Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rowan Williams then and now

Rowan Williams now:
And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.
Rowan WIlliams then:

He argued that scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety. He wrote: “I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.” Dr Williams described his view as his “definitive conclusion” reached after 20 years of study and prayer.....by the end of the 1980s he had “definitely come to the conclusion” that the Bible did not denounce faithful relationships between people who happened to be gay.
And now opposing GLBT inclusion has risen to the level of core doctrine, soon to be a codicil to the NIcene Creed. Who knew?

As Andrew Sullivan wrote:
The premise used to be that homosexuality was an activity, that gays were people who chose to behave badly; or, if they weren’t choosing to behave badly, were nonetheless suffering from a form of sickness or, in the words of the Vatican, an “objective disorder.” And so the question of whether to permit the acts and activities of such disordered individuals was a legitimate area of legislation and regulation.

But when gays are seen as the same as straights—as individuals; as normal, well-adjusted, human individuals—the argument changes altogether. The question becomes a matter of how we treat a minority with an involuntary, defining characteristic along the lines of gender or race. And when a generation came of age that did not merely grasp this intellectually, but knew it from their own lives and friends and family members, then the logic for full equality became irresistible.

Rowan Williams appears to be moving backwards.


June Butler said...

Now that is a flip-flop to end all flip-flops!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

He has placed his understanding of the 'catholicity' of his position as ABC as having primacy over his own theological integrity.

Pity, that.

MarkBrunson said...

What people overlook was that his "bold" statments affirming homosexual couples came when he was in a largely-academic environment. This, particularly in the UK, means being in a liberal atmosphere.

Simply put, he was doing what he needed to to advance. There's never been an ounce of integrity in the man.

Lapinbizarre said...

This is a man, remember, who said three years back that "I could just about envisage a situation in which over a very long period the Anglican Church thought again about [the ordination of women], but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be and I don't see it at the moment." Not exactly rock hard on serious issues.

Noticeboard said...

When Mark Brunson says, "there has never been an ounce of integrity in the man", I feel moved to make a post.

I appreciate people may feel that his view has changed unjustifiably, but for me, rather, Rowan Williams is a man of high integrity. You are right to point out that when writing as an academic he was free to say things he's not as an archbishop, but there's a long way from that to saying "he has no integrity".
I am always impressed by his enormous integrity. (e.g. stance on environment, his humility, his ability to listen, his lack of materialism, his own friendships, his commitment to keeping in confidence that which is confidential, his lack of ambition, his life of prayer... I could go on) Even if you feel he has lacked integrity on this issue, are you really placing that as sufficient for you to dismiss him entirely? And, remember, some (including me) believe there is a coherence to his stance, even if I might disagree with it.
But also, please just give him some sympathy as a man, placed in an overwhelmingly difficult position. Is there a single way of putting any response to the issue of homosexuality in the Anglican communion which would not be accused by someone or other as foolish, lacking integrity, hypocritical...?
You may not feel he's done the right thing, and it may have extremely negative implications for you and for others, who are children of God too, but just cut him some slack. And show him some respect. If that's too much, at least some Christian charity.

IT said...

Integrity? You call this integrity? Well, NB, we'll have to disagree. People who sell out their principles and convictions for political expediency generally don't win integrity contests. Nor do they wind up with friends on either side.

I haven't seen him show any integrity towards GLBT people, as he bends over backwards for the conservatives--but still, not quite far enough for them. This is entirely political, and poorly done at that.

He could have shown a spine and worked to a compromise but he lost that momentum, as as he tries to shove his own clergy back in the closet and stand against the tide, he's bound to be scoured. By trying desperately to avoid one thing (a split in the church) he partially placated just one side, and ironically has basically assured that which he tried to prevent. The real irony will be seeing it happen in the CofE, because the other side are just getting started there. As in the US, they will not be placated.

You write, You may not feel he's done the right thing, and it may have extremely negative implications for you and for others, who are children of God too, but just cut him some slack. This sounds like telling the Iranian protesters, "you may not agree with election fraud, and you've been beaten senseless, but have some pity for the government and the Basiji".

