[Rowan] Williams is a shy man. Approachable and engaging, no doubt keen that the head of the Church of England has a prominent role in public debate, but shy all the same. All the more intriguing that this reserved theologian has acquired a reputation as a bookish bigmouth; someone who wades too readily into affairs outside his purview.
This is the problem of being Archbishop of Canterbury in the 21st century: we demand the incumbent be relevant but we do not really expect members of the clergy to say anything too challenging. Although his remarks on trying to understand terrorism, the partial adoption of Sharia law and the sense of mistrust in the Irish Catholic church have been typically nuanced and thoughtful, reaction (and the framing of reaction by the media) is often less so. Someone is always “furious” when difficulties are addressed.
This explains, perhaps, a slight apprehension at the prospect of another interview. Williams has admitted he is comfortable with a “concrete audience” but “less at ease when there’s a vague sense that anyone and everyone is listening and, therefore, I’m not quite sure”¦ what the response is”. And yet the subject that has tested his patience beyond any other is an internal dispute, the kind of ecclesiastical problem he has been able to ponder for decades, write about at length and enjoy numerous “concrete” conversations with the relevant parties.