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GC2009: Archbishop Rowan Williams Corrects the Economy

GC2009: Archbishop Rowan Williams Corrects the Economy

By Michael Heidt in Anaheim
Special Correspondent

The Pacific Ballroom at the Anaheim Hilton was nearly filled to capacity on Wednesday evening, July 8, for a forum on "Christian Faithfulness in the Global Economic Crisis," led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Flanked by two brilliantly projected Ubuntu logos, the forum was introduced by the Bishop of Olympia. "On this night," he told the Convention goers, "we look outward... at a wider vision... to be bold for the future of our planet."

Then Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori was invited to the microphone, as a leader with "global eyes and global heart." She took the rostrum to rapturous applause and shared her thoughts on the environment, the economy and human interconnectedness.

"We are all interconnected," she announced. "How we live... (and) dispose of garbage... affects us all." For example, Schori informed the room that the amount of protein we eat influences climate change and that, "we're in the midst of a crash course in economic interconnectedness." For her, we all share responsibility for the current financial problems, all have "overlooked greed, invested in it ourselves," and ignored the abundance that God has blessed us with. "God," she said, promises abundance "at wisdom's table" and with that she welcomed the Archbishop, asking him to "share a taste of wisdom's fare."

Introductions over, the Archbishop spoke on the intellectual and spiritual issues that face Christians in the face of the recent economic crisis. Beginning with the Pope's latest Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Dr. Williams prefaced his own reflections with a quotation from Pope Benedict XVI, "Truth needs to be sought, found and experienced within the context of charity." The Archbishop then went on to say that "we've been lying to ourselves," and described the threefold crisis of truthfulness that he believes lies at the heart of current financial worries.

In the first place Dr. Williams stated that there has been a "drastic erosion" in the ordinary values of truthfulness and relationship building. "Our word," he said, "has not been our bond." Secondly, we've lied to ourselves about our place in creation, pretending that our limited world will support limitless growth and that profit is risk free. Thirdly, the Archbishop stated that our nature as essentially communal beings hasn't been truthfully engaged economically and that we've ignored the social impact of profit making. With this critique in mind, our task isn't simply to restore finances to "normal", but to rebuild and reform a system that has proven itself dysfunctional.

As with his negative analysis, the Archbishop's solution was considered in three parts. Instead of "ordinary lying", we need to practice the ordinary virtue of telling the truth to one another, thus building the relationships of trust and transparency that are necessary to economic well being. By the same token, we need to acknowledge the truth of our relationship to the world and the environment, accepting responsibility for the material limits of the world, as "embodied persons" instead of abstract market forces or theories. This led to the third need for truth to be told regarding the "common good" and the nature of this as social. While the leader of the Anglican Communion felt that this is a concept accessible to many "faith traditions", it none the less, has especial resonance for Christians who believe in their common membership in the Body of Christ. "We are made," he said, "so that what is given to us is to be given to others." Again, "Let no one suppose that the ethics of the market is in opposition to traditional theology."

That said, the need to put theory into practice was stressed in five points. We should move away from an economic model based on the generation of money to one of trust. We must realize that "the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment," consider our "financial instruments," and really examine the long term needs of the economy post various stimulus packages.

The Archbishop concluded with "thoughts", in particular stressing the importance of "micro economy" - something we have to revivify - and the importance of churches in assisting the health of local economy. The Primate concluded with words on the economy of salvation. The salvation economy of human beings "growing together in liberty and communion", whatever that means, have the power to speak to the "world economy."

All in all, a pretty concise take on a difficult subject. The forty-minute address was met with applause. This was somewhat muted compared to the standing ovation that met the Archbishop, but then again, perhaps he'd given the assembled masses something to think about. But the show wasn't over.

At the press briefing afterwards, one reporter asked Jefferts Schori if the anti-globalization, eco-friendly principles outlined by Bishop Williams were being put into practice at the local level. She said that they were, thanks to TEC's advocacy of "the work of life" and the parochial embrace of MDGs (U.N. sponsored Millennium Development Goals). All well and good but...

After addressing the Forum, the Archbishop of Canterbury was seen on the patio of Ruth's Chris Steak House with assorted episcopal dignitaries. Practicing a new model of economic justice for the "common good"? You decide. Here are some reviews of the restaurant in question:

w/standard tip we left paying $200-$230...and mind you, we got their "special deal".


One of my favorite places to eat bar none. Filet mignon with extra butter and scalloped potatos with duo chocolate dessert.

The ambiance is amazing here. It could be the stained glass ceiling, the slanted roof design, LED color changing bar, or the impeccable service I got that keeps me coming back to the fine Ruth Chris business.

If you have $150-200+ to blow on your significant other and she isn't a veg-head, you will definitely impress her here.

Always ask for extra butter. MMMMMMMMMMMM

(See http://www.yelp.com/biz/ruths-chris-steak-house-anaheim for more)

Now, let's multiply that $150 bill by around 800% and you should be in the range of the archiepiscopal party. But you know what it's like, the benefit of one benefits all. Or to put it another way, Ubuntu. Well done, Rowan, for showing us the way.


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