It’s good to be grateful for one’s elders and teachers. The writing and ideas of Rowan Williams — The Rt Rev. and Rt Hon. Professor Rowan Douglas Williams, Baron Williams of Oystermouth, PC, DPhil, FBA, FRSL, FLSW — have been my constant companion for nearly twenty years and will be food for study and prayer for the rest of my life. [Photo credit: The Times].
My PhD thesis, “An Agenda for Joy: Rowan Williams’s Theology of Conflict, Unity, and Solidarity,” is available from Charles Sturt University’s open access portal.
It is also availabe from ProQuest here
The words “an agenda for joy,” in my title are from an address by Williams to an ecumenical conference at St Albans in 2003: “One thing I hope may emerge as we reflect today is that we need to balance the anxieties and challenges and struggles around unity with some sense that there is also an agenda for joy in this.”1
My study seeks a theological understanding of disagreement and conflict in church and society through a reading of the work of Rowan Williams. Williams’s theology of church and his understanding of its unity are closely interrelated. The church itself and its unity are God’s gift. Williams argues that conflict and unity are not opposed but are essential parts of the struggle for mutual recognition and solidarity. Thus I propose solidarity as a category through which to understand the oneness of the church and its relationship with society. According to Williams, God creates and sustains a universe of immeasurable difference within itself. Williams employs Gillian Rose’s reading of Hegel to introduce a metaphysical understanding of such difference and our response to it. The communal work of truth-seeking requires unavoidable negotiation, self-dispossession and loss, without which there may be tragic misrecognition of our interests and those of others. I critically examine situations of conflict that exemplify and test Williams’s theology. Looking beyond the church, I then explore Williams’s theologically grounded proposals for solidarity in a pluralist society oriented towards the common good.
I am immensely grateful to those who have helped me. My supervisor, Dr Benjamin Myers, gave unfailing wisdom, enthusiasm and valued friendship. I was helped by Ben’s careful perception of what I have been on about and workable ways to get there. He challenged me with penetrating questions and exposed muddled language and thinking. My closest teacher and friend is my husband, James Kim, to whom I have dedicated this work. His love, courage, and care made it possible. Years ago, my undergraduate mentor, Dr Graeme Garrett, told me that the greatest value of a doctoral project in theology would be whatever it did within the depths of my own soul. So it has been. Thus, in his doctoral thesis, Rowan Williams wrote of Vladimir Lossky’s insistence that “to do theology is to engage in an exploration of one’s personal encounter with God in silence.” I also echo Williams’s submission that “anything of value in the pages that follow belongs not to me but to the catholic communion of minds in Christ, mediated to me by my teachers and friends.”2 Without that, I would not have undertaken this study.
1. Rowan Williams, “‘May They All be One . . . but How?” (Keynote Address at a conference held in St Alban’s Cathedral on 17 May 2003), accessed from http://paulcouturier.faithweb.com/0305williamsfull.htm on 2 February 2019).
2. Rowan Williams, “The Theology of Vladimir Nikolaievich Lossky: An Exposition and Critique” (DPhil. thesis, University of Oxford, 1975), xi.