This must be one of the saddest images in the history of the Church. A man who is loved by many, admired for his spirituality and respected for his intellect: 'a scholar, a historian, a theologian, a linguist fluent in ancient and modern Greek, and even Syriac, and a poet and a translator' but also a man apparently held captive by a political movement in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome situation. From an earlier blog entry in March this year: "In 'Rowan's Rule' [page 95] his 'change of heart' over women priests is recorded as: 'I had to change after looking around at my own side, and seeing the company I was keeping.' If only he had kept different company! He may have led us to unity but, with the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that ++Rowan has simply been used by many of those he has supported. Clearly he had the best of intentions but failed to realize that his integrity is not necessarily shared by others, even at the highest levels. He was ignored when he sought an honourable compromise for those who do not support the ordination of women and he has seen his authority rejected on the controversial issue of the Anglican Covenant."
The great mystery is in Abp Rowan's reaction to the vote that was intended to clear the way for women bishops and his subsequent reference to wilful blindness after its failure. He correctly identified the problem but missed the target. Those most guilty of wilful blindness are the bishops who ignore the example of the Good Shepherd and hold their office in the church because of their willingness to marginalise swathes of cradle Anglicans for a political correctness which has allowed secularism to override faith. Are the bishops so blind that they cannot see what their actions are doing to the Church of England? In his valedictory Advent letter to Anglican Primates, Abp Rowan wrote: "Our Communion has endured much suffering and confusion, and still lives with this in many ways; yet we are still privileged to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in different ways within our common life, and so are reminded by God’s grace that it is still Christ who lives secretly at the heart of our fellowship, and renews it day by day."
It should be blindingly obvious to the House of Bishops that the suffering and confusion to which Abp Rowan refers comes as a direct result of liberal bishops implementing their secular values in many parts of the Anglican Communion in defiance of warnings from other parts of the Communion and from other members of the Holy Catholic Church about the consequences for unity. Their slavish obedience to the demands of Women and the Church (WATCH) now has the prospect of leaving many Anglicans without the pastoral care and sacramental assurance they were promised and in so doing, denying them what Abp Rowan claimed in his Advent letter: "yet we are still privileged to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in different ways within our common life". If WATCH are allowed to have their own way, there is to be no common life in the Church of England for the beleaguered minority, only suffering and confusion.
If ever there were a need for a Damascus moment it is now.