I don't feel the least bit sorry for him.

But them, I'm just an observer , and this is all politics to me (albeit politics which deeply hurts people I love). I'm not and do not pretend to be "a Christian."

James said...

I agree with IT: I do not feel sorry for Rowan - not one wee bit. This "mess" is one of his own creation.

But he had help and advice - I think I may do a post on that.

IT said...

One more thing, I think, highlights the ultimate hypocrisy of the man:

Civil unions are legal in England, and the C of E routinely performs blessings. Indeed it has been suggested that there are far more same sex blessings in the DIocese of London than in the TEC overall. It has also been suggested that Williams has knowingly ordained gay men to the episcopate.

The only sin, then, of the TEC on the issue of blessings or ordination is honesty. We Americans, you know, we're rather prone to openness. We never have done the wink-wink-nudge-nudge of the British.

And that, therefore, takes Rowan Williams RIGHT off the integrity stage in a cloud of hypocrisy with a faint hiss.

June Butler said...

We Americans, you know, we're rather prone to openness. We never have done the wink-wink-nudge-nudge of the British.

If scolding others for doing what you do, only not openly, is not the essence of hypocrisy, I don't know what is.

Counterlight said...

Excellent reporting IT.

Did you see Prior Aelred's post on Thinking Anglicans where he largely confirms what you said? Apparently, anything goes in the C of E provided it is discrete, and the facade of propriety (if not quite rectitude) is preserved.

Counterlight said...

I have to concur with the others above. ++Williams lost the claim to "integrity" with the Jeffrey John incident. He showed the world that he would put expedience over friendship. And he showed the right that he could be bullied.

He's exhibit A in my argument why academics should never be put in charge of anything. As House Speaker Sam Rayburn once said to Lyndon Johnson when the then Vice President waxed effusive over President Kennedy's brain trust, "They may be as smart as you say, Lyndon, but I'd feel a hell of a lot better if just one of them had ever run for sheriff."

IT said...

Yes counterlight,in fact I cited that thread with Aelred's remark in my comment above Mimi's. I'm sure tehre's data somewhere about the number of blessings in London vs. TEC but I don't know where.

I had forgotten the Jeffrey John incident, but of course that's entirely in keeping with the whole debacle.

klady said...

I used to have some sympathy for the man but no longer. I see nothing admirable or worthy about his conduct, whatever his motives. However, his latest statements suggest to me what is wrong is something other than hypocrisy - something much more disturbing. Perhaps he IS being honest, sincere, and perfectly consistent -- from his point of view.

In the past, I, have thought that he simply was a wooly-minded academic type out of his element, smitten with his new role and sense of responsibility, especially for the Anglicans in the former British colonies (post-colonial guilt on his part?), tinged with deep shades of anti-Americanism. So, he reluctantly gave up his liberal ideals, turned on his gay friends, and took up the cause of the Akinolaites.

While that still could be true, his latest comments suggest something else, namely that he only ever entertained the mere POSSIBILITY that there could be some good in same-gender relationships -- i.e. more or less as an academic, intellectual exercise, which seemed to exhibit open-mindedness and good will but nevertheless consisted of nothing more than academic conjecture, a consideration of one side of the argument by one who likes to puzzle things out a bit. But even back when he seemed to be saying some gay-friendly things, he never, ever seriously contemplated that same-gender relationships could be the equal of mixed-gender ones. It is as though he was willing to patronize his gay friends, allow them some sort of, well, arrangement, to muddle through, but deep down, in his heart of hearts, he embraced the heterosexist ideal of the union of "man" and "woman" and their god-like powers of (pro)creation.

