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on 17 December 2008
I expected to find this an interesting but possibly rather challenging read! Instead I was knocked out by the clarity of the Rupert Shortt's treatment of the theology. The book hasn't changed my view of Rowan Williams himself; I started by thinking he was a holy man and robust intellectual in a world which appears to have little place for either. Although there is much more evidence here in support of that view than against it, the author made a reasonable attempt to present alternative views, and didn't baulk at examining the downside of Rowan's approach to his role as Archbishop of Canterbury. As another reviewer has pointed out, the account of the conduct of some of the operators behind the scenes in the CofE makes grim reading, though. I found some of the stories about Rowan's acts of personal kindness, and his clear modesty, loyalty and gift for friendship, tremendously moving.

I've already recommended Rowan's Rule to a number of colleagues and friends. Anyone with an interest in public life should read it - of any faith, or none.
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on 28 January 2009
I expected a lot of this biography; I hoped for a layman's explanation of the issues faced by latter-day Anglicanism, just so I might understand what all the fuss is about; I wanted an insight into the character of a much-lauded and controversial Archbishop and I was also looking for a better understanding of how and why the beliefs and principles of an established church might influence my thinking about some of my big issues, such as the environment and multi-cultural society. I was not disappointed.

Rupert Shortt describes it as "The" biography of the Archbishop, a little presumptuous given that he is not only still alive but in post; I expect a few more biographers may take up the challenge in time, a rare slip on Shortt's part. Overall though Shortt's skill in assimilating and presenting a wide range of source material to offer a balanced view is evident and I feel he has covered a lot of ground with objectivity and openness. That's not to say he is neutral, his support for Williams comes through loud and clear, but it is never at the expense of honesty and presenting both sides of an argument.

This is a traditional life of the subject, in that it starts with his birth and runs through the years to the present day. Fortunately for Shortt, and he clearly realised this when producing his previous volumes on Williams, the Archbishop provides a rich vein of raw material for the biographer from the word go, with much more still to come one feels, and what Shortt does particularly well is to identify the major themes early on and then track Williams's stance on them as they develop during his life.

This approach allows Shortt to use Williams' early texts and deliberations to give context to what transpires later on. No subject better illustrates this than the ordination of women priests, still a live topic of heated debate in the wider Anglican world and one which has seen Williams at his most exercised.

There are times when Shortt seems a little quick off the mark to defend Williams and dismiss opponents almost offhand. In some case this seems quite justified but I was a little disappointed at the paucity of space given to Richard Dawkins, for example, if only as a representative of the non-religious population. Shortt's focus is quite definitely the varieties within the Anglican church, not what might be discussed as alternatives without. Be that as it may, there are some good insights into all factions, from hard-line conservatism to modern liberals and all steps in between. Shortt also handles the very real drama of situations extremely well, explaining the major players and their differing views in the lead up to, and fallout from some mighty showdowns. The debate concerning gay clergy could provide a volume all on its own, and, of course, Williams' life to date takes us to the monumental controversy following his comments concerning Sharia law.

Through it all I get the abiding impression of Williams as intellectual colossus, social magnet, humanitarian, original thinker and intensely loyal friend on the one hand, a bit of a loner who does not delegate and has trouble with the expectations of him as a leader, certainly poor administrator and poor personal advocate on the other. But enough people felt he was the right person to head up the Anglican church worldwide.

In a way Williams suffers as a public figure who does not benefit from modern-day spinning, you get him in the raw, unplugged, but perhaps we should be grateful for that and relish the exposure to his honest wisdom rather than something politically manufactured.

Shortt's biography is informative, well written and eminently readable and I commend it.
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on 11 November 2008
This book is a wonderful introduction to, for me, one of the greats to have held the role as Archbishop. Thoughtful and intelligent, I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the issues facing the Church of England and Anglicanism, but it is wider than that, and would make good reading. It is good to understand why, in light of Sharia comments and the gay issue, Williams can provoke such a response.
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I believed Rowen William's to be a very complex man and was interested to read this book. However, I did think it had the potential to be a somewhat difficult read. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that this was not the case. The writing style is clear but the book is still an in depth look at the life of the former Archbishop of Canterbury. It draws a portrait of a man who was intensely spiritual from an early age. Academically bright, he shone in the world of academia, and yet remained humble. The book shows that there was so much more to Rowan Williams over and above what was portrayed in the media and his public life. During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury he wrestled with many issues which still plague the Church of England today. He had to make difficult decisions which affected him deeply, many of which went against his own personal feelings. Yet he put the church and it's best interests ahead of his own interests. he was also deeply evangelical, and ecumenical, and worked tirelessly with churches of other denominations. He was respected by all those leaders with whom he came into contact.

This is a fascinating look at the life of a man whose life was given over to serving the God whom he loved. However, it is so much more than that. It is also a social exploration of the the Church of England and the way in which it has developed over several decades. I would highly recommend this book. It is not in any way stuffy and in fact is an enjoyable read which is full of interest.

I was given a copy of this book from the Publisher's in return for an honest review. This review is based on my reading of, and enjoyment of, the book. I was never at any time asked to provide a positive review.
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on 22 July 2013
The book literary means a thorough discussion of his rule on the Anglican Church. It does capture glimpses of Rowan's brilliant broadcasts like the gay and Sharia in England though. Personally I think Rowan's idea of including Sharia into the English law is a great plan to really take away the heckling power of the Western Muslims. If implemented, the Muslims living in the West will be given a choice to choose between Sharia and non-Sharia law, effectively asking them to 'walk the talk'....
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on 5 August 2014
A very readable account of the former archbishop of Canterbury showing him as a person rather than just a figure. It puts his time as archbishop into perspective although I did find the interminable politics of the Lambeth Conferences rather tedious. It says much that Rowan Williams tried to keep the peace by discussion and compromise and still remain the person he is. I can recommend this book to everyone, even those, who like myself, do not belong to the Anglican Church.
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on 26 December 2014
A really interesting book, well written by a sympathetic but critical author. Gives a real insight into the affairs of the Church and the pressures an archbishop is under. Also tells of a real man of faith and an inspiring priest.
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on 14 January 2013
I was very impressed with the book in question; its general condition and the promptness in which it was received. A fitting content item for Christmas gift to a verger friend!
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on 15 January 2010
This book was a gift for my husband for Christmas. He has really enjoyed discovering the man behind the "eyebrows" and states he is a real enigma.
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on 10 March 2009
This is an excellent biography which brings out the humanity as well as the intellectual strength of Rowan Williams. It also has fascinating background to some of the controversies in which he has been engaged e.g. Gay Clergy, Women Priests, Moral issues....A very 'easy-to-read' style and good photographs.
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