“The Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he will step down from his position as head of the Anglican Communion at the end of 2012.” Those words woke me from the slumber I normally greet NPR of a morning. I am not usually someone who bounds out of bed ready to work. But this morning I got to the computer just as my British friends were beginning to get the message. The number of emails that we can generate on the No Anglican Covenant Coalition list-serve is more than one can read. And we all seemed to be talking at the same time.
A committee-generated news comment was released with most of us signing on. English vs. American language notwithstanding, we were able to get something out in a reasonable time especially with the time delays from Greenwich to Bangkok. I am awed by this bunch of folks who love the Anglican Communion but royally dislike the Covenant that has been put before us. Most of us have real positions we must attend to and still produce enough list-serve posts to gag a maggot.
I have learned so much about the Communion since I began on this Coalition almost a year and a half ago. Our polities are so different and our cultures are so different. Everything is different including our liturgy and even the way that we speak English. And yet we love the Communion. We love our nods to history even though they are quite different from what I thought they were when we began. There have been some fine articles written by considerable scholars and wonderfully witty comments in that droll English (dare I say Anglican) humor that I find still holds us together.
I am not surprised by ++Rowan’s decision. He is not winning the battle for the Anglican Covenant. And his leadership has been lackluster for many years now. This does not take away that he is a good man. He has been pressured by many—probably by most of us. He is an Anglo-Catholic who is trying to deal with the Evangelicals in his own church and the bullying of special interest groups throughout the communion. He has teetered on the women bishops’ issue trying to keep the Anglo-Catholics that would rather go to Rome than share their altars with women. He was unable to keep the GAFCON churches in communion with us. There are the Evangelicals who want Biblical Literacy to be the center of our faith lives. Then there is the NACC who see the Anglican Covenant the thing that will eventually fragment the Communion forever. All of this wears on a person. And it has been quite evident of late that he is just plain tired. He is basically a gracious man but of late has been brusque and bullying.
Rowan Williams was chosen for his scholarship. He has a great mind, but he hesitates at his own scholarship. I am not sure it that is due to his personal humility or whether he doubts his own work. Now I don’t mind if a person changes his views. It shows maturity when you can accept that you are wrong about things and have to change your mind. But ++Rowan doesn’t do that. He just ignores his previous position and then doesn’t “show his work” when he makes a new statement. It is hard to follow such a man.
Granted, I don’t think anyone could have dealt with the issues that are facing the Communion these days. And Rowan's own ecclesiology fights with the loose configuration and good will that holds the Communion together. I know he will be happy to be back in the arms of the academy to finish out his ministry.
Of course, everyone is speculating on who will replace Dr. Williams. I would nominate ++Katharine Jeffert-Schori, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. And better for her too. But I do hope that the next ABC will be someone who understands this new age we are in and who can stand with a foot in it and a foot in the modern era. It is necessary for the future of the Communion because it is this peculiar brand of catholicity that probably speaks Church best for a future age than any other form of Christianity including the evangelicals.