As I've indicated in previous posts, Rowan Williams is, in my opinion, one of the finest intellects in Britain. Whatever one's perception of his faith commitments, his erudition is beyond question. I've met him and heard him speak on a number of occasions and I have always been impressed by his patient, nuanced approach. I've also had the privilege of reviewing his poetry for PN Review; it is hard to doubt his substance as a poet, even though his work often gives the impression of 'occasional' work rather than the product of a sustained vision. This is hardly suprising if one places his output in the context of his commitments as a theologian and as Archbishop of Canterbury. It is, in fact, a miracle that he gets to write anything at all.
His comments upon the Coalition's approach to welfare, health and social reform are very much in keeping with his politics. His commitment to social justice is well-established and one would expect nothing less from someone who represents the Christian Left and who takes his role as Archbishop seriously. Whilst we may not be in the situation we found ourselves in in the 1980s - where some felt that the C of E was effectively the real opposition to the Tory Party - it is clearly crucial that the Church is serious in its questioning of the Big Society.
However, inevitably, for someone like me - a feminist and a lesbian priest - there remains a question why the Archbishop has not been bolder and more vocal in support of justice within the Church and of decision making processes within Anglican Provinces. I do not understand why he has not supported the Anglican principle that national churches make decisions about pastoral decisions without undue pressure from outside provinces. ECUSA and the Church in Canada have made locally-appropriate decisions to affirm gay clergy; these are decisions/policies which were voted for. And yet Rowan has been disinclined to support them.
Equally, there are very real concerns about the need for justice for LGBT people within the Church of England; Rowan - certainly in his pre-Cantuar days - was extraordinarily and publicly affirming. This support has, at best, gone underground.
Justice really matters - for the poor, for the excluded and the silenced. As does mercy. Rowan is absolutely right to challenge creeping notions of the 'deserving' vs the 'undeserving' poor within our social discourse. Generosity to the vulnerable and excluded - as a kind of mercy and grace - matters. As does commitment to standing in solidarity with them.
I trust and pray that Rowan will demonstrate his solidarity to all who are excluded - both within and without the church - as he ministers to the nation in the years to come.