World News and Trends: New Archbishop will begin his reign amid controversy

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New Archbishop will begin his reign amid controversy

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When he is enthroned (probably early next year) as the 104th archbishop, it will be at a time when secularism threatens the spirituality of Britain as never before. Public interest in mainstream Christianity has fallen to an all-time low.

Although Dr. Williams (currently archbishop of Wales) is said to "read Scripture seriously" and to be orthodox in his basic beliefs, some of his public statements seem to run contrary to Scripture. Fellow Church of England clergyman William Taylor, rector of St. Helens Bishopgate in London, takes public issue with him. He said of the newly appointed archbishop: "Some of his views in the area of gender and sexuality are in conflict with the Bible. He has labelled those who disagree with him as adopting an 'abstract fundamentalist' use of scripture and of applying 'narrow and crude' criteria ... My hope is he will make a clear statement to the effect that his previous statements were ill-advised."

According to the same newspaper article, Mr. Taylor's congregation "represents a strain of evangelical belief that has been openly critical of Dr. Williams's support for the gay clergy."

Christians around the world may find some of Dr. Williams' previous public declarations disturbing. Consider his lecture principally about homosexuality titled "The Body's Grace" (1989):

"The worst thing we can do with the notion of sexual fidelity ... is to 'legalise' it in such a way that it stands quite apart from the ventures and dangers of growth and is simply a public bond, enforceable by religious sanctions ... An absolute declaration that every sexual partnership must conform to the pattern of commitment or else have the nature of sin and nothing else is unreal and silly ... If we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be" (quoted in The Guardian).

The new archbishop faces several challenges within the Church of England itself. Two publicly acknowledged, practicing homosexual clergymen say they want to see a significant increase in the numbers of clergymen with similar beliefs and practices. But those in the conservative Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church makes statements such as "We may have to walk" when they hear serious talk of the possible proliferation of gay clergy and women priests. Also, the Church of England has almost lost £1 billion on ill-advised stock-market investments and may face a radical financial restructuring when Dr. Williams assumes office.

The words of Times columnist William Rees-Mogg ring in English ears: "Will this be the man to bring us to our knees?" (Sources: The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Guardian [all London].)