Rowan Williams

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The Right Reverend and Right Honourable
The Lord Williams of Oystermouth
former Archbishop of Canterbury
Rowan Williams -001b.jpg
Church Church of England
Province Province of Canterbury
Diocese Diocese of Canterbury
In office 2 December 2002 (elected)
– 31 December 2012 (retired)
Predecessor George Carey
Successor Justin Welby
Other posts Master of Magdalene
Archbishop of Wales
Bishop of Monmouth
Ordination 1977[1]
Consecration 1 May 1992[2]
Personal details
Birth name Rowan Douglas Williams
Born (1950-06-14) 14 June 1950 (age 71)
Swansea, Wales, UK
Nationality British
Denomination Anglicanism
Parents Aneurin Williams and
Delphine née Morris
Spouse Jane Paul (1981–present)
Children Rhiannon, Pip
Profession Bishop, theologian
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge
Wadham College, Oxford
  • Cultus Dei Sapientia Hominis
  • (The worship of God is the wisdom of man)
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}

Rowan Douglas Williams, Baron Williams of Oystermouth PC FBA FRSL FLSW (born 14 June 1950) is an Anglican bishop, theologian and poet.

Williams was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England, offices he held from December 2002 to December 2012,[3][4] and was previously Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales, making him the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times not to be appointed from within the Church of England.

Williams spent much of his earlier career as an academic at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford successively. He speaks three languages and reads at least nine.[5] He has since described his spoken German as a "disaster area" and said that he is "a very clumsy reader and writer of Russian".[6]

Williams' primacy was marked by speculation that the Anglican Communion (in which the Archbishop of Canterbury is the leading figure) was on the verge of fragmentation. Williams worked to keep all sides talking to one another.[7] Notable events during his time as Archbishop of Canterbury include the rejection by a majority of dioceses of his proposed Anglican Covenant and, in the final General Synod of his tenure, the failure to secure a sufficient majority for a measure to allow the appointment of women as bishops in the Church of England.

Williams stood down as Archbishop of Canterbury on 31 December 2012[8] to take up the position of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University in January 2013. Later in 2013 he was appointed Chancellor of the University of South Wales. Justin Welby succeeded him in the chair of St Augustine on 9 November 2012, being enthroned in March 2013. On 26 December 2012, 10 Downing St announced Williams' elevation to the peerage as a Life Baron,[9] so that he could continue to speak in the Upper House of Parliament. Following the creation of his title on 8 January and its gazetting on 11 January 2013,[10] he was introduced to the temporal benches of the House of Lords as Baron Williams of Oystermouth on 15 January 2013.[11]

Early life and ordination

Williams was born on 14 June 1950 in Ystradgynlais, Swansea, Wales, into a Welsh-speaking family.[12] He was the only child of Aneurin Williams by his marriage to Nancy Delphine Morris (known as "Del" and "Nancy") — Presbyterians who became Anglicans in 1961. He was educated at the state-sector Dynevor School in Swansea, before going to the University of Cambridge to study theology at Christ's College. He then went to Wadham College, Oxford, where he graduated with a DPhil degree in 1975 with a thesis entitled "The theology of Vladimir Nikolaievich Lossky: an exposition and critique".

Williams lectured at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, for two years. In 1977 he was ordained as a deacon at Ely Cathedral, returning to Cambridge to teach theology at Westcott House. He became a priest in 1978.


Early academic career and pastoral ministry

Williams did not have a formal curacy until 1980, when he served at St George's, Chesterton until 1983, after having been appointed a university lecturer in divinity at Cambridge. In 1984 he became dean and chaplain of Clare College and, in 1986 at the age of 36, he was appointed to the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, a position which brought with it appointment as a residentiary canon of Christ Church Cathedral. In 1989 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD) and, in 1990, was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[13]

Episcopal ministry

In 1991 Williams was elected as Bishop of Monmouth in the Church in Wales and was consecrated in 1992. He continued to serve as Bishop of Monmouth after he was promoted to be the Archbishop of Wales in 1999. In 2002 he was announced as the successor to George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury – the senior bishop in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. As a bishop of the disestablished Church in Wales, Williams was the first Archbishop of Canterbury since the English Reformation to be appointed to this office from outside the Church of England. His election by the Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral was confirmed by nine bishops in the customary ceremony in London, on 2 December 2002, when he officially became Archbishop of Canterbury.[14] He was enthroned on 27 February 2003 as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Williams visiting the National Assembly for Wales, March 2012

