Archbishop Rowan: a prophet after the event

There is irony in the way that Ruth Gledhill praises Archbishop Rowan Williams:

Repent, or be doomed, is the Jeremiah-style message of the Archbishop of Canterbury over our financial excesses. … Our Archbishop is at last fulfilling his prophetic potential.

But is this truly prophetic? Rowan may look the part of the Old Testament prophet, but is he really speaking from God? Ruth also reports:

We were ‘intimidated by expertise’, Dr Rowan Williams said when asked by Jeremy Paxman [in a BBC interview] why the Church of England had not spoken out earlier on how finance appeared to be operating, and what it seemed to be generating in terms of wealth rather than community.

But the Old Testament prophets were never intimidated by anything. This is not a “Jeremiah-style message”, but only the pale echo of one. The Archbishop has at last found the courage to speak out a year after the events of last autumn. But, as I reported last October, the true prophets were fearlessly proclaiming what God had to say about those events before they even happened. Prediction is not the essence of true prophecy, but nor is comment after the event.

As Ruth writes in her Times Online article,

Dr Rowan Williams … has consistently taken a left-of-centre line on economic issues …

Indeed. His new criticisms of our financial excesses are not so much prophetic as another example of the Church of England timidly following trendy politicians. Now I agree that in this case those politicians and Rowan are right in most of their criticisms. But that is not because God has given me a prophetic message about it, but because my God-given sense of justice confirms it to me.

If the Archbishop cannot find any truly prophetic messages for the country about political and financial matters, he should stick to speaking about the Christian faith and the church.

Rabbis act over swine flu – and not like Archbishops!

The BBC reports that

A group of rabbis and Jewish mystics have taken to the skies over Israel, praying and blowing ceremonial horns in a plane to ward off swine flu.

About 50 religious leaders circled over the country on Monday, chanting prayers and blowing horns, called shofars.

The flight’s aim was “to stop the pandemic so people will stop dying from it,” Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri was quoted as saying in Yedioth Aharanot newspaper. …

“We are certain that, thanks to the prayer, the danger is already behind us,” added Mr Batzri …

There is even a short video of this, taken during the flight.

I’m not sure that I would endorse this way of tackling the swine flu problem. Why did they take to the air for their prayers, rather than pray on the ground where the problem actually is? (If anyone knows an answer to that question, please put it in a comment.) But at least they are doing what religious leaders should: praying and doing religious ceremonial actions. And it is not really for me, as a Christian, to criticise how religious Jews conduct themselves, except to long that they recognise their true Messiah.

By contrast, the Archbishops of the Church of England have hit the news not for how they have prayed for the swine flu danger to pass, nor for how they have urged their clergy and church members to pray, but for their panicked reaction and abandonment of biblical and traditional Christian practice.

Is swine flu more powerful than God, so that the blood of Jesus Christ is not able to protect us from its effects? That is the implication of the Archbishops’ advice. Or is God Lord over swine flu and every other kind of evil? The rabbis who took to the air clearly believe that. Would that the leaders of the Church of England also believed it!

Anglicans and Anglican'ts

Archbishop Rowan Williams (unlike Bishop John of Chelmsford) has not yet responded to my challenge to his advice on communion. No doubt this is because he has been busy with a threat not to the Anglican practice of communion but to the Anglican Communion itself – one which certainly deserves more of his attention than swine flu.

It is nearly two weeks since, in response to the TEC bishops’ decision to end the moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops, I announced (with a question  mark) The end of the Anglican Communion as we know it? Since then Archbishop Rowan has been largely silent on the matter, although it was called “a direct snub” to him. But now he has spoken out in an article subtitled “Reflections on the Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion”, published on his website and reported on by Ruth Gledhill.

To summarise, Rowan Williams confirms what I announced. In the future he envisages, the Anglican Communion will look very different, “a two-tier communion of covenanted and non-covenanted provinces”. The latter will have very much a second class role in the continuing Communion, not permitted to represent it to outsiders. In the Archbishop’s words:

perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a ‘two-track’ model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the ‘covenanted’ body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.

