Archbishop Rowan Williams had a particularly rough ride as the Archbishop of Canterbury. A gentle, thoughtful scholar with a penchant for poetry, he was hardly the man to wade into battle against the enemies of Christianity. Always tentative and able to see the other side of the question, Williams presided over a church fraught with fratricide. African Anglicans were at the throats of American Anglicans, progressives and conservatives each fighting for their version of the Christian faith.
Williams was the classic liberal Anglican Catholic: ceremonial in style and thoroughly modern in content. An advocate of homosexual rights, he tread carefully and disappointed his friends who wanted him to be more outspoken for their cause.
He always struck me as an essentially good and kind man–but perhaps in the wrong job. His present post seems to suit him admirably. Always the cautious academic and master of Anglican ambiguity, he is right at home in Cambridge.
The Daily Telegraph has an interesting interview with him here. In retirement he has taken the post of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge–where C.S.Lewis had his final posting. Turns out he didn’t much like being Archbishop of Canterbury (who would?) and is a much happier man now he is able to potter around a lovely Cambridge college and tinker with his poems.
I only met him once when my brother in law was made an Anglican bishop. At the party afterward in Lambeth Palace our two older children (little ones at the time) were very kindly ushered up to the Williams’ apartment where Mrs Williams gave them some biscuits and let them watch cartoons.
From the Telegraph:
Rowan Williams is a changed man. He was weary and weighed down towards the end of his time as Archbishop of Canterbury, wounded by the press and exhausted by the effort of trying to hold together a Church tearing itself apart.
Today he is warm, welcoming and even seems to be walking taller at his surprisingly modern home in the grounds of Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he is Master. Is this life easier? “Yes,” he says, laughing. “What do you think?”
There are no acolytes or spin doctors surrounding him here as there were at Lambeth. He is just a priest, alone in a black clerical shirt, smiling through a bushy white beard, eyes glinting under those famous eyebrows as he pours the tea.
“Yes, it is a relief not to be at the end of public scrutiny all the time. It’s great to be in this kind of environment where conversation, exploration and teaching all go on.”