The translation of Williams to Canterbury was widely canvassed. As a bishop he had demonstrated a wide range of interests in social and political matters and was widely regarded, by academics and others, as a figure who could make Christianity credible to the intelligent unbeliever. As a patron of Affirming Catholicism, his appointment was a considerable departure from that of his predecessor and his views, such as those expressed in a widely published lecture on homosexuality were seized on by a number of Evangelical and conservative Anglicans. The debate had begun to divide the Anglican Communion, however, and Williams, in his new role as its leader was to have an important role.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams acted ex officio as visitor of King's College London, the University of Kent and Keble College, Oxford, governor of Charterhouse School,[15] and, since 2005, as (inaugural) chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University. In addition to these ex officio roles, Cambridge University awarded him an honorary doctorate in divinity in 2006;[16] in April 2007, Trinity College and Wycliffe College, both associated with the University of Toronto, awarded him a joint Doctor of Divinity degree during his first visit to Canada since being enthroned and he also received honorary degrees and fellowships from various universities including Kent, Oxford and Roehampton.[17]

Williams speaks or reads eleven languages: English, Welsh, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Biblical Hebrew, Syriac, Latin, and both Ancient (koine) and Modern Greek.[18][19] He learnt Russian in order to be able to read the works of Dostoyevsky in the original.[20]

Williams is also a poet and translator of poetry. His collection The Poems of Rowan Williams, published by Perpetua Press, was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year award in 2004. Beside his own poems, which have a strong spiritual and landscape flavour, the collection contains several fluent translations from Welsh poets. He was criticised in the press for allegedly supporting a "pagan organisation", the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards, which promotes Welsh language and literature and uses druidic ceremonial but is actually not religious in nature.[21] His wife, Jane Williams, is a writer and lecturer in theology. They married in 1981 and have two children who were also state educated.[22]

Williams officiated at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on 29 April 2011.[23]

On 16 November 2011, Williams attended a special service at Westminster Abbey celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, Patron of the King James Bible Trust.[24][25]

To mark the ending of his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams presented a BBC television documentary about Canterbury Cathedral, in which he reflected upon his time in office. Entitled Goodbye to Canterbury, the programme was screened on 1 January 2013.[26]

2010 General Synod address

On 9 February 2010, in an address to the General Synod of the Church of England, Williams warned that damaging infighting over the ordination of women as bishops and gay priests could lead to a permanent split in the Anglican Communion. He stressed that he did not "want nor relish" the prospect of division and called on the Church of England and Anglicans worldwide to step back from a "betrayal" of God's mission and to put the work of Christ before schism. But he conceded that, unless Anglicans could find a way to live with their differences over women as bishops and homosexual ordination, the church would change shape and become a multi-tier communion of different levels – a schism in all but name.[27]

Williams also said that "it may be that the covenant creates a situation in which there are different levels of relationship between those claiming the name of Anglican. I don’t at all want or relish this, but suspect that, without a major change of heart all round, it may be an unavoidable aspect of limiting the damage we are already doing to ourselves." In such a structure, some churches would be given full membership of the Anglican Communion, while others had a lower-level form of membership, with no more than observer status on some issues. Williams also used his keynote address to issue a profound apology for the way that he had spoken about "exemplary and sacrificial" gay Anglican priests in the past. "There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them," he said. "I have been criticised for doing just this, and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression."[27]

Current academic career

On 17 January 2013, Williams was admitted as Magdalene College, Cambridge's 35th Master,[28] and later that year, on 18 June 2013, the University of South Wales announced his appointment as its new chancellor.[29]

In 2015, it was reported that Williams had written a play called Shakeshaft, about a meeting between William Shakespeare and Edmund Campion, a Jesuit priest and martyr. Williams suspects that Shakespeare was Catholic, though not a regular churchgoer.[30]


Williams is patron of the Canterbury Open Centre run by Catching Lives, a local charity supporting the destitute.[31] He has also been patron of the Peace Mala Youth Project For World Peace since 2002, one of his last engagements as Archbishop of Wales being to lead the charity's launch ceremony.[32] In addition, he is president of WaveLength Charity, a UK-wide organisation which gives TVs and radios to isolated and vulnerable people; every Archbishop of Canterbury since the charity's inception in 1939 has actively participated in this role.

