Tuesday, August 22, 2006

”I have to guard the faith and teaching of the Church. My personal ideas and questions have to take second place.”

The above quote comes from an excellent Dutch interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. And it succinctly spells out what I and many orthodox Anglicans have come to appreciate about +++Rowan: he puts the teaching and traditions of the catholic church above his personal views.

His approach to controversial questions is a balanced one. Personal views and questions are fine and often good. But they do not and must not supplant the teaching of the church catholic.

In terms of decision-making the American Church has pushed the boundaries. It has made a decision that is not the decision of the wider body of Christ. In terms of the issue under consideration: there are enough Christians of good faith in every denomination - from evangelical to Roman Catholic - to whom it is not quite so self-evident. Who are not absolutely sure that that we have always read the Bible correctly. They are saying: this is an issue we must talk about. But if we are going to have time to discuss this, prayerfully, thoughtfully, we really don't need people saying: we must change it now. The discussion must not be foreclosed by a radical agenda. The decision hasn't been made yet. Or rather, the tradition and teaching of the Church is what it always was.

Twenty years ago I wrote an essay in which I advocated a different direction. That was when I was still a professor, to stimulate debate. It did not generate much support and a lot of criticism - quite fairly on a number of points. What I am saying now is: let us talk this through. As Archbishop I have a different task. I would feel very uncomfortable if my Church would say: this is beyond discussion, forever. Equally I have to guard the faith and teaching of the Church. My personal ideas and questions have to take second place.

Thus he spells out why Archbishop Williams hasn’t been as liberal as Professor or even Bishop Williams.

This sort of humility coming from this very intelligent and learned man should be an example to American Christians and bishops, who tend to be all too American in lording their personal views over the church.

Elsewhere in the interview, I’m once again encouraged that the Archbishop sees the seriousness of the splits looming over Anglicans. And I’m pleasantly surprised that he rejects the liberal Episcopal view of “inclusiveness”:

I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself. . . . We welcome people into the Church; we say: 'You can come in, and that decision will change you.' We don't say: 'Come in and we ask no questions.' I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions.

There is more from the interview. I commend it to you.

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