This turbulent priest

I’m sad to hear that Rowan Williams is resigning. He’s not been everyone’s cup of tea as Archbishop, but he’s my kind of prelate. Thoughtful, humane, sonorous, and kindly. He could talk about biblical texts as though they had something to say about human experience, and about Dickens or Dostoevsky as though what they say about human experience has deep moral resonance. His contributions to public debates, unlike those of many other religious leaders, have been subtle and ruminative but nonetheless morally resolute. Moreover he has intervened reluctantly on questions of private morality, and unhesitatingly on questions of public morality. He has had far more to say about war, injustice, poverty, and oppression than about sex. Unfortunately, members of his flock have decided that sex is the defining moral issue of our time. So after ten years in a tough job, he’s going to the greener pastures of a Cambridge College. Many will say he’s better off back in his academic box, but I think he’s a great loss to public discourse and to a much wider communion than his own. They’ll say the Anglican communion is more deeply divided now than it was a decade ago, but who do they suppose could unite it? In a time when there seems less room for complexity, less oxygen for nuance and balance, his loss feels like a victory for the one-dimensioned over the many. As the darkness deepens, his going feels like one more light going out.