Synod bids farewell to Archbishop Rowan Williams

General Synod this afternoon said an affectionate and moving farewell to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

The Archbishop thanked the “overwhelming generosity” of the speakers, which he said reflected the generosity he had experienced at Synod throughout his term of office.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, told Dr Williams that in the midst of recession and conflicts around the world, the Church had “come to rely on you for the voice of reason, faith, and deeply rooted Christian hope.”

Praising the far-reaching impact of Dr Williams’ ministry, Archbishop John said the Anglican leader had “attended particularly to the concerns of other religious communities in England”, and carried “a particular burden of prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Holy Land, and for the peace of that region”. 

Dr Sentamu said Archbishop Rowan had not fought shy of conflict, but had been “courageous and outspoken, especially on matters of humanity and justice.”

The Venerable Christine Hardman, Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich,said Dr Williams had “brought us holy learning and wisdom”.  

Archbishop Rowan’s leadership had been distinguished by his “scholar-like” insistence that we “attend to what is the case, even if we wish it were otherwise”, she said, adding that this quality was clearly evident after yesterday’s Synod vote against women bishops.

In brief but heartfelt remarks, Dr Williams offered a picture of life as an Archbishop, and his hopes for the future of the Synod.

Dr Williams said his enduring impression of the work of Archbishop was that of “being sent by God” from one situation to another. On a typical day, he said, one can go from breakfast with a primary school to lunch with the Secretary General of the United Nations. On such occasions, he said, you realise you are being “sent by God from one place to another”, with the mission of making connections between them, and sharing with them the Gospel.

Bidding farewell to Synod, Archbishop quoted St John of the Cross, who famously said: ‘Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.’

The Archbishop said that in recent months and days, particularly in relation to the divisive debate over women bishops, he reflected on replacing “love” with “trust”.

“Quite a lot of the sad and difficult stand-off Synod finds itself in come from a lack of trust,” he said.

Synod is a place “where we seek and don’t always succeed in making connections”, said Archbishop Rowan. However, he said that he “hoped that connections will go on being made and deepened”.

“We must go on working on this because there is no other thing to work at as Christians,” he said.

Before receiving a standing ovation in the packed Assembly Hall at Church House, the Archbishop said: “Thank you for all that has been said and been given, and I want to wish you God’s blessings for the future.”

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