He Knew from the Start the Job Would Be Tough. but Not This Tough
Vallely, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
Just before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams stood in his kitchen in Wales, paused halfway through making a cheese sandwich, and said, in a moment of sudden self-awareness: "People are going to be very disappointed in me." Of course they won't, I reassured him. "They will. It's inevitable," he insisted.
What he foresaw was the heavy burden of conflicting expectations which have characterised his decade at Canterbury. Those who cheered his appointment saw a man of orthodox faith but liberal instincts with the skill to bring Christianity alive to believers and unbelievers alike. What they did not predict was that this formidably deep thinker had weighed the responsibilities of his new office and concluded - at a time when disputes over homosexuality became totems of a conservative/liberal battle for the soul of Anglicanism - that the overarching duty of the Archbishop of Canterbury was keeping its factions in communion with one another.
That was why he said in resigning yesterday: "I think the Church of England is a great treasure. I wish my successor well in the stewardship of it."
Stewardship - looking after what has been entrusted and passing it on to the next generation - was the job's top priority, felt the man who was, significantly, the first Archbishop of Canterbury since the English Reformation to be appointed from outside the Church of England. "I certainly regard it as a real priority," he said yesterday, "to try to keep people in relationship with each other." Many liberals were disappointed. Some even felt betrayed. Yet none of his conciliations could ever be enough to appease hardline conservatives and evangelicals who proved uncompromising, zealous and even vicious in their attitudes towards him.
For most, however, Rowan Williams's personal holiness, massive intellect, pastoral warmth and twinkly charm have been a self- evident good. His contributions to the national and international debate have been brave and insightful. …