The world will not have failed to note that ++Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, is to release the poisoned chalice and do something else altogether more pleasant. For many of my own theological and ecclesiological persuasion this news is received with much sadness.
++Rowan, in the many little gobbets of opinion that now span the globe is already being regarded as woolly, detached and other-worldly. Put another way, he hasn't played to the press with snappy one-liners, has always remained a man of holiness and not a headline gatherer. Yes, he looks like a druid, and yes, his bonce is capped off with a barnet from another age, but so what?! I think that ordained people are, in some small way, meant to be other-worldly while ministering to the world in which they live. Are we not meant to embody the common perception of holiness in some small and meagre way? I believe that ++Rowan did and does. I doubt that he will become a back-seat complainer like his predecessor, and for that I thank the Lord, or become an irritating millstone around his successors neck.
What perhaps saddens me most of all is that void he has now already created is become the cadaver-consuming feeding ground of the Campaigners. The pro-Bishops-with-Boobs are manoeuvering, as are the anti-Bishops-with-Boobs. The pro-Covenantalists and already twitching with the same eye-flickering rapidity with which the anti-Covenantalists are twitching. Pro-gay and anti-gay drum-thumpers alike are starting the blaze a trail for 'their man for the top'. and the Blogosphere ... I see flames even now as keyboards go overtime.
Put another way, the campaigners are now working to overload so that the best man (and this time it can only be a man) gets the job? No - they want their victory and this change of Primate will seal the deal in minds of many of them.
I wonder how much praying will be done as the process unfolds? And I mean proper praying and not "God, please give me what I want" type of prayer. Sadly, my own cynicism compels me to believe that not as much as their should be.
But Farv, I hear you cry, this is just the way the world is. These causes are important and the right choice of archbishop is important to those causes and those involved in their direction. Don't get me wrong; I am not naive and I know that Primates have much power to do good or ill. People will judge the next man on his record as they do this one - but I hope and pray (fervently, earnestly and often) that every single Christian will pray for an archbishop that will, first and foremost, lead us as a Church towards a more Christ-like life where divisions are attended to with grace on all sides and those whose aspirations are dashed by the choices we are all called to make will still feel that our wonderful Church of England can still be their home and haven of prayer.
For my part, I pray thankfully for ++Rowan's ministry as our Shepherd. I can't imagine the cost to him and family life (knowing how much a mere priest sacrifices for his/her ministry), but I give thanks that we have been led by a man of conspicuous prayfulness and outwardly, at least, unlimited faithfulness.