The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury will be stepping down at the end of this year and will be assuming the position of Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge in January 2013. His ten years of being the Archbishop of Canterbury has been filled with turbulent times as the world-wide Anglican Communion has been on the brink of collapse over the complicated issues of ordination of women and the inclusion of openly gay and lesbian clergy and bishops. These past ten years have also marked dramatic changes in the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the Anglican Church) as dioceses, churches, clergy, and laity have left our church to form their own expressions of what they believe is the right and true way to be Christians in the Anglican tradition. The overall numbers of those breaking away from the Episcopal Church are small in comparison. However, they have gained a lot of attention from the media and the press, particularly over the court cases revolving ownership of church property and endowments. So far the courts have sided with the Episcopal Church and those who wish to leave must turn over the buildings and finances to the Episcopal Church
Yet, what is really at stake is much more complex. What is happening in our church is also happening in other Christian denominations throughout the country. A transforming shift is underway that will bring dramatic changes to Christianity in the near future. What those changes will ultimately be, no one is completely sure. Recently, Diana Butler Bass, a well-known author of books on the church and Christianity and herself an Episcopalian, wrote a column in USA Today titled, “When spirituality and religion collide” in response to Rowan Williams’ resignation as Archbishop of Canterbury. She sees the struggle between those who want to maintain the familiar and tested leadership ways of being church and those who seek new and uncharted emerging patterns that speak to new ways of relating as church. It is a fascinating conflict. Yet these uncertain times will hopefully result in a “new” church that is richer and even more faithful.
The apostles felt an uncertainty about their future right after the Resurrection. The Risen Christ had just appeared to them and their lives had been changed forever. Little did they realize in those early days that by spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around them, they would help to completely transform the world. Ultimately we do know that there is new life coming to our church and while it is not yet fully defined, we still can proclaim with certainty that Christ is Risen.