Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
The 2008 Lambeth Conference will be remembered as the time that the Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop Rowan Williams delivered a series of speeches that gave his most thorough and direct response yet to those who have challenged, not just his leadership, but the fate of the 80-million strong Anglican Communion.
At the opening plenary, the spiritual head of Anglicanism said that the Anglican Communion is “in the middle of one of the most severe challenges” in its history, but said “whatever the popular perception, the options before us are not irreparable schism or forced assimilation.”
In his second address, he made an impassioned plea for Anglican bishops on both sides of the theological divide to “speak from the centre” and try, in the spirit of “patience and charity,” to hear each other’s entrenched positions on the controversial issue of human sexuality, have ” a conversation of equals” and be “more like a church.” He said that Anglicans today “seem to be threatening death to each other, not offering life.”
He urged Anglicans not to be drawn by options being offered by both ends of the theological spectrum, saying “each of them represents something rather less than many – perhaps most – Anglicans over the last century have hoped for in their communion.”
Instead, Archbishop Williams said, “It is my conviction that the option to which we are being led is one whose key words are of council and covenant.”
Saying that Anglicanism is “at a deeply significant turning point,” in its history, Archbishop Williams asked bishops to think and work hard at making this option viable. “The rival bids to give Anglicanism a new shape are too strong, and we need to have a vision that is at least as compelling and as theologically deep as any other in the discussion.”