Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Economist: An archbishop's outburst highlights a broader crisis in his church

[...] Studied closely, the archbishop's speech—and a radio interview he gave the same day—did not read like intentional provocation: it was the sort of intellectual conceit that might have worked well in a theological seminar. But this theology professor failed, it seems, to anticipate the incendiary effect of the very word sharia on the British public, which outside the cosmopolitan ambience of London has serious worries about the march of Islam.

The archbishop's apparent lack of political savvy was a gift to some of his global critics, who already see him as soft-minded on the issue of homosexuality that threatens to wreck this summer's once-in-a-decade gathering of the communion's bishops. “People who saw Rowan Williams as a wise man will have much less respect for him now,” said Edith Humphrey, a theology professor in Bishop Duncan's diocese of Pittsburgh.

Prospects for the Lambeth gathering in July may not be as hopeless as these comments suggest, but the shadows on the archbishop's lawn are lengthening. Conservative Anglicans have announced plans for an alternative summit in Jerusalem a month before the conclave in Britain. Among the luminaries there will be Nigeria's archbishop Peter Akinola—one of at least four African conservatives who seem likely to boycott Lambeth. Read more
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