Cultural Revolutions

Archbishops of Canterbury

Archbishops of Canterbury, for all their essential powerlessness in worldly terms, are never as inconsequential as might be supposed.  How about those great English accents, for instance?  How elegantly the archbishop of the hour undertakes to speak for and to an Anglican Communion increasingly disunited in theological outlook, joined by habit and custom as much as anything else: not fully Protestant; not popish enough to become Roman (especially in the sex-scandal era); tolerant; tasteful; influential out of proportion to actual numbers.  And how assiduously an archbishop’s words get reported, not least in an almost-faithless England.  It matters—up to a point, at least—who holds the job.

The man who will hold the job for possibly the next 18 years (until age 70) is Rowan Douglas Williams, shaggy, white-bearded archbishop of Wales, scholar, author, left-wing commentator on public affairs.  Williams received the nod from Prime Minister Tony Blair in July.  A tide of speculation instantly engulfed the event.  Might Williams split the communion?  Would he, please, finally split the rotten thing in order that serious Anglicans could get on to serious religion?

There is, naturally, no knowing in matters touching the divine.  It would be silly to project the outcome of a Williams archbishopric, though, Heaven help us, many are projecting it now.  All one knows...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here