June 14, 2011


I received a news item from Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) this morning titled “Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement on South Kordofan, Sudan.” The body of the release was the following:
From Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has released the following statement regarding recent violence in South Kordofan, Sudan:

“Along with the Christian leaders represented in the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and Council of Churches and many more throughout the world, we deplore the mounting level of aggression and bloodshed in South Kordofan State and the indiscriminate violence on the part of government troops against civilians. Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down. UN personnel in the capital, Kadugli, are confined to their compound and are unable to protect civilians; the city has been overrun by the army, and heavy force is being used by government troops to subdue militias in the area, with dire results for local people. Many brutal killings are being reported.

This violence is a major threat to the stability of Sudan just as the new state of South Sudan is coming into being. The humanitarian challenge is already great, and the risk of another Darfur situation, with civilian populations at the mercy of government-supported terror, is a real one.

International awareness of this situation is essential. The UN Security Council, the EU, the Arab League and the African Union need to co-operate in guaranteeing humanitarian access and safety for citizens, and we hope that our own government, which has declared its commitment to a peaceful future for Sudan, will play an important part in this.”
As I read this, I asked myself the question, who is “we” (“we deplore”)? Is the archbishop using the royal we because he is a monarch of the church? Is he speaking for the Anglican Communion? For the Church of England? For Rowan Williams?

Near the end of the statement, I encountered the final instance of “we”: “we hope that our own government … will play an important part in this.” Presumably, “our own government” is that of the UK. Is the archbishop speaking as a subject, as head of the Church of England, or, perhaps, as a member of the government? In any case, he doesn’t seem to be speaking for the Anglican Communion. I don’t think he should, of course, but why is this statement being distributed by ACNS? Probably to enhance Rowan’s stature.

Yes, it must be the royal we.


  1. Are you over analyzing this? My guess would be that "we" is the Anglican Communion. You've got to let this guy up for air or he's going to suffocate!

  2. The use of “our government” indicates either that he is not speaking for the Anglican Communion or that he is being inconsistent in his writing. If he is speaking for the Communion, by what right does he do so? Who elected him?

  3. I assume he is speaking for the CoE.

    I think the problem you have identified is the extreme ambiguity in Dr. Williams' position. One is never sure if he thinks he is speaking for the Church of England, the Communion, his new "Anglican Church," or himself and ++York. He has too many hats and not only is it hard for us to keep track I think he shares the problem.



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