In short, I don't think he has ever really "got" that the core of GLBT relationships, like good hetero ones, is mutual love and respect and a willingness to share and stand for each other, regardless of what kind of sexual contact or relations, if any, transpire between them or contribute to their emotional ties. It is a view that ignores the reality that marriage has long been an institution for structuring society and ordering transfers of property and social status -- across many cultures -- and that sexual incompatibility, abuse, brutality, and shaming have been as much a part of hetero marriage -- perhaps much more so -- than affection, respect, or mutual support. Instead of seeing that all people need to work towards treating each other with dignity, concern, and respect in all our relations with others, and can strive to model that ideal, in part, with covenanted relationships with our lover-best friend-mate or whatever -- if such a person or relationship comes along in life -- instead of the Church, catholic and universal, focusing on that mission with respect to marriage and family, instead Rowan wants to cast human beings, not just churches, into a two-tier structure, one being the Truly Married Church, and the other being the illicit, not-quite-as-good, whispered, unmentioned and unmentionable, types of arrangements that help some get by who just... well, just can't do it the Right Way. I fear it is not simply because he wants to preserve the Union of the AC or convince the Global South that he respects their views and problems, it is because he really has never believed or felt that what he and Jane (and Adam and Eve and whoever) have and aspire to is EXACTLY the same as what his GLBT "friends" have or aspire to when and if they find a partner they'd like to spend their lives with. It's only an accomodation, for a handicap/prediliction/lifestyle, not a fundamental human right and need. So it can be forever postponed as a kind of a la carte social program that may be added in when the Treasury of good will and tolerance is overflowing and can be spent on such side, luxury items.

Perhaps this is idle, not to mention, rude (and therefore typically American) speculation on my part. So be it. I'm just more saddened than ever by Rowan and the fact that someone like him is the first among supposed equals in our church.

Kathryn said...

I want to weep.
I'm a priest in the C of E mourning the diminution of a man whose integrity and holiness have always shone through in any encounter I have had with him...but who seems to have shut his true self away somewhere and be operating out of a position of expediency that is a far cry from anything the real Rowan would ever countenance.
I HATE that this has happened to him almost as much as I hate what he is saying and what impact this will have ....
fwiw, we don't "routinely" bless GLBT unions in the C of E & data would be almost impossible to find as anyone declaring that they had conducted a blessing would be putting their ministry on the line, in any diocese I can think of.At the moment even in churches which proclaim themselves inclusive it just isn't happening because we are scared...
The whole thing is a tragic mess and the only thing that seems certain is that God is weeping...

SCG said...

Not just appears to be moving backwards, he is moving backwards. Full-throttle, pedal to the metal reversal. Amazing how fear can totally unhinge a person!

IT said...

This isn't being done TO him

He is DOING it to himself.

Possibly tragic....

certainly unfortunate...

In retrospect, wouldn't he have done better standing up for what he believed?

MarkBrunson said...

No. Integrity. Whatsoever.

Deserving of no respect, whatsoever.

A complete technocrat and a disaster as a representative of Christ reaping the whirlwind he planted.

Suzer said...

For any leader, there comes a time when one's conscience and integrity forces him or her into courage. Even if our dear Archbishop has integrity, he apparently lacks the courage to act on it.

For those of us who are the rope in this tug-of-war, we beg the Archbishop to just make a choice -- come down on one side or the other. Be courageous. You will lose people either way, but then everyone will be able to move on and do the good work Christ has commanded us to do.

James said...

Suzer, there is that great poem "once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide" Look it up because it is exactly what you are saying.

Klady But even back when he seemed to be saying some gay-friendly things, he never, ever seriously contemplated that same-gender relationships could be the equal of mixed-gender ones.

Well said, and that opinion is sheer arrogance and pride.

Ann said...

Maybe he has never experienced the sort of relationship we glimpse and aspire to. Very sad but why he gets the "big bucks" and the title - to be a leader not Jello.

Brad Evans said...

So much anger, so much money wasted, ultimately pointless?
We must be talking about religion.

JCF said...

Rome's that-a-way, Rowan. G'bye!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

I am sooo tired of the man - and that makes me tired of the Anglican Wars on the whole.

I just wish he would go away.

I don't know if this is for better or for worse, or what may become of it.

But I notice I have spent a lot of time on Face book lately ;=)

Word: supecrys...