Friday, March 16, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Rowan Williams announces he will step down from the Archbishop of Canterbury office in December

UPDATE: The Church Times has their list of possible successors to Rowan Williams here.

After ten years, Rowan Williams returns to academia. 

UPDATE: Rowan Williams speaks to why he chose to leave his post this year:

From here:
Archbishop Rowan Williams has today announced his acceptance of the position of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge with effect from January 2013. He will therefore be stepping down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of December 2012.

Dr Williams’ intentions have been conveyed to The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and who formally appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Dr Williams was appointed the one hundred and fourth Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002. He said today:

It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision. During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond. I am abidingly grateful to all those friends and colleagues who have so generously supported Jane and myself in these years, and all the many diverse parishes and communities in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion that have brought vision, hope and excitement to my own ministry. I look forward, with that same support and inspiration, to continuing to serve the Church’s mission and witness as best I can in the years ahead.

Dr Williams will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury, both for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, until the end of the year.

The Crown Nominations Commission will consider in due course the selection of a successor.
Read it all here.

From Magdelene College, Cambridge: 
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Magdalene College, in the University of Cambridge, is delighted to announce that the 35th Master of Magdalene will be The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Dr Rowan Williams PC, FBA, FRSL.

The College has been fortunate in benefitting from the outstanding leadership of Mr Duncan Robinson CBE FSA,DL for the past ten years, during which time the academic standing of the College has been greatly enhanced, substantial efforts have been made to promote access, and a major new Court has been built, providing twenty-first century facilities.

The College looks forward to the Mastership of Dr Williams who has the capacity and vision to guide the College in a time of unprecedented change in higher education. His very distinguished record, both as a scholar and a public figure, will provide for the whole community a model of the high standards of achievement to which Magdalene is committed. Dr Williams will also work with Fellows and staff in the vital task of increasing access and widening participation to students from every background and walk of life.

Commenting on the appointment, the current Master says “I congratulate the Fellowship on the appointment of Rowan Williams. The College is fortunate to have recruited as Master someone of such outstanding intellectual stature, and such profound commitment to public service, especially at a time when collegiate Cambridge faces so many challenges. I wish him every success in the post it has been both my privilege and my pleasure to hold for the past ten years. My wife and I look forward to welcoming the Williamses to Magdalene.”

Dr Williams said: “I am very grateful to the College for the honour they have done me, and look forward to being part of such a lively and intellectually rigorous community. I hope I shall be able to continue the exciting developments that have been taking place under the guidance of the present Master and the Fellowship, and Jane and I look forward to taking up this challenging office next January."

There has been a continuous tradition of academic study on the site of the College since 1428. The College was refounded in 1542 and is now a vibrant academic community of some 350 undergraduates, 180 graduate students and 80 Fellows, together with 90 administrative and other staff.

The installation of Dr Williams as Master will take place in January 2013.
Statement from the British Prime Minister, David Cameron:
“I would like to thank Rowan Williams for his dedicated service as Archbishop of Canterbury.  As a man of great learning and humility he guided the church through times of challenge and change.

“He sought to unite different communities and offer a profoundly humane sense of moral leadership that was respected by people of all faiths and none.

“As Prime Minister, I have been grateful for his support and advice – and for the work he has done around the world, particularly in Africa where he has taken such a close interest in Sudan. I wish Rowan and his family the very best for the future.”
What's next?

Read the Outline of Procedures for the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury here.  Here is an excerpt:
The responsibility for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury rests with the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). Its task is to submit the name of a preferred candidate (and a second appointable candidate) to the Prime Minster who is constitutionally responsible for tendering advice on the appointment to the Queen.
The membership of the CNC is prescribed in the Standing Orders of the General Synod. When an Archbishop of Canterbury is to be chosen there are 16 voting members
  • The Chair (a layperson) – to be appointed by the Prime Minister
  • A Bishop - to be elected by the House of Bishops
  • The Archbishop of York or, if he chooses not to be a member of the CNC, a further Bishop to be elected by the House of Bishops
  •  Six representatives elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee
  •  The six representatives (three clergy and three lay) elected by General Synod to serve as members of the Commission for a five year period
  • A member of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion elected by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
In addition, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments are non-voting members of the Commission.
Read it all here

BB NOTE: Over the last century the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury has reportedly rotated between Anglo Catholic and Evangelical bishops.  Rowan Williams is Anglo Catholic (his predecessor George Carey is Evangelical) so we can possibly expect the next Archbishop to be from the evangelical wing of the Church. This is not a political wing (you may have both politically conservative or politically liberal Anglo Catholics and Evangelicals) but is a matter of polity (i.e., High Church and Low Church). As a matter of polity, this would eliminate the Bishop of London as a possible successor.

