Sunday, August 09, 2009

Frankly, my dear Rowan, I don't give a damn

God intended him to sit in a great house, talking with pleasant people, playing the piano and writing things which sounded beautiful and made no sense whatsoever.

I can barely summon the energy to briefly address Rowan Williams' Reflections on the Episcopal Church's July dynamite party, but I have noticed one thing. I wrote about it a full two years ago, and not a single thing has changed. As I put it in that long-ago post,
There is only one thing more predictable than Dr. Williams trying to ride three horses at once, and that is the compulsion of conservative Anglicans to cast the runes every single time to try to divine what portents are hidden in his mystifying utterances....

Every communication is followed by a flurry of "analyses", which usually consist of "Well, he's not saying that..." "Yes, but that doesn't mean that..." "Reading between the lines we see that..." and of course, the ever-popular "Oh, but this is written in Brit-speak; what he REALLY means is..."
As they always have, the "interpretations" have taken on a life of their own, and are now growing like Topsy. They mostly focus on the paragraphs 22 and 23 - the "two tier" Communion idea.
22. It is possible that some will not choose this way of intensifying relationships, though I pray that it will be persuasive. It would be a mistake to act or speak now as if those decisions had already been made – and of course approval of the final Covenant text is still awaited. For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily. But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces.
23. This has been called a 'two-tier' model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But 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.
This has been referred to as Williams' resigned acceptance of, arguing for, proposing, suggesting, recommending, and any number of other expressions in the same vein.

They're all wrong.

The word "possible" or "possibility", occurring 3 times in these 2 crucial paragraphs, tell us all we need to know. He is musing about what may, maybe, if the stars somehow align themselves in a certain configuration, develop in the AC. It's "possible". And who are we to say otherwise? Who can authoritatively state that it's impossible? How can we know? Nobody can predict the future, and surely someone will come along very soon chirping that "Anything's possible with God!" Williams is very careful not to add any qualifiers to tip us off to his own opinion: he doesn't describe this development as "remotely possible" or "highly possible" - no, it's just "possible".

Is anything going to happen as a result of this "Reflection"? No, nothing's going to happen. Everyone will go chasing off in discussions of how this could be implemented, and all the pitfalls and hazards that will attend the enterprise, when in reality, there's no one in charge to give the order to start working on it. Rowan's shot his bolt by giving us a word-portrait of what the future might look like, and he'll never do anything more. But people will spend a good 6 months to a year in emotional turmoil before they notice that Rowan's deep thoughts have once again come to nothing.

He reminds me more and more of Ashley Wilkes in 'Gone With The Wind'. Many people have said the same thing - that he'd have made a fine ABC 150 years ago, when his job would have happily revolved around looking gracious and thoughtful, musing and meditating and the church would have pretty much run along on its own momentum. Unfortunately, everyone else in the AC seems to think they've been cast as Scarlett O'Hara, and so the cries go up from all sides, "Oh, Rowan, you really love ME! You can't possibly love that dull, dumpy Melanie! It's really me you love, isn't it?" And Rowan forever leads them all on with his regretful sighs and pious wishes that everything would just stop being so beastly and go back to the way it used to be. The one thing he'll never do is put an end to the suspense by telling any of the rivals for his affections that it's all over.


Blogger Tregonsee said...

Nothing wrong with trying to read the tea leaves. ++Rowan is genuinely interesting, and often educational. The problem comes when you allow yourself to believe any of it matters. For it to matter, actions would need to accompany the words. Good luck on that.

9:48 am  
Blogger Dale Matson said...

If Rowan Williams was a Jr. High School teacher, who do you think would be running the classroom?

9:18 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

The Sweathogs?

9:56 pm  
Blogger Dale Matson said...


11:16 pm  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Rowan, like Kotter, has total and complete control of the classroom.


1:25 am  

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