Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Well Said, Your Grace

The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Toronto, where he gave an interview earlier today. Here's a clip that caught my attention. He was asked to explain why he was once an advocate for the normalization (my word) of homosexuality in the life of the Church, and now seems to be taking a contrary position. The heart of his response:

It’s partly an evolution of different kinds of responsibility in the Church. As a theologian and as a teacher for many years naturally I had the liberty to raise certain questions and to express personal opinions on the matter. As a bishop I have to keep people around the table in discussion on this.

Now, I might want to tweak part of this. Keeping "people around the table" is not a sufficient summary of the job of a bishop. But "guarding the faith and unity of the Church" is a pretty good summary of that role, and in the case of a primate, particularly this primate, the emphasis is probably even a little more on unity than on faith. We count on all bishops to guard the Church's faith, but the Archbishop of Canterbury has a particular vocation to the preservation of unity.

But what really makes me want to sing Te Deum about this quote is Dr Williams' acknowledgment that accepting ordination to the episcopate (and I would say this applies equally to the priesthood and the diaconate) carries with it a certain sort of muzzle, a very real restriction on one's freedom of speech. A bishop is by the nature of the office a conservative! The Church needs both priests and prophets. But those ministries are naturally adversarial. There is an order (the Greek taxis applies very well here, I think) that governs their relationship, and part of that order is that priesthood and prophecy are like oil and water--they don't mix very well. The presence of both ensures a creative tension in ecclesial life that keeps us from getting either complacent and stagnant or losing our moorings and drifting away from who we are. Rowan gets it, and that he was able to lay aside one mantle and pick up the other speaks volumes for his character and personal integrity. Color me impressed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How can anyone be a conservative and a christian? Isn't that a bit like rooting for the Pharisees?