This is a dense book of over 400 carefully chosen pages of words. The writer demonstrates his intelligence and insight with balanced judgements.
Imagine having your life poured over in this way. Family, failed relationships, marriage, political views, children, job applications that failed and almost every word uttered and written. The task has been intrusted to a writer who is sympathetic to the Archbishop – though ready to highlight mistakes and weaknesses. What emerges is an extraordinary and remarkable man whose gifts and abilities have been put to the service of the Church.
Shortt is strong on his analysis of Williams’ theology but weaker on putting some of the contemporary realities of Anglicanism into a broader historical and cultural perspective. There are some obvious gaps in the people who have been consulted and whose comments make up substantial parts of the text. There are some points at which Shorrt may have gone deeper or left some his conclusions rather more open or provisional. But a hard task to describe the nature of the horizon when standing in a fast moving river!
The story that unfolds here is not attractive one. There is plenty here to reinforce those sceptics who remain ambivalent about religion and its discontents. The srtuggles and in fighting; the factions and ideologies; the struggle for power and competition for publicity are disturbing. So disturbing that one wonders about the coherance of Christianity in Britain today.
The quality and stature of Rowan Williams shines through all this division and mess. His spirituality, stamina, intelligence and goodness stand in sharp contrast to those who have stood against him and his discipleship. The lack of listening and respect beggar belief. And so the arguments and divisions deepen without much hope for a coherant unity. The agenda of the mission of the Church seems lost amidst all this noise and dissent. Rowan offers us the leadership of imagination, presence and engagement which we ignore at our peril. Above all he offers us a lived plea to live for God and draw others into the music of the Gospel.
A fascinating book. An imposible job. A leader of profound quality.