Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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Goodbye Mr Williams

Having inhabited largely liberal Christian circles (Unitarian & Free Christian, Quaker, Progressive Christian) over the past decade, I have encountered hostile views towards the larger churches, namely the Church of England. There are many reasons for this, I think part of it lies in legitimate, conscientious opposition to certain doctrine and practices, part of it lies in human psychology (individual and collective) given that many entrants into the 'church of dissenters' have had hurtful experiences in their previous community - and some of it, I have to say, rests in a holier-than-thou attitude towards 'the other', something we are all guilty of at times (even though we self-declared pluralists often tend to believe we have transcended such tribalism).

I've not had hurtful experiences of the Church of England - if anything, I thank it for imbuing me with moderate Christian values from an early age and providing community, in terms of the youth clubs I attended as a teen. The only reason I decided to take up some kind of religious affiliation outside of it was simply because I could no longer stand there and rationally (I have since realised it's not all about reason!) subscribe to seemingly required doctrine such as the Trinity, Original Sin, Atonement and so on - it was a matter of conscience, rather than rejection of my experience of the community. And for this reason I continue to follow this church's life with interest, in some ways still feeling an affinity with it - added to the fact it is the state-sponsored religious institution and therefore influential on public life.

It was no shock that Rowan Williams has decided to retire, it had been rumoured for some time he was going to, and just as when the main political party leaders change, regardless of the party I always feel a certain level of intrigue - and excitement (cue geek alarm...) - about the possibilities of who might come to take on the mantle of leadership.

I once heard an argument that the Archbishop of York position was traditionally the academic, mystical voice of Anglicanism, functioning primarily within the church as 'teacher of the teachers' (as a sidenote, I once read that James Martineau had a similar role within the 19th century Unitarian & Free Christian denomination), whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury position was that of the communicator, the figure who takes the message of the church 'outside' to the masses and oversaw more practical matters. If this line of argument is followed, I would imagine John Sentamu has a very good chance to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury. And I think in this current time of crisis and change, there is a need for someone of his considerable talents and consensual approach.

I think also, importantly, the worldwide Anglican Communion requires a figurehead who can hold the the diverse elements together because what is needed is dialogue between the various strands of Christianity rather than fragmentation - and the Anglican Communion, as a historically broad church, is in many ways a testing lab for this. And for all his critics, this is something Rowan Williams managed to do, as prominent conservative Anglican blogger Cranmer alludes to in a recent post. In the much-quoted words of Ferenc Dávid, the first Unitarian 'Archbishop', "we need not think alike, to love alike."

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