Rowan Williams’ belief in the priority of personal relationships and explosive, puzzling resurrection experiences

What did we learn from the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury on ‘Start the Week’ yesterday? We learnt that the BBC blew up his comments about the Catholic Church in Ireland out of all proportion. What he actually said didn’t sound anywhere near as dramatic or critical as the news stories put out on Saturday.

I learnt that Rowan still expresses his ideas about faith and the Christian life in ways that are recognizable to me from his teaching and preaching thirty years ago at Westcott House.

Commenting about the problems the church has as a human institution I heard the Archbishop saying that the Anglican Covenant is dealing with the problems of the Communion at a structural, institutional level and it’s a short term solution to a long term problem which is in truth about personal relationships, not systemic problems. Doing work at this level as Archbishop is deeply frustrating and seldom feels as if it’s got much to do with the core of things, he said. There is a core, I heard him say, he is being distracted by arguments about things which are not that important to the essence of Christianity from focussing on what is of the essence.

The New Testament is witness to a central event, he said, the words of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, and for Rowan also, the resurrection of Jesus, which caused such an explosion of ideas and puzzles that the language that exists can’t cope and you have a very complicated period during which the language is settling down in new ways and you then begin to see the emergence of bureaucracy, an institutional structure to hold it all. But no-one came along and said this is a really good idea, by which I take Rowan to be saying that it isn’t a good idea, just inevitable.

Lectionary readings for Easter Week provide a startling example of how the explosive experience became tamed and modified by those who in the aftermath of the resurrection picked up and immediately and dramatically modified the experience.

John’s tells us that Mary Magdalene was the first visitor the tomb, the first to tell others about the empty tomb, the first to meet the risen Christ. Luke tells us that Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James an the women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee were the first to find the stone rolled away, to hear news of the resurrection and report it to the eleven and the others. Later, Jesus appeared to men, to Simon, the two on the road to Emmaus and those assembled in Jerusalem.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tell how he handed on the tradition he had received: that Christ was raised to life on the third day and appeared to Cephas and afterwards to the twelve and then to over five hundred brothers at once and then to James and afterwards to all the apostles. What happened to the women, Paul – to Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the other Mary, the women from Galilee?

How easily the women were written out of the story, how quickly the early church made them invisible. The church continues to make women in the Gospels and the New Testament narratives invisible. How rarely, if ever, have I heard a sermon about women, the key witnesses to the resurrection and bringers of good news to the community.

Those Christians who direct us to the Bible as the sole authority and witness of the events of Jesus’ life and teaching direct us to the institution’s tamed narrative and away from the explosive ideas and puzzles referred to by Rowan. The transformed place of women in the inauguration of the Christian community is tamed as is the transformed place of all in the Kingdom of God. I don’t trust conservatives to be faithful guides to the true Gospel.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and those in Changing Attitude working for our full inclusion are working for an explosive, untamed Christianity, to use the Archbishop’s own words.

The storm that raged on Saturday around his reported remarks about abuse and the Catholic church arose from the institution reacting and defending the system of theology and practice which, working in secrecy, creates the culture in which the abuse of children can take place. It then, outrageously, defends itself by turning the tables and blaming others for abusing the Pope – which is exactly the same strategy used by reactionary conservatives against LGBT Anglicans.

Colin Coward

Comments

  1. Diego says

    "How rarely, if ever, have I heard a sermon about women" Well, how rarely, if ever, have I heard a sermon about men?
    I do agree that the most stories of the Bible are told from the point of view of a man; theology is monstly men's business too…
    However, in the case of the resurrection narrative, I would seriously doubt that the Church changed the sotry to suit social customs. This does not reflect the historical notions we have about the texts.
    Futhermore, I believe that the Church has dramatically lost her confidence in engaging both man and women for what they are. Today both genders are not acknowledged in sermons, activities etc… for what they are.

