Well, it seems that the lame duck Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has decided to take his episcopal duty of admonition with some seriousness this week:
The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a scathing attack on those within his own church who voted down legislation to approve women bishops accusing them of being “unrealistic”.
In an impassioned speech at the General Synod this morning that vividly illustrates the depth of the current crisis facing his organisation, Dr Rowan Williams admitted that the Church of England loses credibility every day it fails to approve women bishops.
During yesterday’s vote the Archbishop, who leaves his post at the end of the year, pleaded with members to approve legislation which would have allowed women to reach the top posts in the church.
The bill needed to pass by a two thirds majority in the three houses that make up synod. Although 74% of members voted in favour of the legislation, it was dramatically defeated by six votes in the house of laity.
Speaking in the aftermath of that decision this morning, Dr Williams said the church risked being seen as “willfully blind” to the demands from wider British society that it must do away with institutional and theological sexism.
Read the full article.
Dr. Williams’s tenure on the throne of St. Augustine has not been known for taking strong stands. His approach to primatial leadership has generally been summarizable as “Let’s all just settle down, shall we?” So this “impassioned speech” stands out somewhat.
What struck me about this when I read it this morning was not so much that the female episcopacy barely met defeat in the beleaguered Church of England. It is nearly a foregone conclusion that this little minority standing athwart the rest of the theological train wreck that is modern First World Anglicanism will eventually be defeated. There will be a female Archbishop of Canterbury in the future.
Rather, what occurred to me is that Dr. Williams is here functioning in precisely an inverted fashion from the traditional role of the episcopacy in historical Christianity, whose sacred task it is not to urge his flock on to innovation, to wholesale capitulation to “the demands from wider British society.” Rather, the episcopacy’s trust from the Apostles is that which was given by St. Paul to his disciple St. Timothy: “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Tim. 1:14).
If the episcopacy cannot be entrusted with the historic Christian tradition, then who exactly will keep it? This is Christianity at its worst, when those who are appointed as shepherds lead their flock into the wolves’ den.