Sunday, July 11, 2010

Poor Rowan Williams

You know, I like Rowan Williams a lot. Partly it’s because he’s a really interesting thinker – even if you’re not theologically inclined, his writings on Dostoyevsky are well worth your attention – who, often at some cost to his own reputation, doesn’t bother much with tailoring his thoughts for media soundbited purposes. Partly it’s because his theological conservatism has never stopped him taking the expansive and humane view. But most of all, I feel sorry for him. And this has everything to do with the unleadable shower he’s supposed to lead, which would tax Moses himself, never mind a fallible human being like +Rowan.

But allow me to digress for a moment. Some years ago I was talking to a clerical contact who’d done some work at the Christian Unity dicastery, and who was most interesting on the differences in dealing with the various denominations. First you have to consider that the four major Christian traditions – Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian and Coptic – may have their differences, but do share a basic conceptual universe that allows them to more or less understand each other, a conceptual universe not shared by Seventh Day Adventists or Louisiana snake-handlers or such. What this boiled down to was that if Catholic negotiators were talking to the Russian Orthodox, both sides would have their settled dogmas that they could compare, identify points of agreement and disagreement, and talk about in a structured way.

This is not, of course, to say that you couldn’t make progress with the Protestants, at least those with settled positions. My interlocutor was very impressed at the way the German tag-team of Kasper and Ratzinger had engaged with the Lutherans, drawing on a shared cultural background and some understanding of what the Lutherans were about. But what used to drive him absolutely spare was trying to deal with the Anglicans, because they were a constantly moving target. You could have Rowan Williams across the table from you and have very little idea whether what he was saying was an official Anglican position or just Rowan’s opinion. The latter would, of course, be rendered more likely if Akinola popped up the next week and flatly contradicted what you’d heard from Rowan. Or was it Akinola who was off message? One could never tell…
Read the rest of this excellent (and rather witty) blog post over at Splintered.

Hat tip: Dr. Tighe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He also has an interesting beard.