Monday, November 5, 2012

News from New Zealand - 9

Monday 5 November - I do not do well with farewells. Today I kept humming quietly to myself the Lord’s Prayer, which was sung by the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday. It was sung in Maori, slowly and with deep meaning. I hummed this throughout the day as if protecting myself from what I knew was coming at Evening Prayer tonight. It was the last address by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as President of the Anglican Consultative Council, at his last ACC meeting as Archbishop.

The moment arrived. We were all overcome by a welter of emotions. He spoke from the heart and it was hard. When he offered the blessing, my eyes were too heavy and my heart as well, and my ears could not hear the words.

Archbishop Rowan spoke about authority: about enabling, life-giving authority, and corrective, reactive, authority within the Communion. (You can read more detailed coverage of his address at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2012/11/5/ACNS5233, and follow the link to the audio-podcast that will soon be online.) I just wanted to record the sense of joy and gratitude for having had the privilege of having worked with him as the Archbishop of Canterbury, ever since I became bishop suffragan right through until now; and also to acknowledge the deep and heavy heart of saying good bye to him as Archbishop. I have been so enriched, and so touched, by listening to his reflections, both to the ‘pins in the skin’ that the office has inflicted on him, and equally to his sense of joy for having served; and his deep gratitude for, and acknowledgement of, the support of others and God's grace that has seen him through. He is a wonderful example to all in Christian leadership.

Let me just repeat the words I said in March, when we learnt that Archbishop Rowan would step down at the end of the year:
“My heart is very full at the news that Dr Rowan Williams will stand down at the end of this year. We in the Anglican Communion, and indeed the wider world, have been inordinately privileged to have such an able theologian and deeply spiritual thinker, as Archbishop of Canterbury over the last decade. He has exercised remarkable gospel-shaped leadership during tumultuous times for our Communion, in which his commitment to consensus seeking, rooted in his refusal to take quick and easy solutions that fail to address the more fundamental issues, has shown great courage and deeply profound rootedness in the faith to which we are called. Again and again he has returned us to the central questions of whose we are, and for whom we are to be – in loving, faithful, obedient, service of God, of God’s church, and of God’s world. I look forward to the fresh contribution he will be able to make in coming years to the Christian voice in the public space, as he moves to Cambridge.
“I personally, and we in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, will miss him very much. He has been a great friend to us, and especially to me when I was first appointed Archbishop and learning the ropes. As Southern Africans we say he is ‘Truly Umtu’, someone who lives and embodies the fullness of ubuntu – that it is through others we find our own humanity, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. We wish him, his wife Jane, and children Rhiannon and Pip, great joy and blessing during the rest of their time at Lambeth Palace, and in the new chapter of life that lies ahead. They have the assurance of our fondest love and prayers in the coming months. “

Today that same love, those same prayers, for Rowan and Jane, are echoing in me deeply, and I know I shall continue to carry them in my heart and before God as I return home. Please join my prayers for these beloved servants of God.