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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Resignation of the ABC

Today's blog entry may make the most sense to Episcopalians and Anglicans. If you're not among those, hang with me for a minute.

Rumors are circulating that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is considering resignation many years before he would be required to retire. With all respect to him, I think resignation is a good and timely idea. 

Archbishop Williams is, without doubt, a committed Christian and a brilliant person. There were high hopes that he would energize both the Church of England, where he exercises a degree of direct authority, as well as the worldwide Anglican Communion, which he leads without authority. During his term in office, he has emphasized preserving the unity of the church despite the contentious global issues of our day: ordination of women, acceptance of LBGTs, and schism between fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists.

Unity is important, and it's a natural position for someone raised in the catholic tradition of the church, as he was, to take. However, well-intentioned pleas for unity have not achieved much. Outside the USA, disputes continue to rage without resolution and schism continues to unfold. Further pursuit of his policy is likely to lead to nothing but diminished respect for the office and continued preoccupation with internal issues to the detriment of ministry in the world.

In many respects his performance reminds me of the previous Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, whose well-intentioned pleas for unity likewise accomplished little. Fortunately for The Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Griswold's term in office expired and he was succeeded by Katharine Jefferts Schori. She has been clear, dynamic, and forceful about the mission of the church; she has also been outspoken in her support of discernments by The Episcopal Church to ordain women and to accept LBGTs. She has led the continuing church beyond schism while drawing lines in the sand for the behavior of clergy and church institutions who have schismatic leanings and while leaving the door open to eventual reconciliation with schismatics. That is strong performance! In the process she did not have to sacrifice her understanding of the catholicity of the church, nor did she have to dilute the Gospel.

What the Church of England and the Anglican Communion need presently is an Archbishop who thinks, speaks, and acts like she does.