A pensive Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury can be very frustrating.

First of all he’s an academic, and writes and speaks like one. Those who want simple, clear declarative sentences won’t find them in the pronouncements of Rowan Williams.

More frustrating for all engaged in church controversies, he will not come down on one side or the other.

He distinguishes between his own, quite liberal theology, and the position he takes as head of the Anglican Communion. That gets the liberals upset. And of course the conservatives are upset that he had those liberal thoughts in the first place.

But he has made himself clear in what some think may be his most important address to date, to the Global South meeting in Egypt late in October. Rowan Williams is not going to come down on one side or the other. He’s not going to kick anyone out of the Communion.

The archbishop’s point is that the important thing is not who is right. There always have been controversies in the Anglican Communion – as there are in all Churches. In all faiths for that matter. We will continue to have our debates and, quickly or slowly, together move the Church (or not move it) in certain directions.

What is important is whether we stand together (“stand in the one Christ,” is the archbishop’s phrase). We must pray and think and struggle and repent (for there are always sins we need to repent) and love each other in Christ, and never give up on each other.

It’s not easy to do. It’s even harder than trying to understand our extraordinary Archbishop of Canterbury.