Friday, 8 February 2008


The Archbishop is under intense fire. He never said it! cries Lambeth Palace. He didn't say more than one system of law...

Back to the lecture, then, and part of this effort at correction states:

Behind this is the underlying principle that Christians cannot claim exceptions from a secular unitary system on religious grounds (for instance in situations where Christian doctors might not be compelled to perform abortions), if they are not willing to consider how a unitary system can accommodate other religious consciences.

I said to some church folks I was chatting with later in the afternoon that what Rowan Williams wants is exemptions for Christians and so is talking about exemptions for others too. I said it's like this Bishop of Hereford getting stung for £47,000 plus and then £50,000 costs because there is one law of the land and here is this Archbishop wanting exemptions so that the Church can discriminate. I said he lives in 'Churchland in religions land', like a bubble, but the one law provides a minimum standard and it includes the Church.

We thought it would be better if he just retired from the post of Archbishop and use his talents better elsewhere. I reckoned this could come after the Lambeth Conference [if his policy falls to pieces I hardly see how he could go on]. I said I remember once Don Cupitt mentioning a theologian in Wales being somewhat like him in what can be called non-realism, and he was referring then to Rowan Williams. I said he wrote interesting things even as Archbishop in Wales. But his narrative theology where he works the detail gives an impression of orthodoxy that he wants to give, and many an evangelical has misunderstood him, but his theology conceals the bigger picture (which you do get from John Milbank). I said that's his theology but his ecclesiology is really pseudo-Roman Catholic.

We also discussed James Jones, and the quip in The Guardian's profile that at Bishopthorpe he was measuring up the curtains. He clearly has this reputation for ambition.

(We do discuss more local matters too: I had taken my paper on the resurrection to them for the discussion leader to read before making his own presentation to the In Depth Group. They are not online - don't even have a computer.)

Meanwhile I am baffled about this Covenant (especially the appendix) more and more. My view is that nowhere in all of it does it say All Anglican Churches solemnly bind themselves through this Covenant. People are assuming that to fall from the "force and meaning of the Covenant" is to be out of the Communion. If this is correct, then the tentative appendix that outlines a process of the Anglican Consultative Council deciding if a Church is in or out is indeed centralised authoritarianism. But I just think it means you are not in the Covenant. It could be a second class version of Anglicanism but it does not say that either. Even if a Church declared itself out or was pushed out of the Covenant, they would all go on talking with the intention of pushing it back into the Covenant.

First of all, whether a definition of being in the Communion or not, many Anglican Churches may not sign up to it in the first place - after all only 13 Churches responded (of over 40) and some of those negatively. If it is a definition of the Communion, then that Paragraph 8 of the tentative appendix will stop many signing in the first place. On the other hand, if there is no such appendix, or it is watered down, or there is just mediation, then the Covenant will have no purpose other than descriptive - there may as well be just more definitions. Either way this policy does not work, and this is the central policy of this Archbishop, and why if the Covenant falls into the contradictions it lays out for itself, he will probably have to go. Plus there will be a limited schism anyway, where they will try to add Churches to themselves while he is in office.


Doorman-Priest said...

Well, he certainly didn't consider the implications of what he said, but there seems to be a sense in which he was merely citing current inequalities such as over marriages: Christians and Jews can conduct weddings without a licence, but Muslims can't. If that is really all he was arguing and similar fairly trivial examples, I don't see the problem. Bring it on.

The trouble is the Old Duffer doesn't use colloquial English and so is a gift to the right wing conspiracy theorists and the Daily Mail.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Anyone can do anything regarding private understandings, so long as they do not conflict with the law - it is how the law ends up contradicting itself in parallel communal understandings that's the problem, should they ever be set up (and they won't be - some customs may be recognised, but of which to be take account within the one law).