Sole purpose

Like the pilgrims of old, we’re heading for Canterbury.  We have the tent with us in case we have a Sentamu moment which calls for an act of witness – or if the Anglican Communion’s failure to uphold heterosexual marriage by putting us all in single rooms just becomes too much.

Meanwhile, we’ve all received – or I have anyway – an attitude survey purporting to be on behalf of the Times.  I spent some time looking at it and pondering whether it was ‘for real’ or not.  I shan’t be completing it.  I was reminded of Peter Ustinov’s response when asked on entry to the USA, ‘Do you intend to subvert the Constitution of the United States of America?’  To which he claimed to have replied, ‘Sole Purpose of Visit’.  The questions include, ‘Has the Church done enough to help the people of Zimbabwe?’ and ‘Are liberals taking control of the Church of England?’

I really see very little point in exercises which seem to want to ‘line up’ participants on either side of a series of complex and interwoven issues.  I’ve been appreciating some of the articles by George Pitcher of the Daily Telegraph – particularly this one which describes Archbishop Rowan Williams’ approach to the leadership challenges which face him.  For me it comes down to this.  You can line people up on either side of various issues.  But what really matters is the spirituality of the task which faces us.  That task is not primarily to hold the Anglican Communion together.  Rather it is to deal with people and issues – to work out how and to what extent we can with integrity and faithfulness deal with diversity.  And through it all runs what I think is one of the great challenges of any leadership in the church – that of holding deep personal conviction while enabling the whole church to live, move and find unity in Christ.


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  2. Probably missed important bits of your train of thought while away, but I’ve increasingly come to the Gertrude Stein philosophy, “There ain’t no answer. There never was an answer. There ain’t ever going to be an answer. That’s the answer.”

    As soon as Anglicans seek definitive answers to questions it creates division and more questions; Lambeth needs to be about doing what can be done and leaving what can’t be done.

    Of course, Ms Stein wouldn’t have been welcome anyway.

  3. Yes – the word liberal is very slippery indeed. Kelvin commented a while ago and said – or words to this effect – that liberal did not get near to describing his position. I believe that to say, ‘.. a liberal church’ is certainly not an inclusive statement. The question presumably is whether liberal defines a position at one end of a spectrum or whether it suggests an openness and acceptance of a wide range of views.

  4. a tent is cheating. One of the things I’ve been looking forward to from Lambeth is hearing the stories of bishops sneaking into their spouses bedroom at night.

    Do you all have little name plates on the door, or are you risking everyone’s ability to remember room numbers?

  5. “‘Are liberals”…

    You’re right; that question goes wrong within 2 words.

    with integrity and faithfulness deal with diversity

    I’ve wondered about that this past week as well. For me, diversity is the key Anglican strength – it’s not just that the SEC is “liberal” but that my local church environment encourages learning and discussion across the spectrum of beliefs; maybe what’s needed on a global scale is gaviscon (hopefully metaphorically only) to bring *calm* rather than all this loud seeking for “right & wrong” in black&white.

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