This might be a good time to review the Queen of England's speech in 2010 to the Church of England Synod:

The Archbishop of York John Sentamu has also released a statement:
John Sentamu and Rowan Williams
“It is with great sadness that I received the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be stepping down at the end of this year.

Our partnership in the gospel over the past six years has been the most creative period of my ministry. It has been life-giving to have led missions together, gone on retreats and prayed together. In his company I have drunk deeply from the wells of God’s mercy and love and it has all been joyful. He is a real brother to me in Christ.

The last decade has been a challenging time for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Thankfully, Archbishop Rowan is a remarkable and gifted leader who has strengthened the bonds of affection. Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavour, he has been much maligned by people who should have known better. For my part he has been God’s apostle for our time.

His stepping down to pursue something he dearly loves – teaching and writing - is received with gratitude, as this will continue to be a blessing to the Church. I am delighted that he is not going far away and will continue to offer service to the Church of England and the wider Church in its witness to our society. May God’s blessing continue to be showered upon him.
Read it all here.

UPDATE: AnglicanInk has the transcript of the AP Interview with Rowan Williams here.  Here is an excerpt:
The best part of the job has certainly been seeing churches at grass roots worldwide – seeing why and how they matter to people.  And being given the privilege and the possibility of sharing what you hear in one part of the world, or in one part of the Church of England with other parts.  You can become a kind of ‘switchboard’ for good news.  You can receive good news about what’s happening in one part of the world and pass it on elsewhere, and feel very much enriched and stretched in the process.

The worst aspects of the job I think have been the sense that there are some conflicts that won’t go away, however long you struggle with them.  And that not everybody in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation.  I’ve certainly regarded it as a real priority to try and keep people in relationship with each other.  That is what bishops have to do - what archbishops above all have to do.
Read it all here

Favorite Twitter headline so far:
BREAKING: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
is to quit his post, and return to Hogwarts.
Thanks to the British actress Emma Thompson who should know.

A look back on Rowan Williams ten years as Archbishop of Canterbury and a glance forward to what is next:


Tregonsee said...

A good man who had the misfortune to be Cantuar in "Interesting Times." A few decades ago, and perhaps if there is an Anglican Communion a few decades from now, he would have been a beloved ABC. Now he leaves little more than rubble behind.

Lapinbizarre said...

The bishop of London's opposition to women's ordination (20 years a bishop and not a single female ordained) will be a greater sticking point than his church politics.

Daniel Weir said...

Amid all the gracious comments, there was the statement from the Church of Nigeria. Given the perception of many that Dr. Williams worked very hard to please leaders in the Global Soith, I found the Nigerian statement lacking in grace. To blame the failure of Lambeth 2008 on Dr. Williams is, I think, an absurd evasion of responsibility by those who chose not to be present. TEC bishops came, even though one of there own was not invited, but others stayed away and now blame Dr. Williams for his failure to bring the leaders of the Commuion together.

Dale Matson said...

FR. Weir,
They stayed away because they knew the agenda. The ABC said before Lambeth that NO decisions would be made. Your PB was not openly this critical but damned him with faint praise. Those bishops that were involved with the consecration of V. Gene Robinson should not have been invited since their actions went against the 1998 Lambeth resolution. Do you really want to defend Rowan williams? While he was sipping tea at the palace the blood of Christian martyrs was being spilled on the ground in Africa. Meanwhile he was calling for the inclusion of Sharia law in England.

Daniel Weir said...