Williams is also patron of the T. S. Eliot Society[33] and delivered the annual T.S. Eliot Lecture in November 2013.

Williams was also patron of the Birmingham-based charity The Feast,[34] from 2010 until his retirement as Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2012. On 1 May 2013 he became chair of the board of trustees of Christian Aid.[35]


Williams, a scholar of the Church Fathers and an historian of Christian spirituality, wrote in 1983 that orthodoxy should be seen "as a tool rather than an end in itself..." It is not something which stands still. Thus "old styles come under increasing strain, new speech needs to be generated".[36] He sees orthodoxy as a number of "dialogues": a constant dialogue with Christ, crucified and risen; but also that of the community of faith with the world – "a risky enterprise", as he writes. "We ought to be puzzled", he says, "when the world is not challenged by the gospel." It may mean that Christians have not understood the kinds of bondage to which the gospel is addressed.[37] He has also written that "orthodoxy is inseparable from sacramental practice... The eucharist is the paradigm of that dialogue which is 'orthodoxy'".[38] This stance may help to explain both his social radicalism and his view of the importance of the Church, and thus of the holding together of the Anglican communion over matters such as homosexuality: his belief in the idea of the Church is profound.

John Shelby Spong once accused Williams of being a "neo-medievalist", preaching orthodoxy to the people in the pew but knowing in private that it is not true.[39] In an interview with Third Way Magazine Williams responded: "I am genuinely a lot more conservative than he would like me to be. Take the Resurrection. I think he has said that of course I know what all the reputable scholars think on the subject and therefore when I talk about the risen body I must mean something other than the empty tomb. But I don't. I don't know how to persuade him, but I really don't."[40]

Although generally considered an Anglo-Catholic, Williams has broad sympathies. One of his first publications, in the largely evangelical Grove Books series, has the title Eucharistic Sacrifice: the Roots of a Metaphor.[41]

Moral theology

Williams' contributions to Anglican views of homosexuality were perceived as quite liberal before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury. These views are evident in a paper written by Williams called "The Body’s Grace",[42] which he originally delivered as the 10th Michael Harding Memorial Address in 1989 to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and which is now part of a series of essays collected in the book Theology and Sexuality (ed. Eugene Rogers, Blackwells 2002).

Social views

Williams speaking at the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos

His interest in and involvement with social issues is longstanding. While chaplain of Clare College, Cambridge, Williams took part in anti-nuclear demonstrations at United States bases. In 1985, he was arrested for singing psalms as part of a protest organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at Lakenheath, an American air base in Suffolk; his fine was paid by his college. At this time he was a member of the left-wing Anglo-Catholic Jubilee Group headed by Father Kenneth Leech and he collaborated with Leech in a number of publications including the anthology of essays to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Oxford Movement entitled Essays Catholic and Radical in 1983.

He was in New York at the time of 11 September 2001 attacks, only yards from Ground Zero delivering a lecture; he subsequently wrote a short book, Writing in the Dust, offering reflections on the event. In reference to Al Qaeda, he said that terrorists "can have serious moral goals"[43] and that "Bombast about evil individuals doesn't help in understanding anything."[44] He subsequently worked with Muslim leaders in England and on the third anniversary of 9/11 spoke, by invitation, at the Al-Azhar University Institute in Cairo on the subject of the Trinity. He stated that the followers of the will of God should not be led into ways of violence. He contributed to the debate prior to the 2005 United Kingdom General Election criticising assertions that immigration was a cause of crime. Williams has argued that the partial adoption of Islamic sharia law in the United Kingdom is "unavoidable" as a method of arbitration in such affairs as marriage, and should not be resisted.[45][46][47]

On 15 November 2008, Williams visited the Balaji Temple in Tividale, West Midlands, on a goodwill mission to represent the friendship between Christianity and Hinduism.[48]

