New Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: Theologian, Bishop and Poet. By Joseph Gelfer. London


I first met Rowan, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1993 whilst a Theology undergraduate at the University of Bristol. Rowan was then Bishop of Monmouth, only a short distance away, and he had arranged to undertake some teaching in the study of t

The aspect the surprised me most about Rowan at the time, and now the media at large, is his receptiveness to less-than-orthodox ideas and attitudes. Even if someone of his position does have unusual opinions (and I suspect that's a rarity) you would expect them to keep it a bit hush-hush. Rowan appears to consider it his duty to speak up and has, as a result, attracted criticism from certain members of the church and beyond.

In one of those circumstances where the term 'liberal' is used as an insult, Rowan has been criticized for knowingly ordaining a gay priest, exploring his Welsh heritage by joining a Druidic order and questioning the relationship between the Church and State. More recently, despite fleeing the falling debris of the World Trade Center on 9/11, he has been criticized for questioning the heavy handed bombing of Afghanistan.

There is a significant voice, which states that Rowan's views are most inappropriate for the lofty appointment of Canterbury; often he is charged with holding views far more sensational then he actually does. Still, readers of column inches should rest assured that this concern is unfounded. Rowan strikes a rare balance; he is, at once, a fine academic, deeply spiritual, political yet just. He has the very real potential to be a figure in religious history whom people look back upon as a turning point for the better. This is a heavy yolk to bear but if anyone can do it, Rowan may well be the one. For now, his refreshing agenda is to, 'try and do more listening than talking, as I have much to learn.' This seems like a pretty good start.

One of my favourite images of Rowan is from a post-lecture drink in the departmental local pub, The Highbury Vaults. I was drinking my usual pint of cider; Rowan had a pint of Guinness. I soon noticed that the darkness of the pint and the whiteness of its creamy head bore an uncanny resemblance to Rowan's black uniform and white/grey hair. He chuckled whilst making a joke with a punch line, which had something to do with a 3rd century heretic and the nature of the Trinity. The future of organized religion in this man's hands? I'll raise my next pint to that.

Introduction of Mr. Joseph Gelfer for our readers.

Joseph Gelfer was born in 1974 in Southampton, England. He went on to study Theology & Religious Studies at the University of Bristol. Since graduation he has worked on editorial projects with The British & Foreign Bible Society, University of London and the London School of Economics. He currently works as an editor and freelance writer. He lives in London with his wife and newborn son.
Recent and upcoming print credits include: Spirituality & Health (US), New York Spirit (US), Latitudes & Attitudes (US), Island Spirit (inflight), Rich Guy Magazine (Canada), Footloose in London (UK) and Rainbow News (New Zealand); also the anthology 'Travelers' Tales - Turkey.'

Joseph also has three 'Little Humor' books being published over the next six months in the UK by Summersdale Publishers.

More information about Joseph and his writing can be found on his Website,

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