In a frank interview with the Telegraph newspaper, Archbishop Rowan Williams, primate of all England, conceded he’s made his share of mistakes during his decade as spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans.
For starters, the Archbishop said he mistakenly tried to talk to everyone. “You’re bound to sound odd or incomprehensible to somebody,” he told the Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan. “I don’t think I cracked it.”
Another misstep, he admitted, was his suggestion that Islamic Sharia law would one day be honoured by the British courts-especially in the arbitration of family disputes, an area in which Muslim women are traditionally seen as being at a fundamental disadvantage. “I failed to find the right words,” he said. “I succeeded in confusing people. I’ve made mistakes. That’s probably one of them,” he said.
On the Anglican Communion’s divisive split between progressives and traditionalists on the ordination of gay and women bishops, the Archbishop conceded, “I know that I’ve, at various points, disappointed liberals and conservatives.”
In 2003, the U.S. Episcopal church elected Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay, partnered bishop in a major Christian denomination. “Thinking back over things, I don’t think I’ve got right over the last 10 years. I think it might have helped a lot if I’d gone sooner to the United States when things began to get difficult about the ordination of gay bishops, and engaged more directly with the American House of Bishops,” Williams said.
Same-sex marriage has also been divisive. The U.S. Episcopal church is open to including homosexual couples in the definition of Christian marriage-something that Williams and the Church of England have opposed.
Interestingly, Williams noted that as the demands of the Anglican Communion increase, the Church of England is considering creating a position for someone who would work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury and take some of the global responsibilities of the Anglican Communion off his shoulders.
“I suspect it will be necessary, in the next 10 to 15 years, to think about how that load is spread; to think whether in addition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, there needs to be some more presidential figure who can travel more readily,” the Archbishop said.