06 July 2008

A Church Worth Fighting For

The 7 July edition of The Guardian has an interesting article entitled “Church of England to consider introducing ‘super-bishops’ to avert crisis over women.”

Introduced by the Rt. Rev’d. John Packer, bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the plan, if approved, would provide anti-women priests and congregations who “cannot accept the authority of women bishops” a ‘safe place.’ Packer said, “I don’t think compromise is a dirty word.” He should take a lesson from The Episcopal Church’s 30-year history of compromise. The Episcopal Church would not be in the mess it is in had it chosen the direct rout instead of compromise.

The General Synod has already agreed to ordain women as bishops. Monday’s vote concerns how far each side is prepared to compromise in order to avoid deadlock. The draft of the legislation will be presented to the synod in February based upon the results of the various votes Monday. Senior women clergy in the Church of England said they would rather see the vote on implementing the consecration of women rather than accept discriminatory legislation. To that, I say, “here, here!”

The article also gives is a glimpse into Sunday’s sermon by ++Williams which he preached to a packed York Minster

He spoke of the "agonies and complexities" facing the church as it struggled with controversial issues, and expressed his belief that Jesus would be with all those affected. He told the congregation: "In the middle of all our discussion at synod, where would Jesus be? With those traditionalists, feeling the church is falling away from them, the landmarks have shifted? [Jesus] will be with those in a very different part of the landscape - who feel things are closing in, that their position is under threat, that their liberties are being taken away by those anxious and eager to enforce their ideologies in the name of Christ.

"He will be with the gay clergy who wonder what their future is in a church so anxious and threatened about this issue." Some members of the congregation said they were moved to tears by his words and welcomed his generosity and compassion.

It is tragic to say that in the year 2008 William’s comment about gay clergy was a bold statement by the archbishop. But it was. This is the Welshman we used to know – bold and not afraid to express his convictions. Are we seeing the pre-Canterbury Williams arise from the flames now that the people with whom he sided against The Episcopal Church have turned their sights on him and the Church of England?

Williams later told the Guardian: "This is a church worth fighting for. Nobody wants to leave it, and nobody wants to lose it." He is correct. Too bad, he did not think TEC was worth the fight.

And for my two pence, this probably the best quote from the sermon:

“[Jesus] will be with the people we don’t much want to sit with, because that’s a place he always occupies. He pipes for them, and they will dance, because in their unprotectedness they are able to meet him at a level any of us can’t.”

Mark Harris has posted the text of the Archbishop’s sermon here.



Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Daily Telegraph agrees with my opinion. The article is well worth the read for many reasons. You will find it here.

After six years in the post, this could well become a defining moment for Dr Rowan Williams - the time when the real Archbishop appeared before his Church.

He has been weighed down by the crises that have engulfed the Anglican communion virtually ever since his arrival at Lambeth - pulled this way and that by the warring factions in the battles over homosexuality and women bishops.

Today, however, he grew in stature as the sermon went on, emerging by the end of it as the leader that the Anglican communion so desperately needs - compassionate yet direct and vulnerable yet firm.

However, Dr Williams is not going to be cowed anymore into trying to appease everyone. That was what came across from his sermon. He has done his best to keep everyone within the Anglican fold since he was made Archbishop, but now he is going to say what he thinks. And what he feels.

Today, the Church saw a leader, who seemed freed and who is now standing tall.

Rowan Williams stands tall