September 29, 2010

Rowan's Job Description

Archbishop Williams' interview with the Times, portions of which have been cited hither and yon, portray the torture of attempting to abide by his Job description. He feels it is his task to hold the reins in keeping the carriage of the Anglican Communion from going up on the sidewalk or over the cliff, but without any apparent notion he might also take a decision as to how to steer by a particular course, even if it means taking an unlikely detour through unfamiliar byways. (The horses may well be wilder than even he imagines, and this may be an impossibility, but he appears to think it not in his scope even to try. Meanwhile, a few of the passengers have already jumped from the carriage, in a few cases with someone else's luggage). In another image, he says he does not want to put a thumb on the scale, casting himself as an honest butcher.

And so he is in the position of restraining his own perhaps deeply held theological beliefs in order to maintain a kind of status quo in keeping with the long-held views of others on the topic of sexuality. He attempts to tease out fine distinctions -- and they are distinctions, and they are fine -- between orientation and activity, between the fact of who one is as opposed to the choices one might make. He articulates the traditional POV with regard to the matters at hand, as if that tradition were in fact as uniform as some would like to portray it, and with no clue as to how his own thoughts on the subject might lead to developments in that very tradition. (Fans of Cardinal Newman, take note!)

In the Daily Office last week I was reminded of the tale of Esther, who came to a position in which she could influence for the good, not by keeping silent, but by stepping bravely forward to take advantage of the opportunity presented to her. Her uncle Mordecai warned her that her failure to do so would redound to her loss.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Erika Baker said...

The problem is that he is not succeeding at keeping the Anglican Communion together. Giving up his integrity has brought him no success. His position is truly tragic in the Greek sense of the word.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Erika, spot on. This is what makes it so sad. I'm reminded of the verse from the prophet Amos: "As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who live in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed."

WSJM said...

I am struck by +Rowan's desperate attempt to maintain "the Spirit of unity in the bond of peace" (well, one out of two wouldn't be too bad -- but even that doesn't seem to be going very well). And I was reminded: Are not we all, after all, Protestants? (Okay, now, all of you Anglo-Catholics, just unwring your shorts for a minute. Our heritage is the whole, universal, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but we are also the children of the Reformation.) If maintaining the organizational unity of the Church is the highest of all values, then what excuse to we have to be Anglicans? Granted, the English Reformation, along with the Continental Reformations and the Counter-Reformation, is very much a mixed bag. Nevertheless, does there not come a time when we must stand by the truth of the Gospel as we understand it? Martin Luther may not actually have said to the Diet of Worms, "Here I stand; I can do no other," but it's still a good line. We all, including +Rowan, need to recover our Protestantism, and the Anglican Covenant ain't it. I'm certainly glad that +Rowan wasn't Archbishop of Alexandria in the fourth century.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Bill. This whole notion of church-centralism is problematic. There has never been a single institutionally bound structure for all Christians, even from the days of the Apostles. It is an invention of the high middle ages, and we don't need it! In so many ways the Reformers were rightly returning to a more ancient model of organism: a network rather than a hierarchy.

Brother David said...

I wish that +Rowan would actually concentrate on his job description, Archbishop of Canterbury, of the Province of Canterbury, of the Church of England and stop putting all of his energy into Primus Inter Pares of the Anglican Communion. He is of an inflated concept of the AC and his role in it.

"Stop medling +Rown
an. Stop this instant!"

JCF said...

Meanwhile, a few of the passengers have already jumped from the carriage, in a few cases with someone else's luggage


as if that tradition were in fact as uniform as some would like to portray it, and with no clue as to how his own thoughts on the subject might lead to developments in that very tradition. (Fans of Cardinal Newman, take note!)


Great post, Tobias.

Unknown said...

My recurring thought has been that he was appointed not for who he might become (defender of the status quo, or back a step or two) but for who he was at the time of his election: scholar, theologian, author, liberal, respected Archbishop of Wales. I suspect that what he has become is just as much of a surprise to those who were closely involved in his appointment as it must be frighteningly disheartening to the archbishop himself.

It seems to me that leadership--in its truest sense with all its risks, pitfalls, and challenges--is always more rewarding in the end than dithering and working the bilge pump faster and faster. I remember quote in an IT journal 'that leadership needs to be distinguished from posturing.' (I think it was by Thomas deMarco.)

June Butler said...

Much of what I'd want to say has already been said here. All I'd add is that leadership does not consist in defending the status quo or the last Lambeth. Leaders have a vision and, by various means of persuasion, attempt to move others to share the vision. What is Rowan's vision of a united Anglican Communion? Something vaguely like the Roman model, but perhaps not quite so authoritarian? Perhaps not, but I have no clearer understanding of his vision that would draw me to hope for and work toward its realization.

Erika Baker said...

I think the church has a real problem with leadership and it will keep making those mistakes until it recognises them.

