the ABC & TIME

Douglas LeBlanc has written a thoughtful review of the following Time interview. I heartily commend it. Found here.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

TIME: Many in the Anglican Communion feel it’s hurtling toward schism, with you trying in vain to hold it together.
ABC Williams: I don’t think schism is inevitable. The task I’ve got is to try and maintain as long as possible the space in which people can have constructive disagreements, learn from each other, and try and hold that within an agreed framework of discipline and practice. It feels very vulnerable. I can’t, of course, deny that. It feels very vulnerable and very fragile, perhaps more so than it’s been for a very long time.

You’ve issued invitations for next summer’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, but left out Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopalian bishop of New Hampshire, and Martyn Minns, from the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. So you’ve excluded an emblematic liberal and an emblematic conservative.
Of course, exclusion is not particularly a Gospel idea. The election and ordination of Gene Robinson was an event which many in the Communion had warned would deepen our divisions. Similarly, with Martyn Minns, there had been warnings that [his missionary assignment in the U.S.] looked like a kind of aggression against another Anglican province. I felt we would run the risk of their attendance becoming the subject matter of the conference.

Surely as bishops they are entitled to attend?
The mode of their appointment in the face of substantial protest simply means their bishoping is going to be under question in large parts of the Anglican world. Regarding Robinson, one thing I’ve tried to make clear is that my worry about his election was that the Episcopal Church hadn’t made a general principled decision about the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of people in public same-sex partnerships. I would think it better had the church actually taken a view on that before moving to the individual case. As it is, someone living in a relationship not theologically officially approved by the church is elected to a bishop — I find that bizarre and puzzling.

The Anglican primates met in Dar es Salaam in February and made three key recommendations to the American bishops: that they stop ordaining gay bishops and blessing gay unions and that they create a special bishop to serve the needs of conservatives. What happens if they refuse?
An absolute blanket no to all of this would pose a real problem. We’ve had indications of a cautious yes to part of it.

The Episcopal Church reacted angrily to the communiqué.
It was seen as interference and colonialism. I was a bit taken aback because I didn’t see it as the primates trying to dictate terms, but to say, look, here is a scheme which we think you could work with. But I’ve occasionally thought — rather mischievously — that the issue could be described [to the Americans] in terms of a good American slogan: No taxation without representation. That is, in some parts of the world, the decisions of the Episcopal Church are [incorrectly] taken to be decisions that the local Anglican Church owns and agrees to, and the local church can suffer in reputation or worse because of that.

Can you give us an example?
In Egypt there have been denunciations of all Christian churches from the Friday pulpits for sanctioning same-sex relationships.

Isn’t the Scripture straightforward on homosexuality?
It’s impossible to get from Scripture anything straightforwardly positive about same-sex relationships. So if there were any other way of approaching it, you’d have to go back to the first principle of human relationships. Those theologians who’ve defended same-sex relationships from the Christian point of view in recent decades have said you’ve got to look at whether a same-sex relationship is capable of something at the level of neutral self-giving that a marriage ought to exemplify. And then ask, is that what Scripture is talking about? That’s the area of dispute.

You yourself once thought it possible that same-sex relationships might be legitimate in God’s eyes.
Yes, I argued that in 1987. I still think that the points I made there and the questions I raised were worth making as part of the ongoing discussion. I’m not recanting. But those were ideas put forward as part of a theological discussion. I’m now in a position where I’m bound to say the teaching of the Church is this, the consensus is this. We have not changed our minds corporately. It’s not for me to exploit my position to push a change.

This interview is condensed from this audio interview. Fascinating in its entirety.


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