If you think the pope’s got problems, consider the Archbishop of Canterbury. As pictured by Jane Kramer in the current New Yorker, Rowan Williams is a very smart, eirenic soul with a job that only a Machiavelli would have a chance of carrying off.
As the worldwide Anglican Communion continues its civil war over homosexuality, the Church of England finds itself in no better shape. Possessed since the age of Trollope of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings, it now lacks enough of a faithful body in the center to keep the creature intact. And, to torture the metaphor further, the Anglo-Catholics are threatening to flap off to Rome should the church go ahead and sanction women bishops, leaving the evangelicals–aka happy clappies–as the only source of motion. (If it weren’t for the current Catholic crisis, the process would probably be a lot further along.)
“We mean to hold our own,” Churchill told the House of Commons after British troops turned back Rommel at the battle of El Alamein. “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.” In due course, of course, that’s just what Churchill presided over. Even if Rowan Williams manages to eke out a victory, any victory, it’s increasingly evident that he’s become the ABC in order to preside over the liquidation of the Anglican Communion–and perhaps the C of E itself.