Saturday, April 28, 2012

++Rowan's biggest failure: Not confronting Western bigotry

Tom Sutcliffe assesses the decade-long tenure of the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams, judging it (probably correctly) as something less than successful. However, one paragraph in his article unwittingly illustrates what may very well be remembered, years from now when saner heads assess these last ten tumultuous years in the life of the Anglican Communion, as the retiring Archbishop's biggest failure.
He has probably failed to hold the Anglican Communion together. Yet its angry splits seem less significant than he feared they might be, and may not be the break-up he strove to avoid. Handing on Anglicanism in one piece was to his mind what justified his stance on homosexuality: that someone in a physically active and publicly known gay partnership should not or certainly could not be consecrated to the episcopate. It has not occurred to him that ordinary people, including church members, do not regard bishops as a special category on some hotline to the Almighty from which Deans, for example, are barred. And that therefore his readiness to have homosexuals becoming deans as consolation prizes simply looks hypocritical, irrational and absurd to most people - who do not want to have their own Archbishop apparently kowtowing to evil prejudices seemingly endorsed by senior Anglican clerics in various (though not all) parts of Africa.
This is an obvious reference to the sordid Jeffrey John episode which, as I have stated before, was probably ++Rowan's finest hour, all things considered. Ideally, of course, "someone in a physically active and publicly known gay partnership" has no business being in any leadership position in the church--period. "Progressive" folk would undoubtedly dismiss such a view as indicative of those "evil prejudices" emanating out of "various (though not all) parts of Africa." Such an attitude, however, is itself indicative of the most evil of prejudices, an open disdain for persons of a different racial origin as opposed to an all-inclusive prohibition against aberrant sexual practices among church leaders.

Lest we forget, it was "senior Anglican clerics" from the enlightened and progressive West who dismissed African church leaders for their "very superstitious kind of Christianity" and accused them of selling their loyalty for "chicken dinners." That was at the tail end of ++George Carey's tenure at Lambeth. In ten years on the job, ++Rowan has not so much as addressed, much less confronted, the intrinsic evil of Anglo-American bigotry toward Africa. Perhaps this specific failure lies more at the heart of his overall failure to "hold the Anglican Communion together" than any other.