  2. Sapphire says

    One of the strengths of Bishop Rowan's theology and teaching is the fact that he has not lost his sense of wonder and puzzlement at the Christ event.
    So much of the Church (in all its denominational forms) has reduced the unexplained and inexplicable to a set of formulae. Faith, once defined as a dynamic and even dangerous relationship with the Divine, has become merely mental assent to a set of propositions.
    The Rabbis of Jesus' day, and by extension the Apostles, would have found our treatment of the texts incomprehensible, even blasphemous. The test of divine inspiration was that a text should go on yielding new means to each successive age. That was what they understood as the timelessness of Scripture.
    In much of Bishop Rowan's teaching I hear echoes of those Rabbis. I can only hope that he can retain his sense of wonder and puzzlement under the terrible pressure of having to lead not just the Church as worshipping and seeking community but the dead weight of bureaucracy that goes with it.
    Language will never contain the infinite wonder that is God. We'd be foolish to try for that way lies the tyranny of fundamentalism. Language can reflect points of light like a glitter ball in the sun and those points can be bright enough to illumine huge ideas but they can no more contain the ideas than the glitter ball can be the sun.

  3. Anonymous says

    Prevention is key. The pope, whatever his faults, made the bold move — keep gays out of leadership. That will take care of four out of five cases of abuse.

  4. Anonymous says

    Dr. Stephen Rubin of Whitman College conducted a ten-state study of sex abuse cases involving school teachers. He studied 199 cases. Of those, 122 male teachers had molested girls, while 14 female teachers had molested boys. He also discovered that 59 homosexual male teachers had molested boys and four female homosexual teachers had molested girls. In other words, 32 percent of those child molestation cases involved homosexuals. Nearly a third of these cases come from only 1-2% of the population.

    Dr. Judith Reisman, in her book, Kinsey, Crimes & Consequences, describes the research done by Dr. Gene Abel. This researcher compared the molestation rates of self-confessed homosexual and heterosexual child molesters. In a sample of 153 homosexual molesters, they confessed to a total of 22,981 molestations. This is equivalent to 150 children per molester. Self-admitted heterosexual molesters admitted to 4,435 molestations. This comes to 19.8 victims per molester. Dr. Abel concluded that homosexuals “sexually molest young boys at an incidence that is occurring from five times greater than the molestation of girls.”

    This high rate of molestations by homosexuals is consistent with other studies conducted during the past several decades. Here are just a few studies that show homosexuals molesting children at epidemic rates:

    The Los Angeles Times conducted a survey in 1985 of 2,628 adults across the U.S. Of those, 27% of the women and 16% of the men had been sexually molested. Seven percent of the girls and 93% of the men had been molested by adults of the same sex. This means that 40% of child molestations were by homosexuals. (Los Angeles Times, August 25-6, 1985)

    In 1984, a Vermont survey of 161 adolescents who were sex offenders found that 35 of them were homosexuals (22%). (Wasserman, J., “Adolescent Sex Offenders—Vermont, 1984” Journal American Medical Association, 1986; 255:181-2)

    In 1991, of the 100 child molesters at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons, a third were heterosexual, a third were bisexual, and a third were homosexual. (Dr. Raymond Knight, “Differential Prevalence of Personality Disorders in Rapists and Child Molesters,” Eastern Psychological Association Conference, New York, April 12, 1991)

    Drs. Freund and Heasman of the Clark Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto reviewed two studies on child molesters and calculated that 34% and 32% of the sex offenders were homosexual. In cases these doctors had handled, 36% of the molesters were homosexuals. (Freund, K. “Pedophilia and Heterosexuality vs. Homosexuality,” Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 1984; 10:193-200)

    From these studies and many more, it is evident that homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts. While they comprise only 1-2% of the population, they are responsible for upwards of a third or more of all sexual molestations of children.

  5. Anonymous says

    Dr. Stephen Rubin of Whitman College conducted a ten-state study of sex abuse cases involving school teachers. He studied 199 cases. Of those, 122 male teachers had molested girls, while 14 female teachers had molested boys. He also discovered that 59 homosexual male teachers had molested boys and four female homosexual teachers had molested girls. In other words, 32 percent of those child molestation cases involved homosexuals. Nearly a third of these cases come from only 1-2% of the population.

