Peter Moore—Canterbury to Bid Adieu

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Saying that he hopes that his successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros. Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, will resign at the end of this year and return to academics. He will become the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge where he can meander along the River Cam and take tea at the Orchard Garden in Grantchester far away from the turbulence of the 85-million member Communion he leaves behind. When an archbishop retires at the usual age of 70, no one bats an eyelash. But when he resigns in good health nearly a decade before normal retirement age, people sit up and take notice. It evokes the image of a battle weary pugilist whose “sponger” looks at the condition of his man and tosses his sponge in the air. The fight is over. We might as well declare defeat.

The battle, of course, was his to lose. Anyone with half an eye could see the turbulence that lay ahead for someone assuming the role of leader of the world’s second largest Communion. The same year he took office an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, was consecrated bishop of New Hampshire despite public assurances from Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, that he would not participate in the consecration. Griswold went right ahead and did just that. With one part of his Communion going its own way, and thumbing its noses at the rest, while the vast majority were profoundly upset, Williams was forced to choose. Either he would take a self-imposed mediatorial role, and desperately try to keep all parties at the table. Or he would take sides, and do what he could to bring the truculent back in line.

He chose the former, with the result that no one was satisfied. Privately he held to a liberal position on sexuality, as enunciated in his well-known, though highly inscrutable, paper entitled The Body’s Grace. Publicly, he towed the line that was spelled out by Lambeth Resolution 1:10, which stated as the official position of the Communion that “homosexuality was imcompatible with Scripture.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams

3 Comments
Posted April 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Luke wrote:

Nit-picking, but only because such nits are so distracting…to what destination was the ABC “towing the line?”

Other than that, Dr. Moore had only to say in answer to the ABC’s performance - He answered ‘NO’ by his actions when asked by the world’s Christians, “Do you follow Christ’s laws?”

April 15, 5:26 pm | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:

Re “towing the line” - well spotted! :o)

“News briefs are all abuzz about who the next A.B.C. should be. “A ‘Traditionalist’ say Conservative MPs.” But it will take more than a Traditionalist to bring the Communion back together. It will take someone with enormous diplomatic skills, a firm resolve to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ the central touchstone of his archepiscopacy, a great sensitivity towards those who don’t understand “episcospeak” or “academiceze”, and a heart for mission as the central challenge of the age. Plus it will take someone with a very tough skin. On that point Rowan Williams is dead right.”

Yes, many such people can be found in Anglican jurisdictions outside the British Isles.  We have seen how firm, godly and mission-minded leaders just keep rising up to replace the retirees in Global South provinces. But the odds of such an outsider being chosen as ABC would be virtually nil, I think. 

Within England, I can think of only one bishop who has already demonstrated in practical terms that he has the sensitivity, political savvy, traditional doctrine, thick hide and *backbone* to come anywhere close to the criteria put forward by Rev. Moore.  He rigorously enforces the rules as they stand now, without undue favour, and orthodox evangelicals and anglo-catholics have found they can operate under his oversight without any need to take schismatic measures.  If he is nominated, the CofE might just stave off the advent of a British ACNA.

April 15, 8:49 pm | [comment link]
3. driver8 wrote:

Like Frank Griswold, another liberal Anglo-Catholic, his “hear no evil, see no evil” mindset revealed an unbiblical anthropology. “Why can’t people just be nice?” Without a clear understanding of sin, that in its intellectual form translates into error, he was mentally unprepared for the essential leadership role as disciplinarian

This was a thoughtful piece and I enjoyed it. However the suggestion that Archbishop Rowan was led into a mediatorial role simply because he desired to be “nice” or that he lacks a clear understanding of sin, is IMO gravely mistaken. From his earliest published writings had an almost obsessive concern with the ways in which the church might find itself mired in error and sin. However his remedy - discipline as he understands it - is to edge closer to being the church that God desires - that is a church marked by the Spiritual disciplines of humility, charity, mercy, prayer, hope, faithfulness etc.

One may disagree with parts of this view - and I think I do - but his actions stem not from a lack of awareness of sin - but from precisely the opposite. That is, an almost obsessive concern with the, doubtless real and serious, spiritual dangers of sinful pride and arrogance.

April 16, 4:04 am | [comment link]
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