An Archbishop for our times

Modern Church's annual conference will be at High Leigh
By whose authority? An interfaith look at women and religious authority

Modern Church has set out its shopping list for the next Archbishop of Canterbury.  They want:

an archbishop who will
  • articulate and defend the Church's unity in diversity;
  • respond to controversies by seeking consensus without being unduly influenced by the prospect of schism or demands for quick resolutions;
  • consider each proposal for change on its merits, without any presupposition against innovation;
  • see it as his role not to tell the faithful what to believe but to encourage the ongoing processes of enquiry; and
  • be willing to hear the voice of God speaking through the moral and spiritual concerns of ordinary Christians and non-Christians.

Inevitably we look backwards when we want to address the future. This submission asserts a 'classic Anglicanism' - embracing diversity, enabling change, supporting learning and the celebration of new insights, responding positively to the insights of secular society. It seeks an Archbishop who embodies and would promote this vision of which Modern Church is a guardian.

I too would love to see such a person. In fact, when Rowan Williams' name was announced in 2003 I was delighted because I believed we did indeed have such a person. That naivety soon faded.

I guess I now see things in a harder way than Modern Church. Indeed, the term 'Classic Anglicanism' suggests it has already passed away, stuffed and mounted in some display cabinet. It has echoes of 1970s corporatism, a presupposition of agreement if only there were goodwill enough, a suggestion that if we give uncertainty and ambiguity their proper place no-one will want to draw lines in the sand.

In a harder world responding positively to secular society means (or could mean) taking on a more strident tone, more individualistic self-assertion and a more calculating approach to relationships, discarding the notion that the state is good (debilitating for a state church), the commodification of anything and the costing of everything.

Archbishop Tait,
for no particular reason
The next Archbishop should be:
  • a technocrat who understands the changing impact of new communications technology and an historian who will not lose tradition
  • a prophet who will side with the poorest globally and locally
  • a woman who will stand up to bullies and choose her fights carefully
  • a theologian who will talk plain common sense and a media operator who will never say anything to give hostages to fortune 
  • a team player and a figurehead contra mundum
  • a devout hard-liner and a liberal and generous soul
But I'm pretty sure whoever we get will not be up to it. It's a really stupid job. It should be split up into at least 5 separate jobs. (Some earlier thoughts on dividing the role in relation to the Communion.)

So that's what I want, what I really, really want: a different sort of ABC altogether.

1 comment:

  1. It'll be Richard Chartres as he looks most like Archbishop Tait as in your picture.