The Synod: Will Rowan Williams have to walk?

Tom Mendelsohn

96900169 300x200 The Synod: Will Rowan Williams have to walk? As mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, Friday’s General Synod is looking ever more like a watershed for the CofE. With neither progressives nor conservatives willing to back down on the issue of consecrating women bishops, the Church is staring down the barrel of schism and acrimony.

To recap, liberals are determined that this Synod should finally mark the end of 20 years’ infighting about ordained women, and it looks more than likely that draft legislation to allow women bishops will be ratified. Conservatives, meanwhile, are hoping against hope that some compromise can be reached to allow them to continue to ignore female priests. Should their hopes be dashed, they may leave the CofE and either rejoin Rome or establish their own splinter church.

Into this crucible have stepped Archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, both of whom are desperate to keep their Church together. They’ve tabled an amendment to try and make provisions for those parishes who can’t conscionably accept either women bishops, or male clergy ordained by a woman, and they hope to convince Synod to accept this and bring the wantaways back into the fold.

The augurs are, though, that Synod has no appetite for any more legislative wooliness, and that the Archbishops’ amendment will fail. If that does happen, Rowan Williams may well see it as a resigning issue. He’s already going against established protocol by asking Synod to vote on an amendment to draft legislation anyway, and he’s also going against majority opinion in the CofE, which is largely in favour of women bishops, and doesn’t want to see them ignored by certain sections.

The Daily Mail is predicting a ‘bloodbath’ resulting from the amendment, while The Guardian claims that women priests will walk away if Synod offers too many sops to the conservatives – it’s an increasingly nasty business.

This all comes quite apart from the whole Jeffrey John business blown open by The Telegraph this week. The openly gay Dean of St Albans has been blocked from becoming a bishop yet again, despite his obvious ability as a clergiman. He was removed from a shortlist for the diocese of Southwark by the Crown Nominations Commission, on which sits Rowan Williams. It’s another blow to his liberal credentials, and it’s come at the most inopportune moment for him, as he tries to hold his fragmenting Church together. He no doubt did it to try and appease the evangelicals, but in doing so, and denying a good man his rightful position in Southwark, he is bound to have done himself more harm.

Williams clearly feels he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, and he’s just as clearly in an impossible position – but it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll have to walk if he doesn’t follow the way the wind is blowing.

  • Tom Mendelsohn

    I think that the majority of the CofE is interested in the plight of women. It is certainly a small minority of congregations kicking up a fuss, and an even smaller one planning to leave the fold.

    It’s harder to say on homosexuals, but I’d be prepared to bet a modest sum that there are more Anglicans who couldn’t give a monkeys about their priests’ proclivities than there are who could.

    So, if anything, it’s mostly the Anglican community itself attempting to impose its beliefs on the Anglican community. Certainly, it’s a broad church, bringing liberals and evangelicals together, but there are a good deal more of the former than the latter.

  • Expatnhappy

    Well I think many people were brought up within the Anglican community and have been very close to the personal lives of many who have given up everything for the CofE. I was educated by such people and admired their personal bravery and extreme kindness and wise tolerance. Most had lived through the violence and horror of the second world war and knew very well that, for example, gay people, including practicing gay people, had shown themselves to have been as brave, moral and loving of God as anyone straight : they had walked towards the sound of gunfire as steadily and as bravely as anyone else. The concept that such gay people were only acceptable to God if they “repented” of a condition with which they were created was revolting and simply unChristian to such people. I am not prepared to say they were wrong: I am conscious that Jesus himself disagreed with the injunction of the Old Testament to stone adulterous women and that the Church, for all kinds of scripturally justified reasons, for two hundred years saw nothing wrong with the transatlantic slave trade. The hymn Amazing Grace was composed by Newton on a slave ship before he came to see how evil and unChristian slavery was.

  • Paragluteus

    If I were him, I’d prorogue ‘Synod’ instantly.It is a breeding ground of that dangerous linguisitic lunacy of the first person plural: which is a necessary prerequisite for introducing the heretical idea of the democratisation of religion.

    Enough of this ‘we believe’ cr~*p. Speak for yourself, not for me!

    (I want no ‘group’ interposing themselves between me and the almighty, thanks very much.)

  • nicmos

    I knew him too well – and his family – and neither in private conversation or in published writings did he ever come close to atheism!

  • Expatnhappy

    His most famous book, Honest to God, is a hymn to the reconciliation of belief and rational atheism: have you not read it ? It was required (and closely supervised) reading at my fiercely CofE school, where the RE masters were proudly progressive doctors of theology, 1960’s model. As a result of this I was bold (perhaps rude) enough to actually asked him the question: if all humans ceased to exist, would God also disappear ? He was very frank in his answer. He was also a v nice, sincere and kind person, but I dont think he told me just what he thought I wanted to hear.

  • Morpic

    It is time that the synod acknowledged, openly and calmly, that the CofE was founded on the prick of Henry VIII.

  • Morpic

    It is time that the synod acknowledged, openly and calmly, that the CofE was founded on the prick of Henry VIII.

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