Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

who will rid me of this turbulent faith?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 31, 2005

Vision Book Cover Prints

Doctor Rowan Williams is one of those men all but impossible to take seriously, for the simple reason that it's all but impossible to believe he's not play-acting a role he secretly finds ridiculous. Like the bishops in the P.G. Wodehouse stories, he speaks in a sonorous phraseology four percent more grand than the occasion requires. Unlike the Wodehouse bishops, Williams conveys an eerie sense of detachment in his pronouncements: his mind always seems to be elsewhere. Kendall Harmon posts an article detailing Williams's address to the Anglican Global South conference in Egypt:

Following the lecture, Dr Williams answered questions from the conference on a number of areas. On sexuality, he affirmed that the church had not been persuaded of the acceptability of same sex unions. These questions, though, would not go away.

See what I mean? You'd think Williams were declaiming to Bertie Wooster the decisions of the Vestry Refreshments Committee: "The chairman affirmed that the church had not been persuaded of the advisability of serving spiced cider after Evensong, or of the acceptability of same sex unions ..."

You can detect something of the kind operating in secular contexts. Take your local college. The Dean of the School of Communications, say, might spend his time negotiating salaries and re-ordering toner cartridges for the photocopiers. Then once a year he finds himself dressed in a mortarboard and gown on a dais and it dawns on him that he has to act the part of the academic -- quidquid recipitur and all that. Yet those Oxbridge church history dons who became bishops when they weren't paying attention are in a predicament with almost daily vexations, and avenge their annoyance by bringing an air of Gilbert & Sullivan farce to aspects of the business they find tedious or embarrassing.

For Doctor Williams, poor man, nearly the whole of his job has become tedious and embarrassing, given the issues over which the Anglican communion is currently delaminating. He's a Wodehouse bishop transported into the middle of an evangelical tract, where he makes the unsettling discovery that the old, elegant evasions no longer work their soothing magic. Small wonder if he's seldom at his ease.

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