May 9, 2016

No Anglican Tyrant Redux

No Anglican Tyrant (Rowan Williams)
Five and a half years ago, I accused Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams of being a tyrant (“a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly”) for his abuse of power. To emphasize my dismay over his behavior, I created a graphic based on my earlier No Anglican Covenant badge. That graphic appears at the left, and the blog post in which I introduced it, “No Anglican Tyrant,” can be found here.

I make no apologies for having labeled the former Archbishop of Canterbury a tyrant. He wanted to preserve—or at least seem to preserve—the Anglican Communion and was willing to push limits to advance that goal. One may quibble over how Williams used his thumb on the Anglican balance—he angered both conservatives and liberals at one time or another—but his advocacy on behalf of the Anglican Covenant belied any claim to evenhandedness.

Alas, Williams’ successor is even more prone to abusing his position, which, traditionally, has been only ceremonial. The evangelical Justin Welby has clearly tilted toward the hard-core reactionaries of the Communion and their American allies. He denied that the January gathering of primates was an official Primates’ Meeting to satisfy some of the Africans. He then treated it as though it was. He invited the head of the Anglican Church in North America, which had hitherto been unthinkable for a Primates’ Meeting. He misrepresented how the Anglican Consultative Council dealt with the results of the irregular meeting of the primates.

It was never intended that the Archbishop of Canterbury should wield the power assumed by Justin Welby, but his position as Archbishop of Canterbury and convenor of the Primates’ Meeting, Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, and Standing Committee is a clear invitation to the abuse of power.

The Anglican Communion is broken, and fixing it will involve reining in the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Ideally, most of the Anglican Communion bureaucracy should be eliminated, and the primary worldwide Anglican gathering should be an Anglican Congress representing all Christian orders and having no legislative power whatsoever.

Update, 6/9/2016. Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, reported today that the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has been threatened by Justin Welby with being “removed by the Archbishop from leading the World Anglican-Reformed Dialogue—an ecumenical series of international meetings” if the Scottish Episcopal Church amends its marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage.This is yet another  justification for my graphic above.


  1. I thought the ACC meeting which he chaired went very well, did not agree with the Primates. The ACC has the power, not the primates, to sanction, but it did not. Seems to me the ABC is doing a good job in holding things together. Don't understand where your anger comes from Lionel - I sense that our PB and the ABC have worked well together.

    1. Justin has claimed that the ACC completely adopted the primates’ statement. Some retiring ACC members objected, but Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon has supported Justin’s take. (See “Anglican chief counters accusations of ‘Lusaka six’.”)


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