March 27, 2012

On Rowan's Ministry, Briefly

Many are penning or blogging “post-mortems” on the ministry of Archbishop Rowan Williams, and the dance of the aspirants round the greasy pole is well under way. But I think it fair to allow him an occasional, Monty-Pythonesque “I'm not dead yet!” before the hammer blow of retirement actually descends.

I do want to offer one perspective, however, on his way of working, and its result. As a true exponent of inclusion, the Archbishop was unwilling to risk losing “conservatives” in order to provide more visible roles in church leadership to “progressives” or those who incarnated such things as troubled the “conservative” side. He was confident that the “liberals” would bear with the unhappy situation, as they had for so long, and that the “reactionary” would bolt, as they so often threatened to do. I think he also held to the “progressive” view that things will eventually come out on that side (one need not be a scholar of history to see that trend), and he was, and is, playing the long game.

I think he read the situation rightly, but in placing more value on the continued presence of the “intolerant,” fulfilled his own prophecy that this will be a long game. Only a retrospective of a generation or so will tell us if his modus operandi had a virtue that is not particularly evident this close to events.

Meanwhile, I do wish him well in his remaining time as Archbishop and Primate and Instrument — there is still an ACC meeting coming up — and in his retirement as Master of the college.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


John-Julian, OJN said...

Well put, Tobias! And you bring us back to that utter ESSENTIAL in understanding an event: i.e., its setting in the wider reality—which, as you say, requires the long view.

I'm almost at my end, but I find it fun to try to guess what will be the headlines in church papers in ten years....

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Fr. J-J. I think the tendency to analyze by taking things apart does not always serve well. Balancing the detail and the big picture is far more helpful.

D.V. we'll be around to share a laugh or two at the state of things a decade from now... and in any case (again D.V.) have plenty of time to do so in the eschatological eventuality!

Erika Baker said...

I see a shrinking church with more and more people leaving. Those left behind are more likely to be older and conservative.

It is, of course, quite hard to establish cause and effect. But I would be surprised if Rowan's long game and any confidence that "liberals" would bear with the unhappy situation could just as easily have backfired badly.

We're certainly seen as counter cultural by most of society now - and not in any positive way.

That he is said to be "liberal" himself has, if anything, made matters worse and laid him open to charges of political expediency over truth and compassion.

Fr. Jonathan said...

"...the dance of the aspirants round the greasy pole is well under way."

All I can say to that is, Ewww.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Erika, I think you may be right about the size of the church. I'm not so sure about its make-up. But I do think Rowan's "game" was mis-played and it would have been better to bite the bullet. Things are falling apart as his placation of the far right did not go far right enough. He should have realized that this was a time for real decision, not compromise.

Fr. Jonathan, unsavory indeed; and a bit sad. That delicate balance of "O I want to be a bishop" and "Who, me!?" and all the dissembling and jockeying for position, the whispering campaigns and "letting it be put about I'm interested" -- all comically sad in its own way.

Erika Baker said...

Yes, the "who's the next ABC" could be a lot simpler if it was acknowledged that there's a job coming that needs to be filled and for willing and able candidates to apply.

I have never understood why pretending you don't want a job or actually not wanting a job makes you particularly qualified to get that job.

It all feeds into that strange double thinking of outward presentation and inner truth, that terrible tension that is causing our church so much trouble.

A bit less mystery and a bit more realism around this process could only help matters.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Erika, it is odd, and it only seems to happen with bishops and Academy Awards nominees...