Sharia law

Williams was the subject of a media and press furore in February 2008, following a lecture he gave to the Temple Foundation at the Royal Courts of Justice[49] on the subject of "Islam and English Law". He raised the question of conflicting loyalties which communities might have, cultural, religious and civic. He also argued that theology has a place in debates about the very nature of law "however hard our culture may try to keep it out" and noted that there is, in a "dominant human rights philosophy", a reluctance to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious objection. He spoke of "supplementary jurisdictions" to that of the civil law.[50] Noting the anxieties which the word sharia provoked in the West, he drew attention to the fact that there was a debate within Islam between what he called "primitivists" for whom, for instance, apostasy should still be punishable and those Muslims who argued that sharia was a developing system of Islamic jurisprudence and that such a view was no longer acceptable. He made comparisons with Orthodox Jewish practice (Beth Din) and with the recognition of the exercise of conscience of Christians.[49]

Williams's words were critically interpreted as proposing a parallel jurisdiction to the civil law for Muslims (Sharia) and were the subject of demands from elements of the press and media for his resignation.[51] He also attracted criticism from elements of the Anglican Communion.[52]

In response, Williams stated in a BBC interview that "certain provision[s] of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law; ... we already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land as justified conscientious objections in certain circumstances in providing certain kinds of social relations" and that "we have Orthodox Jewish courts operating in this country legally and in a regulated way because there are modes of dispute resolution and customary provisions which apply there in the light of Talmud."[53] Williams also denied accusations of proposing a parallel Islamic legal system within Britain.[52] Williams also said of sharia: "In some of the ways it has been codified and practised across the world, it has been appalling and applied to women in places like Saudi Arabia, it is grim."[54]

Williams's position received more support from the legal community, following a speech given on 4 July 2008 by Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He supported the idea that sharia could be reasonably employed as a basis for "mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution". He went further to defend the position Williams had taken earlier in the year, explaining that "It was not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the archbishop's suggestion."; and that "It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law."[55] However, some concerns have been raised over the question of how far "embracing" sharia law would be compliant with the UK's obligation under human rights law.[56]

In March 2014, The Law Society in the UK issued instructions on how to draft sharia-compliant wills for the network of sharia courts which has grown up in Islamic communities to deal with disputes between Muslim families, and so Williams' idea of sharia in the UK was, for a time, seen to bear fruit.[57] The instructions were withdrawn in November 2014.

Free market

In 2002 Williams delivered the Richard Dimbleby lecture and chose to talk about the problematic nature of the nation-state but also of its successors. He cited the so-called 'market state' as offering an inadequate vision of the way a state should operate, partly because it was liable to short-term and narrowed concerns (thus rendering it incapable of dealing with, for instance, issues relating to the degradation of the natural environment) and partly because a public arena which had become value-free was liable to disappear amidst the multitude of competing private interests. (He noted the same moral vacuum in British society after this visit to China in 2006.) He is not uncritical of communitarianism, but his reservations about consumerism have been a constant theme. These views have often been expressed in quite strong terms; for example, he once commented that "Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game."[58]

Williams has supported the Robin Hood tax campaign since March 2010, re-affirming his support in a November 2011 article he published in the Financial Times.[59][60][61] He is also a vocal opponent of tax avoidance and a proponent of corporate social responsibility, arguing that "economic growth and prosperity are about serving the human good, not about serving private ends".[62]


The response of Williams to a controversy about the teaching of creationism in privately sponsored academies was that it should not be taught in schools as an alternative to evolution.[63] When asked if he was comfortable with teaching creationism, he said "I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories... so if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories, I think there's – there's just been a jar of categories, it's not what it's about." When the interviewer said "So it shouldn't be taught?" he responded "I don't think it should, actually. No, no. And that's different from saying–different from discussing, teaching about what creation means. For that matter, it's not even the same as saying that Darwinism is–is the only thing that ought to be taught. My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."[64]

In this, Williams has maintained traditional support amongst Anglicans and their leaders for the teaching of evolution as fully compatible with Christianity. This support has dated at least back to Frederick Temple's tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury.[65]

Iraq War and possible attack on Syria or Iran

Williams was to repeat his opposition to American action in October 2002 when he signed a petition against the Iraq War as being against UN ethics and Christian teaching, and 'lowering the threshold of war unacceptably'. Again on 30 June 2004, together with the Archbishop of York, David Hope, and on behalf of all 114 Church of England bishops, he wrote to Tony Blair expressing deep concern about UK government policy and criticising the coalition troops' conduct in Iraq. The letter cited the abuse of Iraqi detainees, which was described as having been "deeply damaging" – and stated that the government's apparent double standards "diminish the credibility of western governments".[66][67] In December 2006 he expressed doubts in an interview on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 about whether he had done enough to oppose the war.[68]

