Archbishop Rowan Williams

The current Atlantic Monthly has a characteristically insightful article on Rowan Williams. Reading the article reminded me of a moment at the Lambeth Conference last July.
Archbishop Williams began speaking at the first plenary session in Canterbury (after a private bishops’ retreat elsewhere) and began with an apology, something to the effect of, “You’ve had to listen to me a number of times already on the bishops’ retreat. I promise this will be the last time.” For a few seconds, there was polite applause, as if to say, “No, you’ve been a pleasure to listen to so far, and we’re glad to listen again.” But then the applause didn’t stop, and grew louder, and finally became an enthusiastic and sustained standing ovation. I remember thinking, “The center is holding,” a sense I heard many affirm in the coming days.

Obviously, some Anglicans wish the “center” were farther left or farther right, and some have chosen and will choose to separate to form their own new centers. This kind of separation continues a longstanding Protestant tradition, and history suggests that their new ventures will prosper – and have problems – as will the “mother ship” from which they depart. But I have special respect for Rowan Williams, and for all those who seek to move forward from the deep center from which he works, and my prayer is that he and they will not be discouraged, but will press on, knowing “that their labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

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