We need to be clear that it was within the Archbishop's power to set the agenda. The passing of resolutions has never been the primary reason for the conferences and resolutions have never had the force of law. Even I.10 used the language of advice. The Sharia law issue is a red herring. As I recall he suggested in a lecture that there might be a role for Islamic law to play in the UK, just as there already is role for Rabbinic courts. I thought at the time that neither Dr. Williams nor Arbp Akinola gave enough attention to the contexts of the other. Having read a bit about the recent history of Christian and Muslim violence against one another, I think Sharia has little to do with the conflicts. They are largely over resources and power, as in Sudan.

Lapinbizarre said...

"Lacking in grace" is an exceptionally charitable description of the bucket of venom that Okoh slung at Williams' head, Fr Weir. At least those responsible for selecting the new archbishop can see that the Nigerians have no interest whatever in accommodation with the Anglican Communion, and can proceed with their deliberations accordingly.

RalphM said...

The statement from +Okoh is typically Nigerian - speaking the truth without subtlety. Upper class Brits, most especially +Rowan, tend to speak in layers of meaning so as to not be accused of hurting someone's feelings. It's a culture clash before any substantive issues are in play.

Nigerians are strong in defending their beliefs and they have achieved amazing growth with very limited resources. It is very hard for them to waste their resources on meetings that have no purpose other than to stall any resolution to difficult issues.

Their bishops, priests and members are killed almost daily by Islamists. It's no wonder they have little interest in attending meetings, pre-announced to accomplish nothing, while their flocks suffer at home.

Certainly, we would all be more comfortable with a letter wishing +Rowan success in the future, but there is nothing in the letter that the Nigerians have not previously said publically.

With few exceptions, Anglicanism is dying except in the Global South. They have the fire and they are the ones bring souls to Christ. Can we say the same?

Daniel Weir said...

The Anglicanism that is growing in the global south does not, IMV, look much like the Anglicanism of Hooker or Temple. That is probably a good thing, as the contexts are so different. Exporting that Anglicanism to rest of the Communion is not such a good thing.

Lapinbizarre said...

"Their bishops, priests and members are killed almost daily by Islamists". Can you direct me to a list of Nigerian bishops and priests killed in the past year, Ralph? I would assume, since such killings are occurring on an "almost daily" basis, that the church will maintain a list or calendar of its martyrs.

Dale Matson said...

Fr. Weir,
"Exporting that Anglicanism to rest of the Communion is not such a good thing." You are not clear by what you mean by "...that Anglicanism.." I'm also unsure why you pair Hooker with Temple as if they had something in common other than being Anglicans. The contexts are different. Africa is no longer ruled by Colonialists.

Daniel Weir said...

I did not mean to suggest that Hooker and Temple would have been in agreement on all issues, but chose them as important figures in the history of the CofE. I think the biblical literalism of at least some Anglican leaders in the global south puts them at some distance from both Hooker and Temple, as well as many others. It is Anglicanism with biblical literalism as one of its features that should not be imposed on the whole Communion.

RalphM said...

Dear Rabbit,

I said bishops, priests, and members. The Anglican Church of Nigeria's website is easy to find. Ask them yourself. For your reading enjoyment however:

RalphM said...

Fr. Wier,

"Literalism" is not what I have found in listening to leaders from Nigeria (and other African Anglican provinces). Do they believe that scripture is "God Breathed"? - Most definitely, but that does not make a literalist.

+Akinola studied at VTS - not known for it's literal approach to scripture. +Okoh has an extensive education in theological studies. If one searches on the education of the African Anglicans, he will find some pretty lengthy undertakings.

Lapinbizarre said...

You made the flat out assertion, Ralph, that "bishops, priests & members" of the Church of Nigeria are being "killed almost daily". The murder of Christians in Nigeria is undeniable, (as is the slaughter of Muslims by Christians - this is a far more complex situation than simply a matter of religion) but I asked that you support your statement that "bishops and priests" are being killed by Muslims, instead of which, you come back telling ME to go to the Church of Nigeria's website and "ask them myself". Starting to look pretty much like a case of trying to wriggle out after you've been called on suspicion of making stuff up. Come on, Ralph I'll settle for the name of just one of your murdered bishops.

Daniel Weir said...

You need to understand that flat out assertions from the righteous do not need to be supported by evidence. In the arsenal of many of the so-called orthodox is the assertion that TEC is to blame for all the violence against Christians along the tenth parallel. I am willing to admit that the association of Christians with the Europe and North America plays a role in Muslim-Christian conflict in Africa, but to lay much blame on TEC's position on samesexuality is absurd.

