Jordan Hylden: The Last Stand of Rowan Williams

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As has been reported by the press, the Episcopal bishops last spring were given three requests and a deadline by the global Anglican primates. They were asked to stop consecrating actively gay bishops (meaning no more Gene Robinsons), to stop formal blessings of same-sex unions, and to provide space for those who dissent from the regnant liberal theology of the Episcopal Church. The deadline was September 30, so the upcoming meeting will in effect signal definitively whether or not the American church will decide to remain in step with the Anglican Communion or instead detach itself and go its own way.

Williams’ stance at the meeting will inevitably signal whose side he is on. The majority of the Episcopal Church’s bishops do not want to comply with the primates’ requests, as they signaled vociferously last spring. The question is: If they refuse, what if anything will happen to them? Will the American bishops get to come to Lambeth and participate in the other global conferences of Anglicanism no matter what they do, or will refusal mean that they’ll have to sit at home?

It’s an important question, because sitting at home would mean that the American church would no longer have any say in the decision-making bodies of Anglicanism. In effect, it would mean that the Episcopal Church would no longer be a fully constituent part of the Anglican Communion—which, especially when viewed in light of Anglicanism’s history, would be a striking change. Many American bishops who otherwise would support Gene Robinson would at the least be given pause by such a momentous choice.

Of course, it is just this choice that the Americans want to avoid, as, most likely, does Rowan Williams. In many ways Williams is close theological kin to the American church, and it will be extraordinarily difficult for him to prosecute this sort of separation.

But as wrenching as it may be for him, it is probably the only way to keep the majority of Anglicanism together.

Not doing it will likely set off a domino-like series of effects. In essence, the decision-making authority of Anglicanism’s central instruments will collapse—if the agreement hammered out by the global primates last spring in Tanzania is seen to have no bite, future meetings will become toothless and ineffectual.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Episcopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsLambeth 2008Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessingsWindsor Report / Process

10 Comments
Posted August 31, 2007 at 5:47 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Sir Highmoor wrote:

This is a brilliant article. I will send it to everyone in my congregation.

August 31, 7:17 am | [comment link]
2. Words Matter wrote:

...the American church would no longer have any say in the decision-making bodies of Anglicanism.

Isn’t the point of the current impasse that the TEC recognizes no authority beyond its own? In other words, there are no “decision-making bodies of Anglicanism”, at least no bodies making decisions more important than where to hold the next very expensive international meeting and who to invite to it.

August 31, 7:21 am | [comment link]
3. Rolling Eyes wrote:

I hope the reappraisers are happy with the mess they’ve created.  Given the inherent narcissistic nature of the reappraiser worldview, I’m sure they are…

August 31, 10:03 am | [comment link]
4. Cennydd wrote:

You happen to be right on the money, Rolling Eyes.  It is they, and they alone, who are responsible for this mess we’re in.  No one else can claim credit for it; the blame has been laid right where it belongs. 

They have sown the wind, and they are about to reap the whirlwind.

August 31, 10:22 am | [comment link]
5. John B. Chilton wrote:

But notice he’s saying that without a strong center that can do things like discipline TEC, then the Anglican Communion will come apart. Why? Because the reasserters wouldn’t be able to get along with each other. They believe to many different things. Strange how certainty about the authority of scripture and doctrine creates schism.

August 31, 10:30 am | [comment link]
6. Katherine wrote:

#5, I would say rather that they may be about to reap the whirlwind.  Pray for Rowan Williams.

August 31, 11:07 am | [comment link]
7. DaveW wrote:

A fine article.

I have one complaint, however.  Hylden says “this” all began in 597 when Augustine arrived in England.  If he means that Augustine’s arrival on that date marks the birth of The Church of England, I disagree.  Catholic Christianity was in place in Britain some 500 years before Augustine came.  If he means that strife, division and schism began with Augustine’s arrival, he may have something there.

August 31, 12:18 pm | [comment link]
8. MikeS wrote:

I hope Jordan Hylden is right and that Williams will take a stand based on expectations of past decisions from Lambeth all the way to DeS.  I fear that Williams will announce compliance in the face of reality stating otherwise and a pass will be given leading the majority to think compliance has occurred.  My hopes and fears are having a train wreck on the edge of a cliff.

August 31, 12:19 pm | [comment link]
9. freihofercook wrote:

Unfortunately the article is marred significantly by the omission of the way in which Rowan Williams himself has contributed to the current crisis.  He has done this in a number of ways, but most especially in his issuing of the Lambeth invitations when and how he did.  The TEC leadership widely interpreted that as a “you are coming it is o.k.” message.

August 31, 5:00 pm | [comment link]
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