Friday, 9 January 2009

Review: Rowan's Rule, by Rupert Shortt

On the cover of this biography of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury's hand frames a face with a slight smile, the eyes looking with candour straight at the reader. What should we deduce from such an image? That it signals a book where the man behind the mitre might be exposed to our gaze?

Rupert Shortt's account is certainly revealing, a comprehensive study that attempts to get to grips with both the character and theology of the man who has been the Church of England's leading cleric for the past six years. Shortt, a former pupil of Williams, has had considerable access and, while this is not an authorised biography, there was a certain co-operation between subject and writer. That has enabled Williams's people to distance him from some of the more tawdry revelations about past girlfriends. Although somewhat embarrassing, they hardly merited the Daily Mail's moniker "babe magnet" to describe the Archbishop.

Rowan's Rule, to a Catholic like me, suggests something monastic. Indeed, there are several instances where Williams, despite being married and the leading Anglican primate, does seem monk-like, with his devotion to a structured prayer life, a love of study and simplicity. But both the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion have been extremely unruly during his time at the top. Read more
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