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Williams: 'we've held the line'

Williams: 'we've held the line'

By Pat Ashworth
Church Times

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said on Tuesday that, overall, most of his hopes for the ACC meeting had been met.

There had been an "underlining" of the Primates' recommendation to ECUSA and Canada, and what they had done at Dromantine had been reinforced, he said in an interview with the Church Times at the close of the meeting in Nottingham.

He reflected: "I think we've held the line on what the Primates had recommended. My only regret is that we haven't yet focused on the question of the Covenant for the Churches of the Communion, which, it seems to me, is something we have got to get our heads round if we want to find a constructive solution."

It had been a long, hard and hot ten days for the Archbishop, who was present and contributing at all 32 sessions. On the controversial resolution from the Anglican Peace and Justice Network on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Dr Williams firmly reiterated that this was not a call for disinvestment.

"The motion is quite carefully phrased. It asks for 'appropriate action'. When we have considered ethical investment issues, there is quite a range of options, from constructive engagement to raising particular questions at AGMs. That's quite a lot short of disinvestment," he said.

"Anybody in Europe ought to have their blood run cold if they hear terms like 'boycotting Jewish business'. A concern about the way in which the building of the wall, the security fence, has gone; concerns about the continuing crises and stresses at checkpoints are just the things that people see when they go to Israel. The government of Israel still has a lot of work to do to persuade people that this is a necessary consequence of their security responses."

Asked whether there were bridges now to be rebuilt, he responded: "I don't see this at all as an issue between the Church and the Jewish community. There are many members of the Jewish community who understand these issues, and there are people in the Israeli government who understanding these issues. I'd be very sad if I thought this shut up the dialogue."

On the issue of Zimbabwe, the Archbishop emphasised that the Church of England should keep up the pressure on the Government over the question of forcing asylum-seekers to return, and pressing it to use whatever leverage it had with the African Union. "I think effective intervention is bound to come in African terms, rather than in any sort of pseudo-colonial framework," he suggested. "That has been a great weakness in some ways: criticism from outside can so easily be interpreted as colonialist."

The Archbishop would not be drawn on the subject of the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, a matter which is now sub judice ( News, 17 June).

The ACC meetings are distinguished from the other Instruments of Unity (now Instruments of Communion) by the presence and voice of lay people. Some of these Dr Williams commended as "very forceful". "Certainly, listening to a lot of lay people from the developing world, there's a sense that they don't want their agenda to be wholly decided by the Primates. That's not at all because they're soft on the issue of the day, or because they're all closet liberals, but it is the case that many of them want to get their energy focused on other things, so that comes through a bit.

"The curious fact is that the life of the networks in the Anglican Communion seems to carry on quite vigorously, even while tensions at hierarchical level run so deep. That's not a solution to the problem, but there are these two dimensions, if you like."

Dr Williams acknowledged that he had found no new arguments at the meeting: "just new situations, new perspectives from people. Ten days or no, I've been enormously grateful to have been part of this for the whole time, and felt deeply enriched by the contacts."


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