As I’ve been reading Benjamin Myer’s Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan Williams this week, I’ve started to wonder whether the Archbishop’s strategy of Hegelian struggle between thesis and antithesis, much bemoaned by conservatives and liberals alike, may actually have succeeded over the past decade. Let me explain.
The core of Williams’ approach over his tenure in Canterbury has been to attempt to keep as many people at the table for as long as possible, in order that in the dialogue orthodoxy may emerge and heresy may be discerned. This is the heart of William’s understanding of orthodoxy – that it is determined in community and that therefore the maintenance of community is vital for this exercise. That has driven the dialogues and meetings, the invites and the refusals to un-invite (bar the refusal to issue an invite to Lambeth 2008 to Gene Robinson), even when ECUSA blatantly disobeyed the things that “community” had asked of them. It has driven the attempt to pass the Covenant across the Communion.
So why has this been a triumph? Well, quite simply this – it has become very apparent to the vast majority of Provinces what orthodoxy is. We have had years of deceit and double-talk from ECUSA and others. From the moment Frank Griswold signed a statement that he wouldn’t consecrate as Bishop a man in a sexual relationship outside of marriage and then did exactly that, through the gross violations of Canon Law in the USA deposing Bishops and Clergy with little ground, to the celebration of the consecration as Bishop of a woman in a sexual relationship outside of marriage and the introduction of liturgies to bless same-sex relationships, the antithesis to orthodoxy has been blatantly apparent for all to see. The fact that Rowan, instead of acting against it immediately instead allowed heresy to sit alongside orthodoxy in the Primates Meetings and the Lambeth Conference, has simply made the dialogue between truth and error all the more obvious.
What we now see is the triumph of the Hegelian dialogue that Rowan instituted. Orthodoxy has been defined in the community of the Anglican Communion and it has become so very apparent in comparison to the heresy that opposes it. Province after Province that a decade ago signed onto the Windsor Process and made one last effort to keep ECUSA on board has now stopped bothering having anything to do with them. The GAFCON organisation, like it or not, is organising conference after conference and shaping structures to support mission and discipleship through the entire world.
When Rowan Williams ascended the throne of Augustine, the Anglican Communion was entering a phase of discernment as to the future. Which direction would it take? How would the tensions be handled? Was there even a future for the Communion? And the most important question – how would we know what is true, what is orthodoxy? When Rowan Williams’ successor ascends the throne of Augustine, a huge number of those questions will have been answered. Thanks to Rowan’s Hegelian project to keep us talking for as long as possible, we have had years to see the downright duplicity and apostasy of huge portions of the Anglican Communion in the Americas. If Rowan hadn’t kept inviting the heretics to the party, we wouldn’t have had months and years of blatant deceit, untruth and the refusal of accountability to evidence in comparison to the path orthodoxy has taken.
Truly, there has been a major triumph of Rowan’s Hegelian Project.