Friday, June 16, 2006

Our Friends' Problems, Continued

Continuing last week's meditation on the state of the Anglican Communion, the lead editorial in today's edition of The Tablet focuses on the leadership of the Church of England, notably the role of the former archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord Carey of Clifton.
One of the misfortunes of the Church of England is that the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been preoccupied with crisis management and unable to give enough attention to what he is best at, the convincing exposition of the case for Christian faith. Morally he may lean to the liberal side, but doctrinally he is orthodox with an unusual ability to present familiar truths differently and attractively. A thorough renewal of its grounding in doctrine would have been good for the Church of England, which is no doubt one of the reasons he was appointed. But he was soon mired in controversy over his intention, eventually abandoned, to elevate a gay but celibate priest, the Revd Jeffrey John, to the rank of bishop. It marked the point at which conservative evangelicals in the Church of England and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion seemed to declare war on him, manoeuvring to frustrate his every effort. The internal split in the Communion over gay bishops (and female bishops, to an extent) has sent things from bad to worse.

One voice leading the chorus of critics has been that of his immediate predecessor, Lord Carey. It is no secret that he did not welcome his successor’s appointment, having blocked him from becoming a diocesan bishop a few years earlier. In his most recent speech he said that when he left office in 2002 the Anglican Communion was in good heart. But he went on: “It is difficult to say in what way we are now a Communion. Bitterness, hostility, misunderstanding and strife now separate provinces from one another and divide individual provinces.”

An open letter is currently circulating among senior clergy in the Church of England, calling on Lord Carey to desist. He has three questions to face. Is he aggravating the very disunity he is dismayed by? Wouldn’t the problems that are besetting Dr Williams’ leadership have arisen whoever was archbishop? Is it fair to undermine Dr Williams’ authority when the job of being foremost primate of the Anglican Communion was becoming almost impossible anyway?
The editorial's timing is impeccable. Carey is in Rome, and word around town is that earlier today, he paid a visit to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.