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Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury [Kindle Edition]

Rupert Shortt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

Product Description

A fascinating, fair-minded depiction of Archbishop Rowan Williams. Rowan Williams is a complex and controversial figure. Widely revered for his personal qualities, he is also an intellectual giant who towers over almost all his predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury. Among other achievements, he has trounced the atheist Richard Dawkins, and published over twenty well-regarded books, including several volumes of poetry and a major study of Dostoevsky. Yet he is also one of the most reviled church leaders in modern history. Long before facing calls to step down after his lecture on sharia law in early 2008, he had been accused of heresy on account of his pro-gay views. He has disappointed many of his own supporters as well. So how has high office changed Rowan Williams? Has he been bullied and manipulated? Or is he perhaps playing a long game, obliged to rate church unity above the pursuit of his own vision at a time when the Anglican Communion has never looked more unstable? Rupert Shortt, already the author of an acclaimed introduction to the Archbishops thought, offers answers to these and other questions in this authoritative biography. He explores how the events of the Archbishops remarkable life have shaped his beliefs and practices today. Of particular interest is the riveting account of Williamss experience near the World Trade Center towers on the morning of September 11, 2001. Written with Williamss cooperation, Rowans Rule not only elucidates his ideas but gives a compelling portrait of a private and in some ways surprisingly vulnerable man.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3244 KB
  • Print Length: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (24 Feb 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00272MASO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #226,215 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Rupert Shortt is Religion Editor of The Times Literary Supplement and a former Visiting Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. He has contributed to a range of publications including The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Tablet and the Madrid-based Revista de Libros. His books include Christianophobia: A Faith under Attack, Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop, Rowan Williams: An Introduction, God's Advocates: Christian Thinkers in Conversation, and Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth buying for the extra chapters 22 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First published in 2008, this new edition includes an extra 100 pages to bring the story up to date, while including some fascinating material from earlier years by way of comparison. It really helps that Rupert Shortt has a sound grasp of both church politics and theology. He doesn't hold back in these extra chapters from outlining some of Rowan Williams' most profound thinking on Augustine. The balance is perfect between presenting facts, forming judgements, and leaving the reader with questions. Many called for +Rowan to be more politically shrewd and strategic, but would that have been possible without losing this: "...time and again people of very different backgrounds have observed that meeting the Archbishop left them with a thirst to pray more. It is a rare gift."
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelled candor in an even-handed appraisal 31 Dec 2009
By Edward M. Freeman - Published on
Rare but not unprecedented, a biography of an Anglican Archbishop seldom contends with the sheer volume of primary and secondary texts about its subject as Rupert Shortt must address in this book. Bringing adroit insights to his task, Shortt tells a fair account not only of Williams, but also of the life and times of Anglican Christians served by him from Lambeth Palace. His subject is the life of the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Presiding bishop for 80 million Anglicans worldwide, Williams serves primus inter pares among fellow bishops of the global Anglican Communion.

First among Anglican bishops by rank--attributed to the ancient titular See of Canterbury--intensifies attention to Williams's biographic stout and froth. Shortt provides more stout than froth, and limits affectations with a steady hand. Exploring critical decisions that Williams made from the time of his mid-twenties [66, 72-4], Shortt discloses details from his mentor's developmental years, which tarnished halo's that admirers had projected onto the young Rowan long before his initial episcopacy in Monmouth (1991 at age 41).

Just the same, Williams had earned respect from fellow Anglicans such as a talented "orthodox" philosopher-theologian from Cambridge University--Professor Donald MacKinnon [62-3, 128-9], and Fr. Henry Chadwick [121-2], Dean of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford. In addition, respect came early in his career from Orthodox theologians such as Father Andrew Louth of Durham [122] and Christos Yannaras of Athens and Thessaloniki [70-1].

