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it'll be ready for you monday

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 20, 2009

In Rome this week for some Kwanzaa shopping and ecumenism, the Archbishop of Canterbury stopped by the Willebrands Symposium to explain that, if you crack a mirror yourself, you never have to worry about its breaking. Take the amusing example, chuckles Dr. Williams, of the ordination of women:

The challenge to recent Roman Catholic thinking on this would have to be: in what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so 'enhance the life of communion', reinforcing the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of the Church as so defined?

In English: priestesses don't really do THAT much harm, if you ignore the damage to Christianity. Williams slyly suggests the duct tape of euphemism that allows him to speak of an "Anglican Communion" -- by letting factions aggregate themselves to bishops of their own thinking -- can serve as a model for us all:

It is this sort of thinking that has allowed Anglicans until recently to maintain a degree of undoubtedly impaired communion among themselves, despite the sharpness of the division over this matter. …[chop] … Yet, in what is still formally acknowledged to be a time of discernment and reception, is it nonsense to think that holding on to a limited but real common life and mutual acknowledgement of integrity might be worth working for within the Anglican family? And if it can be managed within the Anglican family, is this a possible model for the wider ecumenical scene?

Williams knows full well that the Charism of Impairment hasn't worked within the Anglican family, and that internal schism isn't worse than it already is because of his dangling the bait of a contrary model of communion in front of conservatives: that's to say, he's pleaded with morally orthodox Anglicans not to break away in the hope that more dialogue may convince the liberal dioceses to repudiate their excesses. The enticement is not "limited but real common life" but a return to recognizable unity. Was Dr. Williams' address to his Roman audience given in good faith? One notes that he did not raise the telling example of Episcopal Bishop John Chane's Christian Case for Same-Sex Marriage (a possible model, as Archbishop Akinola would doubtless agree, for the wider ecumenical scene).

It's hard to feel sympathy for Rowan Williams, even when in Rome on his best Christological behavior. An entirely competent academic theologian, he treats his bishopric with donnish condescension as a Gilbert & Sullivan prank. Naturally he expects everyone else to play along with the joke and gets positively stroppy with the plebeians who have the bad taste to imagine that souls are at stake. To put the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" is as doltishly naïve as asking, "Were there really pirates in Penzance, General Stanley?" It's more enjoyable for all concerned to ignore the Second Order pedantries and reinforce the essential character of filial and communal holiness, as expounded, say, by Katherine Hancock Ragsdale.

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  • Posted by: DrJazz - Nov. 20, 2009 4:22 PM ET USA

    How does the prohibition against ordaining women "enhance the life of communion"? To use the Doctor's words: By keeping it unimpaired! Catholics prefer our communion that way: Unimpaired. Conversely, for the Doctor: The challenge to recent Anglican thinking on this would have to be: In what way does the ordination of women and buggers help to keep intact anything that can honestly be called "communion"?

  • Posted by: GabrielAustin9013 - Nov. 20, 2009 1:38 PM ET USA

    Curious that in all discussions about the new document, little reference is made to Newman's thorough analysis of the reasons why the Anglican group is but another Protestant sect. Williams sounds like Arius, a man whom he likes. He made a feeble effort to discredit Newman's unveiling of Arius as just another civil servant - like Williams.

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