In referring to those who put local autonomy above a covenantal structure, the Archbishop clearly has TEC in mind, as the subtitle and start of his article make clear. I suppose his “perhaps” reflects a continuing hope that TEC will after all fall into line and sign up to the proposed Anglican Covenant, which will clearly exclude taking unilateral decisions on matters like homosexual bishops. But there seems very little chance of that now.

Archbishop Rowan’s defence of his position on homosexual bishops is interesting:

5. In response, it needs to be made absolutely clear that, on the basis of repeated statements at the highest levels of the Communion’s life, no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ. Our overall record as a Communion has not been consistent in this respect and this needs to be acknowledged with penitence.

6. However, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.

7. In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.

8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church’s teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

9. In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. …

Indeed. I hope it never will be the situation that the Anglican Communion accepts gay “marriage”. But I agree that “no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people”.

Archbishop Rowan clearly distances himself from talk of schism and excommunication, referring instead to

two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion. It should not need to be said that a competitive hostility between the two would be one of the worst possible outcomes, and needs to be clearly repudiated.

But this is strong language from the normally very cautious Archbishop, stating a clear position that if TEC does not fall into line and sign up to the Covenant it will no longer have a place in the inner circles of the Communion.

As Ruth reports,

This leaves a church cleverly described as Anglicans and Anglican’ts by Otsota on Twitter.

Well, if the TEC bishops are the Anglican’ts, for once I am proud to be an Anglican.

PS Can anyone explain these words of the Archbishop?:

14. Sometimes in Christian history, of course, that wider discernment has been very fallible, as with the history of the Chinese missions in the seventeenth century.

Archbishops' communion advice contradicts the Thirty-Nine Articles

It is not just the Presiding Bishop of TEC who is compromising the Gospel message in what she says. Now, as reported with approval by Anglican vicar David Keen, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are offering official advice to the Bishops of the Church of England which directly contradicts the teaching of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, as well as Article 30 of the Thirty-Nine Articles:

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

1 Corinthians 11:25-29 (TNIV), emphasis added

30. Of both Kinds.
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

(I presume that “men” here is intended in the older gender generic sense.) But today I read:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today written to Bishops in the Church of England recommending the suspension of the sharing of the chalice at communion.

On what authority have these Archbishops taken it upon themselves to recommend their bishops and clergy to go against the teaching of Jesus and Paul and disobey the clear instructions in one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England? Doug Chaplin has recently suggested that these articles might be consigned to the scrapheap. But if so, this needs to be done by an official decision of the church authorities and after wide consultation, not through unilateral advice from the Archbishops. And I trust no one is suggesting that the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles is similarly destined for the scrapheap.

Note that this is a theologically important issue because the mediaeval western church, and the Roman Catholic Church until recently, withheld the communion cup from lay people. The Reformers insisted on communion in both kinds because this was clearly taught by Jesus and Paul, as quoted above, and was the practice of the worldwide church up to the 13th century.

So the Archbishops, through the advice they have issued, are attempting to reverse one of the key advances made in the English Church at the Reformation, ironically one which the Roman Catholic Church has also made since Vatican II. By changing this practice, they are also, by the fundamental Anglican principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (explained by Doug Chaplin as “”The rule of praying is the rule of believing”, or, more colloquially, “If you want to know what we believe, look at how we pray””), changing the doctrine of the Church of England.

The Archbishops have recommended as an alternative “personal intinction by the presiding minister”. This is also an ancient alternative, having been used in the mediaeval western church before being condemned by a Council. It is not explicitly condemned in the Thirty-Nine Articles, but does seem to go against their teaching, and that of Jesus and Paul, about drinking from a cup. It also clearly goes against the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, also one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England: in the rubrics (instructions) for The Communion in the BCP there are separate words for two separate distributions of the bread and the wine to the people:

And, when he delivereth the Bread to any one, he shall say …

And the Minister that delivereth the Cup to anyone shall say…

The Archbishops justify intinction as “a practice widely observed in Anglican churches throughout Africa”. But since when does the practice of other Anglican churches take precedence over the Book of Common Prayer?

