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Canterbury: tributes

21 March 2012

by Ed Thornton



Friendly: the Archbishop of Canterbury chats to the Queen during a reception at the Palace of Westminster, on Tuesday, after the Queen delivered an address in West­minster Hall. Dr Williams said in a speech in the Upper House last week that “we recog­nise all that Her Majesty has done and continues to do in personal­ising our loyalty and recalling us to the need con­stantly to work for that neigh­bour­liness, that direct­ness of relation to each other, that is the lifeblood of a genuinely united society, uniting and knitting together the hearts of this people, as our prayer reminds us daily.TRIBUTES were quick to pour in after the announcement of Dr Williams’s resignation.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that he had received the news “with great sadness”. He said: “Our partnership in the gospel over the past six years has been the most creative period of my minis­try. It has been life-giving to have led missions together, gone on re­treats, and prayed together. . . He is a real brother to me in Christ.”

During a “challenging time” for the C of E, Dr Williams had “strength­ened the bonds of affec­tion. Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavour, he has been much maligned by people who should have known better. For my part he has been God’s apostle for our time.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, described Dr Williams as “the most able Arch­bishop of Canterbury for centuries, and perhaps his true worth will only really be appreci­ated by the Church once he’s gone”.

Dr Morgan said that Dr Williams had “worked tirelessly over the past decade to hold the Anglican Com­mu­nion together, taking very ser­iously the views of those who dif­fer from him. He has tried to encour­age everyone to work together rath­er than pursue their own agen­das, and that is always a difficult task.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, said that he had grown to appreciate Dr Williams’s “kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication . . . his courage, and his friendship. These will be much missed when he steps down from his demanding office in December. I will miss him.”

Diocesan bishops issued statements expressing sadness at the news, and paying tribute to Dr Williams. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, was typical. He said that Dr Williams’s “com­bina­tion of high intelligence and deep holiness together with his disarming humility has been an extraordinary gift to the Church”.

Elizabeth Paver, who chairs the Anglican Consultative Council, said that the “always approachable, always available” Dr Williams had “embod­ied the best of the position of Arch­bishop of Canterbury as it relates to the Anglican Commu­nion”. This had been most in evi­dence, Ms Paver said, when Dr Williams visited the Church of the Province of Central Africa (News, 14 October), particularly in Zimbabwe, where he had “demon­strated that Anglicans suffering persecution in that country were not alone”.

The chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, Canon Simon Kilwick, said that Dr Williams’s “Catholic belief in the essential unity of the Church” had “shone through in his approach to controversies in the Anglican Church”.

Dr Williams’s critics did not pretend to be sad to see him go. The Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, said that Dr Williams was “leaving behind a Communion in tatters: highly polar­ised, factionalised. . . For us, the announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction.”

The Revd Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, a conservative Evangelical group that opposed Dr Williams’s appointment (News, 28 June 2002), expressed appreciation of Dr Williams’s “courtesy in dealing with people of different views”. But the Church now needed “someone who will hold firm to biblical truth in areas such as human sexuality in order to promote the gospel and unite the Church in the face of militant secularism”.

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