    Dr. Judith Reisman, in her book, Kinsey, Crimes & Consequences, describes the research done by Dr. Gene Abel. This researcher compared the molestation rates of self-confessed homosexual and heterosexual child molesters. In a sample of 153 homosexual molesters, they confessed to a total of 22,981 molestations. This is equivalent to 150 children per molester. Self-admitted heterosexual molesters admitted to 4,435 molestations. This comes to 19.8 victims per molester. Dr. Abel concluded that homosexuals “sexually molest young boys at an incidence that is occurring from five times greater than the molestation of girls.”

    This high rate of molestations by homosexuals is consistent with other studies conducted during the past several decades. Here are just a few studies that show homosexuals molesting children at epidemic rates:

    The Los Angeles Times conducted a survey in 1985 of 2,628 adults across the U.S. Of those, 27% of the women and 16% of the men had been sexually molested. Seven percent of the girls and 93% of the men had been molested by adults of the same sex. This means that 40% of child molestations were by homosexuals. (Los Angeles Times, August 25-6, 1985)

    In 1984, a Vermont survey of 161 adolescents who were sex offenders found that 35 of them were homosexuals (22%). (Wasserman, J., “Adolescent Sex Offenders—Vermont, 1984” Journal American Medical Association, 1986; 255:181-2)

    In 1991, of the 100 child molesters at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons, a third were heterosexual, a third were bisexual, and a third were homosexual. (Dr. Raymond Knight, “Differential Prevalence of Personality Disorders in Rapists and Child Molesters,” Eastern Psychological Association Conference, New York, April 12, 1991)

    Drs. Freund and Heasman of the Clark Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto reviewed two studies on child molesters and calculated that 34% and 32% of the sex offenders were homosexual. In cases these doctors had handled, 36% of the molesters were homosexuals. (Freund, K. “Pedophilia and Heterosexuality vs. Homosexuality,” Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 1984; 10:193-200)

    From these studies and many more, it is evident that homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts. While they comprise only 1-2% of the population, they are responsible for upwards of a third or more of all sexual molestations of children.

  6. Brad Evans says

    And the conservatives don't trust you. So now you have total gridlock over something that can't be proved-which will only cause further polarization and even more marginalization and irrelevance, especially among those under 25 years old, already the least likely group to attend church. About 3% of the US population under 25 belongs to ANY mainline Protestant church; your median age is about 57 and rising.
    For the past few years the Southern Baptists have been reporting fewer people joining and more people leaving.
    Both you and the fundies have diminishing futures ahead of you.

  7. Anonymous says

    A former homosexual entitled his story, “Thank You For Offending Me”. What a great title! He speaks of friends and family members who loved him enough to confront him and tell him the truth. He says this:

    “Let me just say a hearty ‘THANK YOU’ to my wife, and my parents and family, and my friends, who cared enough about me to offend me! I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider the ramifications in my life had the people in my world bought into the lie that to love me was to affirm my homosexuality. When I left my wife to pursue homosexuality, she boldly told me that she knew God could work in me and in our marriage and that she would not pursue divorce. She protected her interests but always professed her love for me and her desire to work through this together.

    “My parents (and other family members) told me that what I was doing was wrong. They found Exodus, got materials, and tried to get me to talk to a counselor. They also called frequently to check on me, sent me money when I needed it, came to see me on my birthday, and flew me home for holidays. My friends drove hours to talk to me about what I was doing, and told me what they believed. They flew from other towns to take me to dinner and tried to convince me to get help and to turn from what I was doing. They also sent me cards and letters full of love and affirmation of our friendship.

    “And each of them offended me. Each of them made me angry. I viewed them as bigoted, and unenlightened, and ignorant, and prejudiced, and hateful. If they truly loved me, I told them, they would accept my homosexuality and affirm me in the lifestyle I was living. I ignored their calls and I viewed them with skepticism. I did my best to sever my relationships with those who were offending me. But they would not let me go. They did not coddle me, but they refused to give up on me.”

  8. David |Dah • veed| says

    Well, I see that I was correct, here is the Anal Troll filling the very next post with his same "research" and "testimony" that he posted all the time at the Mad Priest's blog.

    It will not stop Colin until you take it under control. We have seen his work, and heard his stuff all too many times. It will be relentless.

Join the discussion