Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Article excerpt

Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury. By Rupert Shortt. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008, Pp. xi, 465. $30.00.)

Few authors are more qualified to write the biography of Rowan Williams, the current archbishop of Canterbury, than Rupert Shortt. Shortt possesses a unique vantage point, having once been Williams's student as well as now serving as religion editor of the (London) Times Literary Supplement. His research is through, his conclusions balanced. Thorough in its coverage of ecclesiastical controversies, the book serves as an excellent "road map" through such matters as the Eames Commission, the Windsor Report, the Global Anglican Future Conference, Lambeth 2008, and various movements within the American Episcopal Church.

Shortt shows that intellectually few individuals are more qualified than Williams to be archbishop. As a theologian, Williams is "the most distinguished occupant of Augustine's chair since St. Anselm" (3). The distinguished cleric has written over thirty books, among them a work of poetry. Master of eight languages, Williams learned Russian just to master Dostoevsky. In debating Williams, British biologist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (2006) , discovered he met his intellectual match.

The book is particularly effective in capturing the Wales of Williams's youth. The son of an engineer and a town clerk, the future prelate was raised a Presbyterian though as a teenager he became so enamored with a local Anglican church that he was even able to entice his parents to join. Bright and precocious, he experienced a meteoric academic career, receiving the D.Phil, from Oxford at age twenty-five. By age thirty-six he was Oxford's Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, thereby holding one of the world's most prestigious theological posts. Relatively early in life he became attracted to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy; at one point he could have been on the threshold of becoming a monk. The desire to marry and a refusal to accept papal infallibility kept him from proceeding further along these lines. …

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