RalphM said...

For Lapin,

There may not be enough blood here to satisfy your challenge, but please do spend a little time reading:

Elija Yisa (priest)

Bishop Ali Buba Lamido – Doesn't really count as "only" a guest on his premises was killed while assassins looked for the bishop...

Peter Imasuen – Bishop kidnapped, released, ransom unclear

This report says Bishop Imasuen was shot – not sure this is correct.

General concern about danger:

I emailed the Church of Nigeria to see if they have a list for your information - will let you know if I hear back from them.

Daniel Weir said...

You are quite right that clergy and even bishops have been targets of violence, but you must admit that the hyperbole of "almost daiy" is what bothers some of us. I understand that LGBT people are victims of violence in this country, but I would never use that kind of hyperbole in describing the violence, nor would I in describing the violence against LGBT people in Africa, although I might suspect that they are more often victims of violence than Anglican clergy.

RalphM said...

The "almost daily" certainly applies more to the members than to bishops and priests. Given that there are approximately 15 million people in Nigeria identifying as Anglican I would expect them to suffer more of the bloodshed.

I made no mention of LGBT persons, but the mass attacks don't seem to discriminate on sexual orientation.

Lapinbizarre said...

There is indeed bloodshed in Nigeria on a scale unimaginable to most of us who live in the west, Ralph, and the causes are often more complex than being simply based on religion. Christians are slaughtered by Muslims; "child witches" are tortured and burned to death by fundamentalist Christians, and Muslims are massacred by Christians (with strong reason to suppose that the 600 killed in the linked massacre were killed by a group under the patronage of the then primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria). It's a murky business and there's blame a-plenty to go around without any of us resorting to exaggeration.

RalphM said...


That's a pretty serious charge to make, and I would suggest that it goes way beyond "exaggeration". I've met and talked with +Akinola. I know people who went to seminary with him, and I have found no indication that he would encourage the slaughter of innocents.

Nigeria is caught in a cycle of revenge. Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around but do you really want to make such a charge?

Daniel Weir said...

The Archbishop was reported as saying some years ago that Muslims did not have a monopoly on violence, which struck me as being at the very least an endorsement of armed response to attacks. I note that Lapinbizzare did not say that Akinola ordered or condoned, but that the group suspected of being responsible had him as their patron - an interesting vestige of colonial practices.

Lapinbizarre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lapinbizarre said...

I neither said nor implied that Archbishop Akinola ordered or condoned the Yelwa massacre, only that he was at that time patron of the Christian Association of Nigeria. The quote attributed to the archbishop, which Fr Weir references, was "let no Muslim think they have the monopoly on violence".

RalphM said...

Actually, Lapin, your statement was "killed by a group under the patronage of the then primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria"

Mirriam-Webster defines [patronage] as "the support or influence of a patron". Perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it's a little difficult to draw a different implication.

Yes, I'm familiar with the statement made by +Akinola on February 22, 2006 after rioting Muslims, reacting to the Danish newspaper cartoons, killed Christians and burned homes and churches. The Yelwa Massacre you cite occurred on May 2 of that same year. That would be a fairly long time if it was a cause and effect issue, but it has also been reported that Muslims committed at least 22 separate attacks against the Christian population of the area between February 22 and May 2. Perhaps the Christians had had enough.

ettu said...

As an observer I would say the above postings show such division and wildly divergent world views that, were I a referee, I would send you all to neutral corners for a very long cooling off period and only then let the festivities continue --in the hope that reflection might lead to a better conversation -

RalphM said...

You're probably right ettu. Instead of a neutral corner, however, it's probably best that the contest be ended as is.

Daniel Weir said...

ettu's comment lead me to reflect on my own participation in this thread. I realize that I had fallen into the trap of using other people's suffering as a debating point. We can share in the sufferings of others, but to use their sufferings to win points in an argument is a very different matter. I am sorry that I went down that evil path.

RalphM said...

Fr. Weir,

You are right; I went down the same path. You, however, had the courage to be the first to stand up and acknowledge what was happening.

It was an ugly path to follow and I'm also sorry I went there.

jschwarz42 said...

