Monday 2 July 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams in a nutshell

Despite my veneration of Eastern Orthodoxy, I am an Anglican - in the Church of England, and so I suppose it is reasonable to break my rule over the non-topicality of this blog when it comes to the head of this church: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

+Rowan epitomizes in one person so much that it wrong with The World, The West, The Left, England and the Church of England, that it seems worthwhile my recording two journalistic dissections which seem precisely to hit the nail on the head, and present the man in a nutshell.


The first is by Damien Thomson who is a conservative (but not reactionary) Roman Catholic:

Where does the Church of England really stand on gay marriage? That’s a tricky one, but let me try to simplify things by presenting two snapshots of Anglican opinion. 

The conservative point of view is that allowing gay weddings would “alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history”. The Coalition must drop its “deeply unwise” plans. 


And, in contrast, a more open-minded approach: “The Church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it."


The first statement comes from Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the Church’s submission to the Government this month. 

And the second comes from Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking to Christian teenagers this week.

Hmm. The Catholic saint Padre Pio was said to have the gift of bilocation, of being in two places at once. Padre Rowan, in contrast, has the gift of biposition, of holding two contradictory opinions at once. 


This gift descends on the Archbishop at moments of crisis. 

Another example: whether, when the C of E ordains women bishops, they should have the same jurisdiction as male ones. “Yes but no,” quoth the Primate of All England. 

Like his fellow poet Walt Whitman, he reserves the right to contradict himself: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” 


Note, however, that this applies only when Dr Williams is confronted by an issue relating to the Church – i.e., one on which he is expected to show leadership.

On questions that are none of his business, he knows exactly where he stands.

Thus the Prime Minister was wrong to refuse to sign up to the European Union’s fiscal compact. Britain was “without credibility as a negotiating partner, as it opposed measures which were intended to achieve broad policy goals which are fully in line with UK national interest”.


As he approaches retirement, Dr Williams has been goading this mildest of Tory-led governments with increasing ferocity. Why? 

I have a theory. The young Rowan laid some of the foundations of an Anglican theology of same-sex marriage. He is still privately favourable to the idea. The gay lobby knows this. That’s why it will never forgive him for snatching a mitre from his celibate homosexual friend, Dr Jeffrey John, in the interests of a quiet life. 

Given Dr Williams’s socialist views, the accusations of hypocrisy from the Left hurt. But nothing stings as much as being outflanked on gay marriage by a Tory Prime Minister who says he supports the innovation because he’s a Conservative. 

That’s the sort of rhetorical sleight of hand that Padre Rowan has employed for decades. I bet he would love to say he supports gay marriage because he’s a Christian. But he can’t: the C of E would descend into civil war. 


Should we feel sorry for Dr Williams? 

No. He wanted this job. He thought he had the necessary political skills.

On discovering that he hadn’t, he chose to alternate between High Table waffle and theatrical agonising that, at its worst, resembles nothing so much as a parody of Gethsemane. 


He is retiring early, but not early enough. 

I have no idea who will succeed him, or how the controversies over gay weddings and women bishops will be resolved. 

But I suspect it will be a very long time before the Church of England allows another hand-wringing intellectual to take the helm.


The second is by James Delingpole who is a centre-right, libertarian Anglican (and who gave a nice review-quote in support of my 'Thought Prison" book).

I am a bit worried about the Rev Dr Magister. Or the Archbishop of Canterbury, as he is known these days.

It seems to me that behind that wild, comedy-wizard beard and those gnomic, overintellectual pronouncements and Rev JC Flannel platitudes lurks a malign spirit of genuinely evil purpose and influence...

...while expressing much concern for issues like the plight of the poor and the state of the planet, [the modern church] persistently champions policies guaranteed to make the poor poorer and the planet more ruinously ruined than ever...


Isn't this the kind of crazy stuff the Book of Revelations warns us about? Isn't it another of those absolutely cast-iron signs that the End Times are approaching, when men of God form unholy alliance with the forces of tyranny and oppression and injustice and grinding poverty.

Problem is, I'm really only half joking here.

Anyone with eyes to see realises that we're on the edge of a precipice here...


Among those who don't get it are: Laurie Penny; the cast of 10 O'Clock Live; 99 per cent of the Church of England; Owen wotsisface; Ben Goldacre; Simon Singh; Graham Linehan; Sir P Nurse; the Coalition government; the EU; 85 per cent of everyone on Twitter; the Leveson inquiry; the EU; the UN; that tax bloke from Norfolk who pops up on the radio all the time with his insane Neo-Keynesian drivel.

Friends, allies: we have our work cut out.

Victory is by no means certain.

But the consequences of failure are unthinkable.


What are we talking about? Indifference to the truth: lying; From someone who is not even trying to be truthful.

This is serious stuff.


Why? Usual story: Pride, of course.

He wanted this job. He thought he had the necessary political skills. On discovering that he hadn’t, he chose to alternate between High Table waffle and theatrical agonising that, at its worst, resembles nothing so much as a parody of Gethsemane. 

On one side the pride of +Rowan on the other side the well-being of the Anglican communion - which side won?


+Rowan is the President of the Charles Williams Society... has he, I wonder, ever reflected in C.W's oft-repeated slogan that the devil is inexact.

That is, to be inexact is demonic - exactly.

Problem is, I'm really only half joking here.


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