The decision to ban Gene Robinson and the breakaway bishops of what is now the Anglican Church in North America from the 2008 Lambeth Conference and the Jeffrey John affair were among the toughest decisions he had to make as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams told Vatican Radio.
In an interview broadcast on 11 Oct 2012 while on a visit to Rome to address the Synod on the New Evangelisation, Dr. Williams spoke of the tensions facing the General Synod over the consecration of women bishops and the wider disputes in the Anglican world.
Asked about the impact of women bishops on ecumenical relations with Rome and within the Church of England, the archbishop conceded there will not be a “solution acceptable to everybody in the Church of England. That would be a real miracle of the last days, I think. But what the bishops have been working at, with a good deal of blood, sweat and tears in the last few months, is trying to find that point of balance which is just generous enough to the minority, and just clear enough about the principle, not to alienate more than we’re bound to.”
He noted that at their last meeting the bishops were “almost unanimous” in their recommendation to the synod. A “great deal of work and prayer’s gone into this; I’m certainly hopeful still that all that work won’t be wasted, all that prayer won’t be wasted; that we’ll find something which allows us to go forward honouring everybody within our fellowship.”
“We’ll see,” he said.
In response to a question about the challenges he faced as archbishop, Dr. Williams said that “with almost every significant decision in the Church of England and in the Communion, you are going to alienate certain people; you are going to lose friends, literally lose friends.”
“There are things that have to be done which may be right or inevitable, but don’t feel particularly good at the time. It’s watching the cost to others of decisions that have to be made.”
He added that “we were discussing just this week the Lambeth Conference of 2008, and the decisions made not to issue invitations to certain bishops whose consecration had been against the direct counsel of the wider communion. That felt like both an inevitable thing, to honour commitments we had declared together, and also a very, very hard and un-kingdom-like thing to be doing. It’s those things that are the tough memories.”
The future for the Communion was unclear, he said, and he doubted that “what lies ahead will be conflict free or straightforward,” but he had no regrets about stepping down as “I do look forward to the chance of doing a little bit more joined-up thinking and writing, and seeing what service to the Church I can give in this new environment.”