Archbishop Rowan Williams reflects on 10 years in office

Dr Rowan Williams has admitted that the conflicts in the Anglican Communion were one of the worst aspects of his time as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The last 10 years have seen serious rifts in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality and the consecration of women bishops.

The US in particular saw the departure of Anglican parishes from the US Episcopal Church after the consecration of its first openly gay bishop in 2003.

In the Church of England, moves to consecrate women bishops led three bishop and several parishes to join an Ordinariate set up by the Roman Catholic Church.

In 2010, the Archbishop floated the idea of a Covenant designed to prevent the break-up of the Communion, but the proposed bandage to the Communion’s wounds ended up being nearly as divisive as the rifts it was intended to heal.

In an interview with the Press Association following his resignation, Dr Williams said: “The worst aspects of the job I think have been the sense that there are some conflicts that won’t go away, however long you struggle with them.

“And that not everybody in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation.

“I’ve certainly regarded it as a real priority to try and keep people in relationship with each other. That is what bishops have to do – what archbishops above all have to do.”

The Archbishop admitted that the row over gays had at times been a “nuisance” as he endeavoured to maintain relationships across the Communion.

“Crisis management is never a favourite activity, I have to admit, but it’s not as if that has overshadowed everything,” he said, when asked if he was relieved to be going.

“It’s certainly been a major nuisance, but in every job that you’re in, there are controversies and conflicts and this one isn’t going to go away in a hurry. So I can’t say that there’s a great sense of ‘free at last’.”

At times, Dr Williams himself was the source of division in the Church. In 2008, he sparked controversy when he suggested that aspects of Sharia law, such as those relating to marital disputes or financial matters, should be incorporated into the British legal system.

The Archbishop admits now that his argument “could have been clearer”, but maintains that it was a question “which needed discussion”.

“I reread quite recently the text of the lecture on Sharia law, and I still stand by the argument of it,” he said.

“I was a bit taken aback by the violence of the reaction [but] I feel that an important point was raised, a point about how the single law of the land works with and legitimates other kinds of jurisdiction of jurisdiction within it, which already happens.


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