At this point at last I need to mention the excuse which is being used for this attempt to change the practice of the Church of England: a slightly variant form of a fairly mild disease which is currently doing the rounds in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Yes, you’ve guessed it: swine flu. For the vast majority of those who get it, it means a few days of a nasty headache, not pleasant (see this personal story in The Times) but really only a minor inconvenience. Yes, a few people, almost all with other health complications, will die from swine flu. But it seems no more deadly, or severe in any other way, than the regular flu which has always been “pandemic” and which kills tens of thousands in the UK most winters.

If swine flu is a reason to withhold the communion cup, then why hasn’t the same action been taken long before, in response to regular flu, and all kinds of other infectious diseases? It has long been recognised that shared communion cups are a potential health hazard. So, if action is justified, why has it been taken only now?

If Church of England members are not prepared to take a possibly slightly increased risk of a few days’ headache so that they can obey Jesus’ teaching, then what is the chance of them remaining faithful when real persecution for their faith comes?

So, let me return to a question which I didn’t answer: On what authority have these Archbishops taken it upon themselves to recommend their bishops and clergy to disobey the teaching of Jesus and clear instructions in one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England? They refer to “advice from the Department of Health not to share “common vessels” for food or drink”. But surely this has always been good health advice! So what’s new?

I can’t help thinking that the Archbishops are overreacting to panic stirred up by the media, and in doing so are putting at risk the doctrine and practice of the Church they head. Instead they should be taking a lead in reassuring the public that swine flu is not a big deal and will not be allowed to disrupt the work, let alone the doctrine, of the Church.

I call upon the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England, and their equivalents in any other denominations who might follow their lead, to withdraw the advice they have just issued and uphold the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles that the Communion is to be given to all as bread and in a cup. Instead they might like to advise that those who prefer this because they consider themselves at particular risk from swine flu should voluntarily abstain from the cup. They might also consider suggesting use of separate cups, as used in many non-Anglican Protestant churches, which avoid the health risks. But they must uphold the priority of the “historic formularies” of the Church and, above them, of the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.

Meanwhile perhaps the Archbishops ought to put a bit more emphasis on this part of the government’s health advice:

To help to prevent the spread of the virus, churches need to ensure that bins for the disposal of tissues are available at all public gatherings, that surfaces are frequently cleaned and that hand-washing facilities, including disposable towels, are well maintained.  Churches should also consider supplying tissues at services and other meetings as well as providing hand-washing gel.

What am I supposed to think if I go into a church which is withholding the cup but has not even provided visible “bins for the disposal of tissues”? Perhaps someone’s priorities have got mixed up.

Rowan Williams, 9/11, and the women in his life

The Times has published today an article about and a moving extract from a new biography of Archbishop Rowan Williams. The largest part of the article recalls Williams’ experiences on 11th and 12th September 2001, when he was an eyewitness to the attacks on the World Trade Center, and the next day preached without preparation in the nearby cathedral.

Ruth Gledhill posts only a small part of the article and of the extract, with the interesting title Rowan Williams: ‘Haunted by Suicide’. This title refers to one of the three women in Rowan’s life, a woman with whom he seems to have had a relationship which might have been described as inappropriate although not apparently physical (yes, Jay, such relationships can exist!) shortly before she committed suicide. The second woman was a German Lutheran ordinand to whom he was engaged for a time. And the third woman is Jane Paul who became his wife.

I knew Jane slightly when we were undergraduates in the same year at Clare College, Cambridge. Rowan’s biographer writes that

she had held fast to her evangelical roots, and was active in the Christian Union at her college. … She came from a tradition where speaking in tongues was relatively common …

But during her undergraduate years she was rather on the fringe of this Christian Union, in which I was an active member. She was I think more involved in the college chapel, under Arthur Peacocke and Charlie Moule. Maybe she became more active in the CU as a graduate student, after I left in 1978, and when perhaps speaking in tongues would have been more acceptable in that group which was very conservative in my time. Ironically it is only after I left Cambridge that I too started to speak in tongues. But I can’t help wondering if the prayers of more charismatic fellow students like Jane Paul were partly involved in the softening of my heart towards the gifts of the Holy Spirit and my eventual acceptance of them.