On 5 October 2007, Williams visited Iraqi refugees in Syria. In a BBC interview after his trip he described advocates of a United States attack on Syria or Iran as "criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous".[69] A few days earlier, the former US ambassador to the UN, John R. Bolton had called for bombing of Iran at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party conference.[70] In Williams's Humanitas Programme lecture at the University of Oxford in January 2014, he "characterized the impulse to intervene as a need to be seen to do something rather than nothing" and advocated for "a religiously motivated nonviolence which refuses to idolise human intervention in all circumstances."[71]

When people talk about further destabilization of the region and you read some American political advisers speaking of action against Syria and Iran, I can only say that I regard that as criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous folly.[72] Rowan Williams, 5 October 2007

Opinion about hijab and terrorism

Williams objected to a proposed French law banning the wearing of the hijab, a traditional Islamic headscarf for women, in French schools. He said that the hijab and any other religious symbols should not be outlawed.[73]

Williams also spoke up against the scapegoating of Muslims in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings on underground trains and a bus, which killed 52 and wounded about 700. The initial blame was placed on Al-Qaeda, but Muslims at large were targeted for reprisals: four mosques in England were assaulted and Muslims were verbally insulted in streets and their cars and houses were vandalised. Williams strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and stated that they could not be justified. However, he added that "any person can commit a crime in the name of religion and it is not particularly Islam to be blamed. Some persons committed deeds in the name of Islam but the deeds contradict Islamic belief and philosophy completely."[74]

Interview with Emel magazine

In November 2007, Williams gave an interview for Emel magazine, a British Muslim magazine.[75] Williams condemned the United States and certain Christian groups for their role in the Middle East, while his criticism of some trends within Islam went largely unreported. As reported by The Times, he was greatly critical of the United States, the Iraq war, and Christian Zionists, yet made "only mild criticisms of the Islamic world".[76] He claimed "the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday". He compared Muslims in Britain to the Good Samaritans, praised Muslim salat ritual of five prayers a day, but said in Muslim nations, the "present political solutions aren't always very impressive".

Position on Freemasonry

In a leaked private letter, Williams said that he "had real misgivings about the compatibility of Masonry and Christian profession" and that while he was Bishop of Monmouth he had prevented the appointment of Freemasons to senior positions within his diocese. The leaking of this letter in 2003 caused a controversy, which he sought to defuse by apologising for the distress caused and stating that he did not question "the good faith and generosity of individual Freemasons", not least as his father had been a Freemason. However, he also reiterated his concern about Christian ministers adopting "a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty."[77]

Unity of the Anglican Communion

Williams visiting Pakistan in 2005

Williams became Archbishop of Canterbury at a particularly difficult time in the relations of the churches of the Anglican Communion. His predecessor, George Carey, had sought to keep the peace between the theologically conservative primates of the communion such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Drexel Gomez of the West Indies and liberals such as Frank Griswold, the then primate of the US Episcopal Church.

In 2003, in an attempt to encourage dialogue, Williams appointed Archbishop Robin Eames, the Primate of All Ireland, as chairman of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, to examine the challenges to the unity of the Anglican Communion, stemming from the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and the blessing of same-sex unions in the Diocese of New Westminster. (Robinson was in a same-sex relationship.) The Windsor Report, as it was called, was published in October 2004. It recommended solidifying the connection between the churches of the communion by having each church ratify an "Anglican Covenant" that would commit them to consulting the wider communion when making major decisions. It also urged those who had contributed to disunity to express their regret.

In November 2005, following a meeting of Anglicans of the "global south" in Cairo at which Williams had addressed them in conciliatory terms, 12 primates who had been present sent him a letter sharply criticising his leadership which said that "We are troubled by your reluctance to use your moral authority to challenge the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada."[78] The letter acknowledged his eloquence but strongly criticised his reluctance to take sides in the communion's theological crisis and urged him to make explicit threats to those more liberal churches. Questions were later asked about the authority and provenance of the letter as two additional signatories' names had been added although they had left the meeting before it was produced. Subsequently the Church of Nigeria appointed an American cleric to deal with relations between the United States and Nigerian churches outside the normal channels. Williams expressed his reservations about this to the General Synod of the Church of England.

