Friday, June 08, 2007

Time Interviews Dr. Williams

The complete interview can be found here. Regarding the exclusion of some bishops from Lambeth, Dr. Williams offered this response:

...Of course, exclusion is not particularly a Gospel idea. The election and ordination of Gene Robinson was an event which many in the Communion had warned would deepen our divisions. Similarly, with Martyn Minns, there had been warnings that [his missionary assignment in the U.S.] looked like a kind of aggression against another Anglican province. I felt we would run the risk of their attendance becoming the subject matter of the conference...
Since, as Dr. Williams noted, exclusion is contrary to the message of the Gospel, it would seem worth the risk to be true to our principles.

On Bp. Robinson:

Regarding Robinson, one thing I've tried to make clear is that my worry about his election was that the Episcopal Church hadn't made a general principled decision about the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of people in public same-sex partnerships. I would think it better had the church actually taken a view on that before moving to the individual case. As it is, someone living in a relationship not theologically officially approved by the church is elected to a bishop — I find that bizarre and puzzling...
It would have made things much clearer for everyone if General Convention would have made a definitive decision on same sex blessings before the election of Bishop Robinson. As to the relationship being "officially approved by the church," I have to wonder in what way he is using the term "church." If we are speaking of the Anglican Communion, what body decides what is "officially approved" for all Anglicans? Clearly there are quite a few issues, such as divorce, women's ordination, polygamy, the use of various versions of the BCP, transfer of clergy, lay ministers and other church customaries, on which the Communion holds a diversity of views on what is "officially approved."

When Gene and Mark's relationship was blessed by the Church, the "local option" was "officially approved" by General Convention. Each diocese decides how best to serve the pastoral needs of their members, which may include a rite of blessing. My understanding is that the blessing of their relationship was done within the context of a Blessing of a Home.

The problem now is that if the Episcopal Church gives in to the pressure from some parts of the Communion to no longer "officially approve" such blessings, what will be the status of those, like Gene and Mark, whose relationships have already been blessed? Once the Church offers God's blessing, can it be revoked at some later date? If so, I can think of a few battleships and fox hounds whose deeds I certainly question, and would like to see the Church's blessing rescinded.

Returning to the interview, here's Dr. Williams' thoughts on the reaction of TEC to the latest Primates' Communique:

...It was seen as interference and colonialism. I was a bit taken aback because I didn't see it as the primates trying to dictate terms, but to say, look, here is a scheme which we think you could work with. But I've occasionally thought — rather mischievously — that the issue could be described [to the Americans] in terms of a good American slogan: No taxation without representation. That is, in some parts of the world, the decisions of the Episcopal Church are [incorrectly] taken to be decisions that the local Anglican Church owns and agrees to, and the local church can suffer in reputation or worse because of that...
It is fairly well established that the Communique is considered "dictating terms," at least from the perspective of the two or three Primates who insisted that the sections which place demands on TEC be included. I don't get the "no taxation without representation" in this context. Would someone please explain it to me? I have certainly thought of that line in regards to Lambeth; if all our Dioceses are not represented, then we should not be expected to pay the bulk of the bill for the event. But yoking it to the Communique is beyond my comprehension.

The final three question and responses are brief enough to quote in full:

...When you return from study leave, you'll focus once more on the problems within Anglicanism. Some people have already decided to stay away from the Lambeth Conference and possibly begin a process of division.
I don't particularly want to be — I wouldn't say blackmailed but pressured by either extreme on this. I think they'd lose by not coming. I think they need to talk to each other and listen to each other without prejudice.

Are you optimistic?
I'm hopeful. Not optimistic.

"Hopeful" is a safer word?
It's a safer word.
From this interview, Time pieced together a lengthier commentary, in which much background information is provided. Here is how Dr. Williams' position is summarized:

...So although he says he's "not recanting" his old arguments about homosexuality, his new job demands that he express "where the consensus of our Church is," rather than press for change. Even though Williams himself doesn't see sexuality as of "first-order" theological importance, he believes so many Christians do that pro-gay measures must be preceded by a broad shift in consensus. He portrays the U.S. church as having failed at this — and Robinson's election as perhaps dangerously myopic. Williams reports complaints from Egyptian Christians that their churches are being denounced — or, he hints, threatened — by Muslim clergy because of same-sex relationships, even though the local Christians themselves have never accepted their validity. Williams would like to see a "covenant" or set of core Anglican principles. U.S. Episcopalians have criticized this as a move aimed at forcing liberal churches into Roman-style lockstep, and he acknowledged it could eventually isolate the American church's current stance on homosexuality. "I don't want to accelerate departure, God forbid," he says, adding that he hopes both the Episcopalians and others could benefit if their positions changed.

The Archbishop is weary of being pushed around. The pusher-in-chief, of course, especially since the founding of cana, has been Akinola. "I've said to him privately and publicly I don't think that [cana] was an appropriate response," says Williams. He is also bothered by the unwavering support by Akinola's church of a proposed Nigerian law, now lapsed, that would have assigned a five-year jail term not only to open homosexuals, but to those who supported them. Williams says he is "very unhappy" about the situation, "and I've written to the Archbishop about it"...
This will probably be the last word from Canterbury until September. Read all of it, and then point out additional items that jumped out at you.


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