An averagely muddled Archbishop

Ruth Gledhill reports, both in The Times and on her blog, on some letters written by Archbishop Rowan Williams in which he compares gay sex with marriage. I must say I wonder why these letters have suddenly come to light – has their recipient, who has left the Anglican church, just now, in the wake of Lambeth, decided to spill the beans? There is also a leader in The Times on this subject, and comment from Mary Ann Sieghart.

In one of the letters, whose text Ruth posts, Archbishop Rowan signs off as follows:

My prayers for you, and my request for prayers for an averagely muddled bishop!

From Archbishop Rowan

Well, I can only agree with him that he is “averagely muddled” in his thinking, maybe not on every issue but clearly on this one. To be fair, I can agree with what he writes in the second letter, from 2001. The following is in fact rather similar to what I have written here:

When I said that I wasn’t campaigning for a new morality, I meant, among other things, that if the Church ever said that homosexual behaviour wasn’t automatically sinful, the same rules of faithfulness and commitment would have to apply as to heterosexual union. Whether that would best be expressed in something like a ceremony of commitment, I don’t know; I am wary of anything that looks like heterosexual marriage being licensed, because marriage has other dimensions to do with children and society.

In other words, homosexual practice, if allowed at all, should be restricted to lifelong faithful unions. Presumably this would imply that homosexual clergy who were not faithful in this way would be subject to the same sanctions as married heterosexual clergy who have adulterous affairs. This means that these lifelong unions, at least among clergy, would have to be declared openly, although I understand Rowan’s reservations about anything like “civil partnerships”. Of course this status, formally entered into at what some have made into “a ceremony of commitment”, didn’t exist in 2001, at least here in the UK.

But where I think Rowan’s thinking is indeed muddled is in his earlier, 2000, letter. Here he writes how he came to agree with the position

that the scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience; but that the Bible does not address the matter of appropriate behaviour for those who are, for whatever reason, homosexual by instinct of nature … I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.

The problem with this argument is that there is simply no proper exegetical basis for it. In a series of posts Doug Chaplin has conveniently summarised the relevant biblical material. Whatever one makes of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11, these passages list descriptions of people, not of acts which are not characteristic of them. Just as someone who is normally sober but gets drunk once is not a “drunkard”, someone who is usually faithfully and heterosexually monogamous but occasionally does something different “for sexual variety” is not an arsenokoites, whatever this word might mean. Similarly Romans 1:27 refers to men who “abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (TNIV); these are men who have rejected heterosexuality, not ones who are usually heterosexual but looking for “sexual variety”.

I can understand how much the Archbishop wants to find some biblical support for the position which his cultural background is pushing him to accept. After all, my background is rather similar. At Cambridge I studied and worshipped with his wife in the college and chapel of which he later became Dean. Unfortunately there is simply nothing in the Bible, nor in church tradition as he admits, to support his contention that a committed homosexual relationship “might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage”. Sadly he has muddled the teachings of the Bible with the presuppositions of society.

It is interesting that Rowan, writing in 2000, mentioned charging interest and contraception as two things which the church used to consider wrong and now accepts, and suggests that homosexual practice may be a similar issue. But, as his correspondent Dr Pitt points out, the rightness of lending at interest and of contraception is by no means indisputable. David Lang of Complegalitarian has today written openly and movingly about how he and his wife prayerfully came to the decision that contraception is wrong for them. And John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar, questions the whole system of charging interest and notes that Rowan himself is also now questioning it. So here we hardly have two shining bright examples of the church moving in a morally right direction.

Mary Ann Sieghart writes in The Times:

If only more members of the Anglican Communion displayed as much humility as Rowan Williams, who signs himself endearingly in one of these letters as “an averagely muddled bishop”. And if only Dr Williams could display just a little less humility in his job of leading the Church, the current stand-off in the Communion might have more chance of being resolved.

Indeed! I may not agree with Mary Ann on the direction the Communion should take, but if it is to survive it needs to be led in some direction.

Lambeth: the Secret Plan

Dave Walker has clearly been working hard as cartoonist in residence at the Lambeth conference. In this cartoon (part of his Lambeth series) he seems to have uncovered and portrayed Archbishop Rowan’s secret strategy for getting the bishops to talk to one another.