Williams later established a working party to examine what a "covenant" between the provinces of the Anglican Communion would mean in line with the Windsor Report.

Comments on the British Government

On 8 June 2011, Williams said that the British Government was committing Britain to "radical, long-term policies for which no-one voted". Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Williams raised concerns about the coalition's health, education and welfare reforms. He said there was "indignation" due to a lack of "proper public argument". He also said that the "Big Society" idea was viewed with "widespread suspicion", noting also that "we are still waiting for a full and robust account of what the Left would do differently and what a Left-inspired version of localism would look like". The article also said there was concern that the government would abandon its responsibility for tackling child poverty, illiteracy and poor access to the best schools. He also expressed concern about the "quiet resurgence of the seductive language of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor" and the steady pressure to increase "what look like punitive responses to alleged abuses of the system".[79] In response, David Cameron said that he “profoundly disagreed” with Williams's claim that the government was forcing through “radical policies for which no one voted”. Cameron said that the government was acting in a “good and moral” fashion and defended the “Big Society” and the Coalition’s deficit reduction, welfare and education plans. “I am absolutely convinced that our policies are about actually giving people a greater responsibility and greater chances in their life, and I will defend those very vigorously”, he said. “By all means let us have a robust debate but I can tell you, it will always be a two-sided debate.”[80]

On 26 November 2013, at Clare College, Cambridge, Williams gave the annual T. S. Eliot Lecture, with the title Eliot’s Christian Society and the current political crisis. In this, he recalled the poet's assertion that a competent agnostic would make a better prime minister than an incompetent Christian. "I don't know what he would make of our present prime minister," he said. "I have a suspicion that he might have approved of him. I don't find that a very comfortable thought." [81]


Williams and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II at the Armenian Genocide monument in Yerevan for a torch lighting ceremony for the genocide victims in Darfur. The two men are standing on purple cloth.

Williams did his doctoral work on Vladimir Lossky, a prominent Russian Orthodox theologian of the early-mid 20th century.[82] He is currently patron of the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius, an ecumenical forum for Orthodox and Western (primarily Anglican) Christians. He has expressed his continuing sympathies with Orthodoxy in lectures and writings since that time.

Williams has written on Saint Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Catholic mystic. On the death of Pope John Paul II, he accepted an invitation to attend his funeral, the first Archbishop of Canterbury to attend a funeral of a Pope since the break under King Henry VIII. He also attended the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI. During the Pope's state visit to the United Kingdom in September 2010, the two led a service together at Westminster Abbey.[83]

Williams said in April 2010 that the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland had been a "colossal trauma" for Ireland in particular. His remarks were condemned by the second most senior Catholic bishop in Ireland, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who said that "Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend and do not deserve it."[84]


  • Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Eerdmans, 2014) ISBN 978-0802871978
  • Meeting God in Mark (SPCK, 2014), reprinted as Meeting God in Mark: Reflections for the Season of Lent (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015) ISBN 978-0664260521
  • Faith in the Public Square (Bloomsbury, 2012)
  • Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Baylor University Press, 2008); ISBN 1-84706-425-6
  • Foreword to W. H. Auden in Great Poets of the 20th century series, The Guardian, 12 March 2008.
  • Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another (New Seeds, 2007)
  • Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology, ed. Mike Higton (SCM Press, 2007) ISBN 0-334-04095-7
  • Tokens of Trust. An introduction to Christian belief. (Canterbury Press, 2007 )
  • Grace and Necessity: Reflections on Art and Love (2005)
  • Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church (Eerdmans, 2005 )
  • Anglican Identities (2004) ISBN 1-56101-254-8
  • Darkness Yielding, co-authored with Jim Cotter, Martyn Percy, Sylvia Sands and W. H. Vanstone (2004) ISBN 1-870652-36-3
  • The Dwelling of the Light—Praying with Icons of Christ (Canterbury Press, 2003 )
  • Lost Icons: Essays on Cultural Bereavement (T & T Clark, 2003)
  • Silence and Honey Cakes: The Wisdom of the Desert (2003) ISBN 0-7459-5170-8
  • Faith and Experience in Early Monasticism (2002)
  • Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Canterbury Press, 2002)
  • Writing in the Dust: Reflections on 11 September and Its Aftermath (Hodder and Stoughton, 2002)
  • The Poems of Rowan Williams (2002)
  • Arius: Heresy and Tradition (2nd ed., SCM Press, 2001) ISBN 0-334-02850-7
  • Christ on Trial (2000) ISBN 0-00-710791-9
  • On Christian Theology (2000)
  • After Silent Centuries (1994)
  • Open to Judgement: Sermons and Addresses (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1994)
  • Teresa of Avila (1991) ISBN 0-225-66579-4
  • Christianity and the Ideal of Detachment (1989)
  • Faith in the University (1989)
  • Politics and Theological Identity (with David Nicholls) (Jubilee, 1984)
  • Open to Judgement: Sermons and Addresses (1984)
  • Peacemaking Theology (1984)
  • The Truce of God (London: Fount, 1983)
  • Essays Catholic and Radical ed. with K. Leech (Bowerdean, 1983)
  • Eucharistic Sacrifice: The Roots of a Metaphor (Grove Books, 1982)
  • Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1982)
  • The Wound of Knowledge (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1979)
  • "The Theology of Vladimir Nikolaievich Lossky: an Exposition and Critique" (1975 DPhil thesis)[85]

