Anyone who gives a damn about the Anglican Communion or the Church of England knows that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has announced that he will retire at the end of 2012 and take up a teaching post. He allows as how he still has some things to do - the Queen's Jubilee in June, the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council and various activities in the Church of England where he both heads the church and a diocese. But to read, hear, and see the media in action one would have thought the ABC had died. Obituaries, or things that sound a lot like that, have been cropping up everywhere. His tenure is summed up, his good and bad points brought forward for critical analysis, and that is that.
Or is it? In the first place we might remember that it is unseemly, not to say un-Anglican (the two often go together) to sum up a person's life prior to their death, or for that matter a person's work prior to the closing of the books. There are several good reasons for this: (i) the good Archbishop may have a surprise or two left to play out, (ii) who is to say that some sort of epiphany or pentecostal experience, or actual focusing of unity might still take place?, (iii) and more, he has eight months left to serve and he deserves our continued prayers as the living ABC, rather than our faint praise as a lame and perhaps dead duck.
And, if the Archbishop is alive and well, and only about to retire, we ought also to continue to listen respectfully and criticise constructively as the occasion requires.
He is not retired but only about to be.
As for the rude and crude slap in the face issued by the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), there is nothing much to say. Words fail me in attempting to respond to the following:
"Since Dr. Rowan Williams did not resign in 2008, over the split Lambeth Conference, one would have expected him to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out of office. The only attempt, the covenant proposal, was doomed to fail from the start, as “two cannot walk together unless they have agreed”.
For us, the announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction."
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh is insulting and lacking in charity, Christian or otherwise. If the ABC has done anything it as been precisely to "work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach." Some of us believe he did so at the risk of his own soul and voice.
It is one thing not to agree with the ABC. Many of us have been in disagreement at one time or another with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Most of us have been amazed and sometimes appalled at the lengths to which he was willing to go to try to keep as many people as he could at the table, including asking at one time or another for some to leave. The Archbishop and Primate of all Nigeria is not only wrong on this one, he is uncharitably wrong.
Meanwhile, two small notes:
(i) Nigeria is not listed formally on the No Anglican Covenant page as having said "No." Still, doesn't it appear that they have? To quote the AB of Nigeria, "the covenant proposal was doomed to fail from the start."
(ii) The AB of Nigeria talks of "whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction." Is he talking of the new Archbishop of Canterbury? If so, why not say "next Archbishop of Canterbury"? No, dear friends, I believe he is talking about a "next leader (not an Archbishop of Canterbury at all) who pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction." Is this a set up for a leader from the Jerusalem Declaration crowd or perhaps from a Primates Meeting where some would find this a prime time to move away from Canterbury at all?