My Dear Friends,
Who’d be an archbishop? For the Most Reverend & Right Honourable Rowan Williams, it is difficult to do anything right. He has recently come under attack for caring too much for the unity of the Church!
However, what is sometimes a screamingly obvious truth to those passionately involved in a squabble can be rather less obvious to those observing from the sidelines - ask any parent trying to referee the wrestling of wills taking place between infant siblings. Stepping in to sort out an argument between a pair of enraged and red-faced infants who are both passionately convinced ‘but it is my turn!’ is a fearful thing to do! Each child will no doubt be persuaded of the universal justice of their cause and wholly unbending toward their erstwhile playmate and kin. The objective, just and loving parent, meanwhile, might be quite right in thinking that an argument to the death as to whose turn it is on the trampoline is just disproportionate!
In his Easter sermon, Lord Harries, formerly Bishop of Oxford, said the Church of England can sometimes feel like ‘a bunch of squabbling interest groups . . . one longs for a much greater sense of belonging together.’ I did smile to myself at reading those words. Sometimes as rural dean I can feel like I am being asked to express a formal theological or canonical opinion in matters of similar relative import. The parent in me wants to say to an argumentative vicar and their parishioner ‘If you don’t stop arguing now, no-one is going to play on the trampoline!’
But if parents, rural deans and archbishops can feel like that, one can only imagine God’s perspective. Perhaps that is why, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught us to be engaged constantly in both seeking and offering forgiveness in equal quantity.
Someone with whom I had recently wrestled theologically and politically came and said to me, ‘I want us to be reconciled. I may not think you’re right, but I do want to put our division behind us.’ It was a wonderfully mature, marvellously gracious and deeply Christian act. I can imagine our Father in heaven’s great approval and His assurance we can both have cake for tea! Whilst ever such grace is to be found amongst Christians, there is hope for the Church yet. If such grace could be found in humanity, there would be more hope for the world too.
‘Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgement.' I Corinthians 1: 10
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