Rowan wasn't chosen as Archbishop because he is an outstanding leader, but because he was an oustanding priest and theologian. The church looks at these people and then elevates them to positions they have shown no serious qualities for, because to focus on leadership qualities would, somehow, diminish the idea that these people are chosen by God and not according to the sordid ways of the world.

And the poor elect feel they have no choice either. I will never forget just how heavy Rowan's heart was when he accepted the call. And yet, everybody saw it as a sign of endorsement, as a positive quality that he submitted to God's call despite is own unwillingness.

In the secular world the person who didn't really want the job wouldn't get it, in the church the person who wanted the job would be considered to lack humility.

Every time people say that you should not want to be a priest but that the best ones are the ones God chooses against their will, I think we've got this so terribly wrong.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, again to all. David, Rowan has the Bishop of Dover (IIRC) to handle most of the domestic business. I agree that silence is golden... and commendable.

Thanks, JCF.

James, that is the great irony. Surely he must realize he was chosen, in part, as part of the traditional alternation of AngloCat and Evangelicule, and certainly for his mind -- not just to "mind" the store!

GM, I think he has a vision, but few share it, and he doesn't know how to achieve it. Which may be good, in part. His notions of unity are contrary to the actual work of the Holy Spirit, which loves variety and diversity. The unity is already there, in Christ!

Erika, very wise words. There is so much clericalism in all that false humility. Which is why I always tell people to approach ordination in terms of tasks and skills (as did St Paul!) This relatively modern "aw shucks unworthy to serve" is pathological and dangerous. If it's true you are unworthy to serve, you chouldn't -- whether you want to or not. The ancient liturgies (and we still say much the same) proclaim the ordinands to be "Worthy!"

MarkBrunson said...

This is just baffling to me. I may really have no place in Christianity, but I cannot - simply canNOT - understand how you can claim to have anything to do with a compassionate, loving and above all universal God and insist on placing dogma and institutional unity above justice, much less placing it above justice at the expense of mental, emotional and physical health! I can't even really argue against the view, as I can find no logical basis for it, no starting place to hold on. It's the same disconnect I feel whenever I read Caiaphas' words.

Don't these "company men" know that they are, as Jesus told us, in a literal sense condemning Jesus Himself?

wv: basho
Autumn sky weeping,
Trees burn with funeral flare,
They misspelled my name.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Mark, I assume the "you" means "Rowan" -- I do not share this placement of institutional unity at the head of my hierarchy of values. For me it is somewhere very near the bottom. I have also used the Caiaphas analogy in reference to Rowan and the Jeffrey John matter.

Erika Baker said...

What Mark says goes deeper than "do not share" the placement of institutional unity. He is not even comprehending it as an option for Christians.
There is a certain mind that can get deeply involved in institutional games and come down on this side or the other.
Then there is a complete stepping away from them to the point that they can no longer be comprehended.

When I read the interview with Rowan I felt like Mark. There was a hugely intelligent and supposedly holy man who had so deeply lost his way that I couldn't even understand what he was saying any longer.

There's something about having to become like children that people like him have lost so comprehensively. Once you can no longer see with the clarity of a child you're well on your way to missing the core of the message in institutionalism and it doesn't matter how deeply you think or feel about things, you've somehow lost an important core truth.

I would say that as a rule, when two apparent truths of Christianity tear you apart to the extent that you can barely continue to live with integrity, then you need to look at your basic concepts again. Because Jesus is about setting us free from those tangles, not about deepening them.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Erika, as I say, it has to do with a hierarchy of values. Rowan is deeply torn, personally, over the issue of gay and lesbian persons in the church. That may not come out in a Times interview; but I have been in his presence, as close as I am now to my computer monitor, sitting next to him, as he described the agony of the Jeffrey John decision. His body language was of deep anguish, literally tied in knots. And the problem was the pragmatic problem faced by many a pastor: if I favor X will I offend Y. (Any parish priest has been there!) This is where the hierarchy of values, and the likeness to Caiaphas, and Neville Chamberlain, comes in, when he favors the value of "unity" over "equity" -- both of which (and this is important) are gospel values, and it depends on which you value more which way you will go.

Personally, because I believe our unity is not of our own doing (I really do trust the Creed that there is only "one... church" regardless of what some may say), I am free to concentrate on equity. But that is not where Rowan "lives" -- and perhaps in his position I too would be stressed if told that a few dozen bishops were prepared to resign if I took the course my heart told me was right.

Thus I totally agree with your final comment. But the short story is: it is hard for him to act with "integrity" because of this divided mind. How I long for his deliverance from that tangle, and recovery of faith that God will provide, and he need not continue to offer up Isaac. If we can be angels continuing to call out, "Stay your hand," that will be our best course.

MarkBrunson said...

Yes, Tobias. Sorry I wasn't clear.

I should've used the more proper "one," but it always sounds stiff and pretentious to me.

Lew said...

As a friend and priest once told me, never forget that Rowan is a Civil Servant. He is an employee of the Church of England. He is vetted by a Crown Commission, selected by the Prime Minister, and called by the Queen. Can there be any better advertisement for Disestablishment?
-- Bede