Skip to comments.Church could think again over women [priests], says Williams
Posted on 11/16/2006 3:49:25 PM PST by hiho hiho
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has reopened the debate on women priests by suggesting that the Anglican Church may one day "think again" about the issue.
Speaking a week before his first official audience with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, Dr Williams made clear that he remained a firm supporter of women's ordination and that "practically" he did not see how the Church's position could be reversed.
But in an interview with The Catholic Herald published today, he said he could "just about envisage a situation in which, over a very long period, the Anglican Church thought about it again, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be".
Dr Williams said the heated debate on the issue had "tested" his theological convictions.
He did not think the reform had "transformed or renewed the Church in spectacular ways", though neither had it "corrupted or ruined" it.
advertisementWhile Lambeth Palace played down the significance of the Archbishop's comments, saying he had made quite clear his belief that there could be "no going back" on women's ordination, they will nevertheless dismay campaigners for female equality.
The fact that he appeared to open the door to even the possibility of a reconsideration of female ordination will anger women clergy who believe that their place in the Church should by now be firmly assured.
One senior insider said: "The trouble with Rowan is that he doesn't understand that, as a leader, his comments are going to be seen as lukewarm and hurtful." Traditionalists said that Dr Williams's measured assessment of the reform was in contrast to the enthusiastic claims of its advocates, who had predicted that it would trigger a major revival in the Church.
Dr Williams, a liberal Anglo-Catholic who considered becoming a Roman Catholic in his youth, admitted that the painful divisions that followed the 1993 decision by the General Synod to ordain women had tested his conviction that it was the right thing to do.
He said that his own view rested on the theological conviction that a baptised man and a baptised woman related to Jesus Christ in the same way, so that either could be called to ministry.
"So we did it because we thought it was right, knowing something of the price it would exact but not, I think, knowing just how difficult it would be," he said.
"Had we known how difficult it would be, would it have stopped us? I suspect not. And that sounds a bit blunt, but I think there was sufficient depth of theological conviction in the Church of England to feel that it would somehow be wrong and no real compliment to the Roman Catholic Church if we held back and said, 'Well, you know, we won't hurt your feelings'."
He said that the fact that the Church of England was moving towards consecrating its first woman bishop would not make relations with Rome "any easier", but his conviction that he had done the right thing by backing women's ordination had not been fundamentally shaken.
"It has tested it, it really has, and there have been moments when I have felt that.
"But I think perhaps what one doesn't realise is how very, very normal this has come to feel for the vast majority of Anglicans and it hasn't undermined what the people feel about the ministry of the sacraments. So that putting it back into the bottle isn't an option.
"I don't think it has transformed or renewed the Church of England in spectacular ways. Equally, I don't think it has corrupted or ruined the Church of England in spectacular ways.
"It has somehow got into the bloodstream and I don't give it a second thought these days in terms of worship."
Christina Rees, a leading campaigner for women bishops and a member of the Archbishops' Council, the Church's managing body, said that the Archbishop had an academic's ability to see all sides of an issue.
"His comments may unsettle some people, but they shouldn't," she said. "I am certain that he supports women priests and Bishops. It is his style to answer in an honest way and he doesn't like to presume things. He knows that the Church will have women bishops in a few years and he supports the process."
Fr Geoffrey Kirk, of the Forward in Faith, group, said: "He was one of those who thought, we must do this for the world to believe. But it hasn't revived the Church or given greater credibility."
Damian Thompson, the editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald, said: "Rowan Williams spent years campaigning for women priests, but now all he can say is that they have not spectacularly renewed or corrupted the Church of England.
"These comments will add to speculation that the archbishop is unimpressed by the calibre of many women clergy, which may be why he shows so little enthusiasm for the prospect of women bishops.
"No one seriously imagines the Church of England will stop ordaining women but the fact that he even mentioned the possibility will cause apoplexy."
Lambeth Palace said: "This is a wilful misinterpretation of the archbishop's remarks. His position is set out quite clearly in the exchange; his views are that there can be no going back on this question and that he sees no theological justification for even revisiting it."
Would the Archdruid please find his right mind -- and just shut up until then please...
The Archdruid says whatever he thinks will help him given the next major meeting he has coming up. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth (and while tempted to say more, I refrain.)
Does this mean that gay clergy have a chance at becoming male nuns?
"Church could think again over women."
It's too late, y'all. You're stuck with us. It's sort of like getting on a roller coaster: by the time you're near the top of the long climb, there's nothing you can do about it.
For the record, the Religion Moderator added [priests] to the headline per my request. (Thank you!)
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