authority and that the real power lays in the diocesan bishops, perhaps having in mind that the Pope is not just the world leader of one billion Catholics, but that he is also the Bishop of Rome.
Williams himself is the leader of 70 million Anglicans, but he is also the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mrs. Jefferts Schori is the bishop of nothing; she is a legislative figurehead, a presiding bishop with no real power. She cannot tell a diocesan bishop what he/she can or cannot do. The most power she has is a bully pulpit to enforce legislative decisions of General Convention.
Williams' letter to the bishop of Central Florida sent shivers around the Episcopal Church.
Like waving a red rag before a bull, Episcopal Church liberals went ballistic. They snarled at Williams like hyenas caught in the headlights of a jeep on the plains of the Serengeti.
The Rev. Nigel J. Taber-Hamilton, rector of St. Augustine's-in-the-woods Episcopal Church in Freeland WA on Whidbey Island, called it "The Great Betrayal - Rowan Williams and the end of the Anglican Communion as we know it."
At his blog he wrote, "Any respect I have been able to maintain for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and any hope for the survival of the Anglican Communion as we currently know it, died."
"The letter was staggering in its misunderstanding of the polity of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church and shockingly naive in its understanding of where most Episcopalians stand with regard to any interference in our own affairs by foreign Prelates."
"Perhaps more significantly, though, it is the betrayal of beliefs that Williams held dear for so long - right up, in fact, to the point where he became Archbishop of Canterbury, when - he says - unity became his ministry."
"It is now clear that Williams is willing to abandon any individual and even whole Provinces of the Anglican Communion in the cause of 'unity'."
He wasn't the only one blasting Williams.
The Rev. Dr. George C. Bedell, a TEC priest and a member of the Board of Directors of The Episcopal Majority, ripped Williams saying, "I wish the Archbishop would climb down out of the clouds or wherever he is and lead the Anglican Communion to take seriously the admonition to love others as we love ourselves, no strings attached."
He added this, "Until Rowan Williams (and those who might agree with him) come to terms with the incontrovertible fact that what he calls 'the organ of union' for the American church is our General Convention, we're going to get nowhere in solving our worldwide dilemma together."
He then snorted at orthodox Episcopalians saying, "Amazing! He [Williams] just doesn't get it, does he? Those who are rushing into 'separatist solutions' in the United States are the very ones who want to ignore the primacy of the General Convention altogether, because, among other things, they say its decision is out of sync with some distorted and intellectually suffocating reading of Scripture."
Then he reveals his hand. "The real issue here - one that Howe and Williams don't even address - is how the church is going to find a way fully to include lesbians and gays in the life of the Church."
There you have it.
An observer noted, "What this priest fails to realize is that it is the orthodox who have become the real outcasts in the Episcopal Church, not the 2,000 pansexualists who now dominate the institution and who wield and manipulate the organs of political power within the church."
The Rev. Mark Harris, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Delaware and a member of Executive Council, wrote in his essay, "The Archbishop Makes a Mess"" "the real danger in the Archbishop's [letter] is the stress on the bishop and diocese rather than the province. The whole pack of cards that has to do with the provinces of the Anglican Communion comes close to crashing down, as does any need to refer to the Primates, the ACC or any other gathering save Lambeth...I would be most surprised if the ABC believed that no one needed to take him seriously in England, what with his being the Primate of All England, etc., since he was not the primary locus of ecclesial identity. The Archbishop has written a bit of a mess that will take considerable time to unwind and toss. I hope that he did not write it but rather that one of his assistants, who ought to be fired, did."
Another liberal blogger Father Jake also took pot shots at the ABC in an article entitled "More Confusion from Canterbury".
ORTHODOX clergy, on reading Williams letter, which is facetiously being called "Rowan's First Epistle to the Central Floridians" were far more polite towards the ABC, even though they don't agree with him.
Priests in the diocese who are in conflict with Bishop John W. Howe said quite simply that they would continue in their efforts to separate themselves from the Episcopal Church, which they regard as heretically lost but steadfastly refused to name call either Howe or Williams.
Both liberals and conservatives feel betrayed by Williams' statement. Liberals hate what Williams wrote because it seemingly overrides the authority of the national church and its leader, Mrs. Jefferts Schori who has no juridical authority over dioceses.
For conservative Episcopalians who want to stay in the TEC, it leaves them with no way out, at least for the foreseeable future, unless they make the leap into AMIA, CANA or oversight from Uganda.
Canon David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, said more politely that the Windsor Bishops will continue to have hemorrhaging membership, thus making Williams letter all but irrelevant.
The one thing Williams' letter will not do is halt the march of orthodox dioceses and priests who want to leave the Episcopal Church. On the other hand, Windsor-compliant bishops might see their position strengthened as they consider where their evangelical and biblical consciences and denominational loyalties are in caught in conflict.
For bishops like Bill Love (Albany), James Stanton (Dallas), John W. Howe (Central Florida) and Don Wimberly (Texas), it affords some breathing space as they face fleeing parishes in their own diocese and gives them a place to stand, even if the ground is on a fault line and wobbles a bit.
For the Network bishops, this letter of Williams changes nothing.
For Bishop Bob Duncan (Pittsburgh) and the dozen or so bishops who have formed a new ecclesial structure, this is just more prevarication in the face of overwhelming theological and moral innovations the Episcopal Church is making that are now irreversible.
For them there is no going back.
One shrewd observer noted that at the very least the Episcopal Church's bullying days are numbered. "While Rowan's liberal and libertine impulses are obvious, his commitment to Christ is palpable. He might just save the Communion from itself."
The Archbishop of Canterbury's progressive attitude regarding the communion's questions, which seems to want to find a way not to offend anyone, is also coming to an end.
The Hegelian mind of Rowan Williams demands a Kierkegaardian Either/Or not both/and.
One longs for him to take a stand, and not worry about the consequences.
Perhaps in his letter to Bishop Howe he has made a start in his efforts to separate the sheep from the goats.
One just hopes he knows who the goats really are.
While Williams is willing to give very clear guidance on political matters like the Iraq war and Israel's policies, he fails to do so in the area in which he is supposed to provide leadership -- faith and morals.
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