The Archbishop of Canterbury is a good man

It’s inevitable when you’re a leader. People will start to come after you. Lots of people are after Archbishop Rowan Williams, for lots of different reasons. Now some people are coming to his defense. Finally.

One recent notable example is a Facebook group started by Dave Walker. It’s called “The Archbishop of Canterbury is a good man.” If you’re a Facebooker, I encourage you to check it out, and sign up.

Richard Kew has written a passionate and thorough defense of Rowan Williams and his leadership. Here’s a snippet:

Perhaps there is an inevitability in an aggressively secular society for Christian leaders, especially if they appear a bit quirky or are intelligent way beyond anything the lowest common denominator can imagine, to be attacked, misrepresented, and ridiculed by the forces that are at play. What is more difficult to stomach is when these individuals are set upon by those who should be their own spiritual kith and kin. Some of the things that have been said about Rowan Williams in the last few weeks, and by those who are fellow-travelers along the Christian way, have been at time scurrilous. I just hope the Archbishop doesn’t sit up late at night surfing the web looking for them, for they would cause him a great deal more pain.

As I have watched Rowan Williams these last few months (and you get a much closer view in England than the USA), I have seen a man who is an example of Christ to me. He appears to be someone who has been so captured by the redeeming love of Christ that it is reconciliation and forgiveness that he seeks, even when being bombarded by viciousness from Christians and secularists alike (although for different reasons). As a person he seems to be in the process of thoroughly absorbing the message of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, of forgiving his enemy and turning the other cheek. Wherever we are on the spectrum of the conflict that is tearing at the very fabric of the church, this is an example from which we can all learn and seek to emulate.

Rowan isn’t perfect, but he’s doing the best he can. More to the point, he’s seeking to behave as a Christian leader. Not enough Christians who are leaders manage to put those to things together.

(Kew’s article first appeared on his blog, the Kew Continuum.)

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3 Responses

  1. I think much depends on whose ox is being gored. Mine is. That makes me much less happy with leaders who place justice for me and my brothers and sisters in the back seat.

  2. Scott Gunn says:

    Fair enough. I’m assuming you’re talking about justice for GLBT Christians in the church. I hope my own support for this cause is well known and uncontested.

    I think Rowan has a to keep perspective that spans beyond the US and the UK. If he had said “immediate justice right now” then there would be no possibility of progress, witness, and support for the struggle for justice in other places in the Anglican Communion. Does this mean that Rowan and other Anglican leaders must sometimes fail to demand immediate justice for everyone, right now? Of course. Sadly. And perhaps cruelly.

    However, the struggle for justice is different in other places. In many countries, as you know, the mere conversation about sexuality will get one beaten or jailed. In these places, the ongoing relationship with the US church is vital. It might be a matter of life and death. When I was in Tanzania, we met with local GLBT Tanzanians, who were greatly bolstered by our presence. These relationships would have been severed if Anglicans said that the American view must be agreed immediately.

    I say all this as a person who benefits from every possible category of privilege. It is not my place, nor is it my intention, to suggest that anyone should just sit quietly in the proverbial back seat. Rather, my intention is to suggest that the global context makes this all vastly more complex.

    I think of Florence Li Tim-Oi, Martin Luther King, and others. The struggle for justice was — I think — always loving and rooted in the conviction that justice needed to be for all not some.

    Perhaps history will judge Rowan poorly. Or perhaps it will be said that he kept things together so that lives could change in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and yes, even America.

    I’d welcome other thoughts.


    P.S. I want to be clear that I don’t think Rowan is perfect. Far from it. Rather, he is not the moral and leadership failure that both the far right and the far left say.

  3. i’m not saying that the american view must be universalized. but Rowan Cantuar seems to think that the US and Canada are not entitled to our view, at least, not really.

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