Whether blamed or praised, at least Williams "...has not endured public disgrace and imprisonment" [425] while shepherding his Anglican herd of mavericks. However, he may well never become the darling of the left or the right. Why is this? Shorrt intimates at least a few reasons, such as the Archbishop's eclectic theological and pastoral interests as impossible to pin to ideologies [100; cf. Sharia controversy: 390-402] and poetic imagination [355 passim] as exemplified in these lines from "Kampala; the el Shaddai Coffee Bar:"
Eyes shine and water in the woodsmoke;
who can tell who might be
welcome here? [230]

In my opinion, some book reviewers of this 466 pp. text and Shortt's earlier [2002: 101] abbreviated introduction to Williams have created a tempest over the Archbishop's youthful romances--particularly reviewers in British, Welsh and Irish presses. They have either promoted calumny about imagined or exaggerated dalliances, or have failed to exercise critical reading skills to differentiate hubris from humility in Shortt's portrayal of Williams. Either way would create images of Williams that lack reference to this text.

If a particular verdict holds true in subsequent analyses of Williams's term in Canterbury that "dynamic hopes" were "deflated" by his service record as Archbishop [2], they might require as much appraisal of the dynamic hopes themselves as of the man. Himself a brilliant Oxford don and polyglot, Williams ventured into pastoral ministry with heroic dreams, but required more than intellectual accomplishments to purify his heart. One such example of Williams--a humbled heroic dreamer-- reveals how Williams had recovered through poetry after a one-sided romance sometime during his term as lecturer-in-residence at the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield (Resurrection College, West Yorkshire, U.K.) [95-7].

Recovery from disappointment appears as a sub-theme throughout the biography. One such recovery was his marriage to a daughter of an Anglican bishop, Hilary Jane (nee) Paul in 1981 [107, 114-5], after having been awarded the D.Phil. in theology from Oxford in 1975, followed by diaconal ordination in the Church of England in 1977 [priesthood 1978]. Shortt entertains the theme of Williams's recoveries as evidence of his desire to pay the cost of Christian discipleship by denouncing his own "...self-delusion and many wrong turns" [71]. Indeed, Williams has been shown in this biography to be held accountable for his gifts from God.

Shortt quotes the Rt. Rev. Richard the Baron Harries of Pentregarth, Bishop of Oxford (ret.), who once said to Williams: "God has given you all the gifts, and as your punishment, he has made you Archbishop of Canterbury" [20]. Even humor packs a punch; the cost of following Christ is high for every Christian. "When someone is given a great deal, a great deal will be demanded of that person; when someone is entrusted with a great deal, of that person even more will be expected" [Luke 12:48, NJB].
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Readable Biography of a Complex Man 26 July 2009
By Scott Billigmeier - Published on
I enjoyed this biography very much. The author clearly admires his subject and shares many of his views so there is some loss of objectivity. Nonetheless, he can be critical of the Archbishop although he's often tougher on the opposition (within and outside the church). The book is a good read but for one small quibble. The author is a bit too enamored (for my taste) with William's poetry and other writings. Some of it is useful but he over uses the device. As a character study though, one can't help but be impressed by this widely acclaimed theologian and "Renaissance man" who has never-the-less failed to meet the sky high expectations generated by his selection. Even those that don't subscribe to the "great man" school of history will enjoy this fine book and be left pondering the questions it raises.
3.0 out of 5 stars Great material that ends a couple years too early 30 Oct 2013
By Jonathan Hakkeem - Published on
A detailed look at Rowan Williams's life, from his parents' background until 2009 (a couple years before he retired from the Archbishop's seat).

I learned a lot from this book, not only about Williams but about the Anglican church, and to some degree British culture in general (In fact, the author's assumptions about his British audience were quite revealing for this rural-grown American not so used to the implicit value judgments of British academia.)

The author is obviously sympathetic, and I liked the Archbishop a lot after reading this book. In fact, even in the areas in which the author is critical, the criticism is ignorantly made (especially concerning economics and pacifism), so I even ended up likely how Williams come out in those areas as well. The personal insight into Williams is great, though the heavy focus on his poetry could have been supplemented by a little more attention on his theological writings.

Only 3 stars because the author is rude, condescendingly attacking, and simplistic/ignorant whenever he brings up Rowan's critiques of capitalism and military violence. The book was written before Rowan's “rule” as Archbishop had come to a close, so we also miss some interesting potential material from the end, not to mention the ability to reflect on what has happened since he left.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfull, fair-minded biography 13 Mar 2009
By Stephen L. White - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful, fair-minded, thoroughly researched, and beautifully written biography of Archbishop Rowan Williams. I recommend it highly.
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