I was at the playground with Emilia when the message came through from the Bishop of Stepney that Rowan Williams had resigned as Archbishop of Canterbury. As I read the news, I lost track of Emilia who managed to climb across an obstacle course all by herself!
I must say it was quite a shock, and I was left with a deep sense of sadness, tinged with anxiety for the future. In the heat of battle between all the competing factions within the Anglican Communion, Rowan has continued to hold us together with grace and humility, determination, spiritual depth, and imagination, almost certainly at extraordinary personal cost.
His resignation prompted me to return to his theology so I dipped into Ben Myer’s new book “Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan Williams.” His description of Rowan’s theological method is both beautiful and inspirational:
Theology, in his view, is not a private table for one but a rowdy banquet of those who gather, famished and thirsty, around Christ. The lonely work of reading and writing is not yet theology but only its preparation. Theology happens whenever we are drawn together into the congenial and annoying labour of conversing, listening and disputing – in short, where we are drawn into a collective struggle for truthful speech.” (pxi)
Clearly, Williams doesn’t mind taking a few risks. He doesn’t expect Christian thinking to be safe or easy. Indeed, he once remarked that the best theology is like ‘the noise of someone falling over things in the dark’ – an awkward, inelegant testimony to the God who rearranges the furniture of our lives. (p5)
I think it was Gregory of Nyssa who said that the theologian is to give wings to the soul. No one does that better than the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. Thank you Rowan.