[Part 1 of 2] In many ways, I do feel sorry for Rowan Williams. He is an exceptional and insightful theologian. And his heart is clearly in the right place, and filled with compassion for the poor and those throughout the world who suffer most from the systemic injustice which dominates this wounded world (largely through our unquestioning acceptance of the rule of those who pursue the acquisition of power and money, while persuading the gullible that that their rule is "for our own good"). But he has not been a good leader - or teacher - for a worldwide "Communion" in times of discord. He was, from the beginning, too easily "snookered" by his unquestioning acceptance of the largely deceitful characterizations of our Anglican discord presented by the "conservative" or "traditionalist" or "evangelical" factions - both in the leadership of Global South churches and among those elements in more liberal Western churches who wanted to become the leadership.

Rowan now talks about "building relationships" (and that is indeed what is needed). But he made a fundamental mistake, and lost an opportunity for a true "teaching moment", at the very beginning, in 2003, after the extreme, intolerant and irrational reaction by these factions in the Communion to the entirely proper election of Gene Robinson within his own Diocese (which in turn, as I recall, followed some equally unwarranted initial skirmishes and nastiness from those factions about "Rites of Blessings" in New Westminster, Canada). From the start, Rowan apparently accepted uncritically the conservative factions' "version" of what the "problem" was, and decided that the "troubles" were all the fault of the American and Canadian churches for daring to go where they perceived that God, and the concerns of justice and pastoral care, were calling them - even though they were doing so solely within their own local Western cultural contexts, and with no suggestion of trying to impose their choices on more conservative cultures internationally.

Clearly, however, to anyone who had "eyes to see", the ones who were really "tearing the fabric of the Communion" and violating the "Bonds of Affection" (etc) were not those "Western" churches (who from the start have consistently shown their desire to remain in communion even with those who were attacking them), but those who reacted (and continue to react) with such hate-filled and intolerant condemnations and threats of "impaired Communion" (so lacking any spirit of simple Christian love and respect) for anyone who dares to honestly and faithfully disagree with them about where God is calling each of us within our own contexts. [cont. Part2]
- Peace, John

jschwarz42 said...

[Part 2 of 2] This time in 2003 was the moment when Rowan, in a role as teacher, should have simply said to everyone: "Look, we are all Anglicans together, and the essence of being Anglican is that we walk a broad Middle Way in which, when we have been faithful to the special charism of our tradition, we have historically embraced a broad diversity of theological and doctrinal positions (starting with the Elizabethan Settlement). So what we are going to do is this: We will NOT try to figure out who is to blame and crudely force them to conform to the majority will by threat and intimidation; but rather I call on everyone to treat one another with the love and respect that we should already have for one another in our hearts as part of the Body of Christ together. We will seek to understand (from our great Anglican tradition) that: communion does NOT require doctrinal uniformity, but actually flourishes in a spirit of openness and diversity; that 'walking together' in communion does not require 'agreement' on doctrine, but simply a mutually loving and respectful 'agreement' that we are willing to walk together in common worship and mission, doing God's work together, regardless (and perhaps even cherishing) our theological differences." This would have done a lot more to "build relationships" than his course of appointing commissions, drafting Covenants and trying to expand the power of the Primates Meetings: all in a one-sided attempt to beat up on the Americans (which was essentially what the Global South really wanted, as a belated tit-for-tat for a history of American and colonial oppression in the political and economic sphere).

- Peace, John

Daniel Weir said...

Not surprisingly, I agree with most of John's review of the history of schism in the Communion. One telling comment by some who were unhappy with TEC's actions equated the ordination in NH with the invasion of Iraq. I have not heard it recently, I hope because people see that it is a ridiculous comparison and tends, as such inappropriate comparisons often do, to minimize the real suffering of the Iraqi people. Anger about US foreign policy should not fuel responses to TEC decisions, which, whether right or not, are not intended to impose TEC's views on others.

Lapinbizarre said...

Never my intent to tally souls in the balance, only to point out the complexity of the Nigerian situation.

It goes beyond Iraq & Afghanistan, Fr Weir, back to "overpaid, over-sexed, and over here".

RalphM said...

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

Had +Rowan heeded this admonition, there would be much less anger in the AC today. We still would not agree, but the suspicion of duplicity would not be clouding every statement.