UPDATE: Ruth Gledhill confirms the story with real pictures of bishops queuing, not for dinner but for a bus.

But there have been no new cartoons since this one which was Monday’s. I hope that Dave hasn’t been so distracted by his legal issues that he has been unable to do any new drawing. He has at least managed to post direct from his mobile phone a picture of bishops marching in London this morning, with Rowan in the front row and the slogan “Keep the Promise – Halve Poverty by 2015”.

Which bishops want women to join them?

Ruth Gledhill digresses from her Lambeth Diary to give the low-down on which bishops at last week’s General Synod voted for and against the motion on women bishops. This includes some minor surprises. I won’t repeat all the details, but I will give the votes of those bishops in the Church of England who I have been mentioning on this blog.

On “the Bishop of Winchester’s motion, including the reaffirmation of the Lambeth 1998 resolution that both sides in the argument on women priests and bishops are ‘loyal Anglicans’”, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, otherwise so far apart, were together among the 14 bishops who voted in favour. Among the 31 against this motion were Archbishop John Sentamu of York and bishops John Gladwin of Chelmsford, NT Wright of Durham and Pete Broadbent of Willesden. Ruth writes mischievously that

those who hold traditional views on ministry, men and women who believe implicitly in the Catholic faith contained in creeds and scripture, are now apparently not regarded as loyal Anglicans by two-thirds of the diocesan bishops of the Church of England present and voting at the Synod

– including Sentamu, Gladwin and Wright, also Broadbent who is not in fact “diocesan” but was included in this reckoning. So will Pete Broadbent, despite staying away from the Lambeth Conference, now be rejected by the conservatives? It will be interesting to see.

On the final motion, which I reported here, it seems that Archbishop Sentamu and bishops Gladwin and Broadbent were among 28 voting in favour, whereas 12 bishops including Nazir-Ali and Wright voted against, and Archbishop Williams abstained, alone – although at least four bishops seem to have absented themselves as 45 voted on several of the amendments. Well, at least I can agree with my own diocesan bishop on something. But there is surely something symbolically significant in the one who is supposed to be leading the Church of England choosing to abstain.

Rowan Williams and NT Wright respond to GAFCON

On Saturday I linked to Ruth Gledhill’s report of the final communiqué from GAFCON, with its veiled plans for schism in the Anglican Communion. She has now reported some interesting episcopal reactions, from Archbishop Rowan Williams and from “+THOMAS DUNELM:”, who for those unfamiliar with Anglican-speak is none other than the infamous NT Wright, Bishop of Durham.

The response from Williams (UPDATE: taken from here) surprises me. A large part of it focuses on the practical difficulties of schism rather than on the principles, almost suggesting that Williams is saying that the GAFCON leaders should make sure they do the schism properly. But he also claims that

The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the [GAFCON] document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues.

Well, if that is true, why not present the document to the Lambeth Conference? If every province accepts it by a large majority as Rowan imagines, the schism is over. But is does Rowan really think that every province will endorse the following, even with “differences of emphasis and perspective”?:

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

If so, he is clearly even more out of touch than I had thought. And even more seriously, would there really be near universal acceptance of the following?:

5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

In the end all that Rowan can do is to quote completely out of context

the words of the Apostle in I Cor.11.33: ‘wait for one another’.

But how long are people to wait? There needs to be a willingness to wait on both sides. The North American churches were not prepared to wait before ordaining a gay bishop etc. Why should others wait?

Then, after some negative comments by Bishop Chane, presumably of Washington DC, Ruth moves on to quote “+THOMAS DUNELM:”, NT Wright. Wright’s comments (UPDATE: taken from here) are long, and generally very positive about the GAFCON process. This part is interesting:

I fully agree with the GAFCON statement – and with Archbishop Rowan – that the Communion instruments have not been able to deal with the problems, and that we need to find better ways of going about it.