Honours and awards

Styles and titles

  • Rowan Williams (1950–1975)
  • Dr Rowan Williams (1975–1978)
  • The Revd Dr Rowan Williams (1978–1986)
  • The Revd Professor Rowan Williams (academia: 1986–1992)
  • The Revd Canon Rowan Williams (church: 1986–1992)
  • The Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams (personal: 1992–1999)
  • The Rt Revd The Lord Bishop of Monmouth (office: 1992–1999)
  • The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams (personal: 1999–2002)
  • His Grace The Archbishop of Wales and Lord Bishop of Monmouth (office: 1999–2002)
  • The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams (personal: 2002–2012)
  • His Grace The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (office: 2002–2012)
  • The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams (1–8 January 2013)
  • The Rt Revd and Rt Hon The Lord Williams of Oystermouth (8 January 2013–present)[10]


Arms of Rowan Williams
Coat of Arms of Archbishop Rowan Williams.svg
Williams' family arms as archbishop.
Per Pale Gules and Azure a Chevron Ermine between three Lions Passant Guardant armed within Roundels Or all counterchanged
Cultus Dei Sapientia Hominis
(Latin: "The worship of God is the wisdom of man")
Other elements
The exterior heraldic ornaments pertaining to a Church of England archbishop.


  1. Church of England – Archbishop of Canterbury
  2. Archbishop of Canterbury – About Rowan Williams
  3. "Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to stand down". BBC News. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Archbishop of Canterbury: Vote to confirm Justin Welby". 10 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. See Profile of Master at Magdalene College, Cambridge; BBC interview with Williams: ``Я читаю на девяти или десяти языках, но говорю только на трех. ("I read nine or ten languages, but speak only three.")
  7. "Dr Rowan Williams", BBC News
  8. "Archbishop to be Master of Magdalene"
  9. 10 Downing St – Peerage for the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (accessed 26 December 2012)
  10. 10.0 10.1 The London Gazette: no. 60389. p. 477. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  11. "Introduction: Lord Williams of Oystermouth". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). UK: House of Lords. 15 January 2013. col. 585. Retrieved 18 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "About Rowan Williams". Archbishop of Canterbury. Retrieved 28 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. British Academy website
  14. Archbishop of Canterbury – Williams confirmed in office (Accessed 4 January 2013)
  16. "About Oxford, Annual Review". Retrieved 18 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Debrett's People of Today
  18. "The Religion Report: 5 March 2003 – Homosexuality and the churches, pt. 2". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Archbishop's New Statesman magazine interview". The Archbishop of Canterbury. Retrieved 18 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Асланян, Анна (12 November 2008). Между алгеброй и гармонией. Culture (in Russian). Bush House, London: Retrieved 16 November 2008. ... он [Роуэн Уильямс] овладел русским специально для того, чтобы изучать Достоевского в оригинале.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Archbishop becomes druid". BBC News. 5 August 2002. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "King James Bible: Queen marks 400th anniversary". BBC News. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Archbishop Hails King James Bible". EXPRESS UK News. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "BBC Two: Goodbye to Canterbury". BBC. Retrieved 16 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. 27.0 27.1 Gledhill, Ruth (10 February 2010). "Splitting the Anglican church may heal division, says Archbishop of Canterbury". The Australian abd The Times. Retrieved 22 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Magdalene College website.
  29. USW website.
  30. Turner, Robin (8 January 2015). "Ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams turns playwright after writing play about Shakespeare". Western Mail. Wales Online. Retrieved 9 January 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "About Us". Catching Lives. Retrieved 2 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Board at
  36. Essays Catholic and Radical (Bowerdean 1983)
  37. Politics and Theological Identity (Jubilee 1984)
  38. Essays Catholic and Radical, (Ibid.)
  39. Anthony, Andrew (10 February 2008). "Profile: Rowan Williams". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Grace under Pressure?
  42. "The Body's Grace". Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Terrorists can have serious moral goals, says Williams, 15 October 2003