He also puts paid to any suggestion that he has a colonialist attitude:

What’s more, it is enormously exciting to live at a time when new leadership is arising from places completely outside the north Atlantic axis. Africa was one of the great cradles of early Christianity, producing such towering minds as Tertullian and Augustine. Most of us have long ago moved away from any idea that Christianity, or even Anglicanism, somehow ‘belongs’ to England or northern Europe. … I would have hoped, actually, that all this would now go without saying: that we have long moved beyond the sterile stand-off between ‘colonialism’ and ‘post-colonialism’. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s what matters.

Interestingly, he says that he was not invited to GAFCON. But then that may be because he attacked it in the Church Times perhaps before the invitation list was drawn up. In fact now he seems less critical than he was before, but in the end he rejects the whole GAFCON process:

In particular, though, there is something very odd about the proposal to form a ‘Council’ and then to ask such a body to ‘authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations’ – and then, as an addition, ‘to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith’. Many Anglicans around the world intend to do that in any case, and will not understand why they need to be ‘recognised’ or ‘authenticated’ by a new, self-selected and non-representative body to which they were not invited and which will not itself, it seems be accountable to anyone else.

He fears that the document

offers a blank cheque to anyone who wants to defy a bishop for whatever reasons, even if the bishop in question is scrupulously orthodox, and then to claim the right to alternative jurisdictional oversight. This cannot be the way forward; nor do I think most of those at GAFCON intended such a thing. …

… if GAFCON is to join up with the great majority of faithful, joyful Anglicans around the world, rather than to invite them to leave their present allegiance and sign up to a movement which is as yet – to put it mildly – strange in form and uncertain in destination, it is not so much that GAFCON needs to invite others to sign up and join in. Bishops, clergy and congregations should think very carefully before taking such a step, which will have enormous and confusing consequences. Rather, GAFCON itself needs to bring its rich experience and gospel-driven exuberance to the larger party where the rest of us are working day and night for the same gospel, the same biblical wisdom, the same Lord.

Indeed it would be wonderful if GAFCON could bring its experience and exuberance to the larger party. But the problem is that some of those at the party seem not to be working for the same gospel, some might wonder if even for the same Lord. If the people working together cannot even agree on their goals, there is little point in them working together as they will simply undo one another’s work. Williams and Wright claim that this is not what will happen, but Williams has failed to reassure the GAFCON primates of this. Again, Williams is saying too little, too late. Unfortunately the result is a momentum towards schism which he seems powerless to stop.

Packer calls on Williams to resign

There is quite a small club of us who have publicly called on Archbishop Rowan WIlliams to resign. In December last year I did so myself, here. This Februrary I quoted Tom Jackson writing this in a comment on Ruth Gledhill’s blog, and I reported here that an “anonymous senior churchman” had made the same call. Williams has perhaps had a bit of a break since then, but this week at GAFCON, as the BBC reports (and Doug Chaplin mocks, I hope the Nigerian church’s libel lawyers are merciful to him),

Nigerian bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma called for Rowan Williams to resign with immediate effect.

But the real news today is what the leading Anglican Evangelical J.I. Packer ha said. Somewhat surprisingly, Packer is not at GAFCON but in England, in fact in Eastbourne which is on his friend Bishop Wallace Benn’s territory while Benn is away at GAFCON. The following was reported by Hugh Bourne who heard him speak, and quoted by the Church Times blog:

Packer stated that Rowan Williams’ views about homosexuality (documented before becoming A of C, and not changed since) mean that he is not qualified to lead the Anglican Communion and enforce rules layed down at Lambeth in 1998. Big Jim was clear, “Rowan Williams should resign”!

Ruth Gledhill reports what appear to be Packer’s actual words:

I would say with great respect Archbishop, I believe that the way of wisdom is for you to resign.  Now that of course is very bold and tough talk and if I wasn’t in my 80’s, I might not feel that I had the gall to answer your question in the direct way that I have done, but that is what I would like to say to the Archbishop and I believe that it would be the kindest thing to say to him.

Ruth wonders if Packer is still a significant figure. Well, Ruth, even in this modern age there is more to being a significant figure than using computers and mobile phones – something we bloggers always need to remember.

Despite my reservations about some of Packer’s views, on this matter I find myself in good, and significant, company.