  44. Tales of Canterbury's Future? A terror apologist may soon lead the Church of England., Wall Street Journal, 12 July 2002.
  45. Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable', BBC News, 7 February 2008
  46. Libby Purves, Sharia in Britain? We think not.., Times Online, 7 February 2008
  47. Church in a State – The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a grave mistake, 2008-02-08 Times Online
  48. "Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams will visit the Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) temple in Tividale". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. 49.0 49.1 Civil and Religious Law in England: a Religious Perspective. 7 February 2008
  50. Cranmer, Frank (2008). "A Court of Law, Not Morals?". Law & Justice. 160: 13–24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  51. Cranmer, Frank (2008). "The Archbishop and Sharia". Law & Justice. 160: 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  52. 52.0 52.1 Judi Bottoni. "Archbishop denies asking for Islamic law". MSN. Retrieved 9 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  53. "BBC Interview – Radio 4 World at One". Archbishop of Canterbury. 7 February 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  54. "Archbishop slams detention regime". BBC News. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  55. "Sharia law 'could have UK role'". BBC News. 4 July 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  56. Thom Dyke, "Sense on sharia". Prospect. 29 February 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  57. "Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs" 23 Mar 2014
  58. Mullen, Peter (7 September 2004). "I despair at the 9/11 naivety of Rowan Williams -Times Online". The Times. UK. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  59. Archbishop Rowan Williams and Richard Curtis (14 March 2010). "Think tank: Hit the City with a Robin Hood tax". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 29 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  60. Rowan Williams (1 November 2011). "Time for us to challenge the idols of high finance". The Financial Times. Retrieved 2 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (registration required)
  61. George Parker (2 November 2011). "Archbishop backs 'Robin Hood tax'". The Financial Times. Retrieved 2 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (registration required)
  62. Josh White (23 October 2014). "Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams talks to The World Weekly about good tax citizenship". The World Weekly. Retrieved 24 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  63. Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent (21 March 2006). "Archbishop: stop teaching creationism". London: Retrieved 18 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  64. Close (21 March 2006). "Transcript: Rowan Williams interview". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  66. Archbishops slam Iraq jail abuse, BBC News, 30 June 2004
  67. "Archbishops Warn Blair over Iraq Prisoner Abuse". The Scotsman. 29 June 2004. Retrieved 12 August 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Archived at Wayback Machine.
  68. "BBC NEWS, UK, Archbishop's 'regrets' over Iraq". BBC News. 29 December 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  69. "BBC NEWS, UK, Archbishop speaks of Iraq damage". BBC News. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  70. Taylor, Ros (30 September 2007). "Bolton calls for bombing of Iran". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  71. Ritzema, John (6 February 2014). "Seated at the right hand of Power: Rowan Williams on faith and force". Oxonian Review. Retrieved 21 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  72. Gledhill, Ruth (6 October 2007). "Archbishop: Iraq far worse than acknowledged". The Times. UK. Retrieved 28 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  73. Arab West Report (26 July 2008). "(Arab West Report: art. 38, 52 – 2003)". Retrieved 30 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  74. Arab West Report: Art. 28, Week 31/2005, 27 July – 2 August
  75. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Emel magazine
  76. US is 'worst' imperialist: archbishop, Times Online, 25 November 2007
  77. Oborne, Peter (20 April 2003). "Rowan Williams apologises to Freemasons". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 18 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  78. The Church Times: 26 November 2005
  79. Archbishop of Canterbury criticises coalition policies
  80. David Cameron hits back at the Archbishop of Canterbury
  81. Eliot Society
  82. Rowan Douglas Williams (February 1975). The theology of Vladimir Nikolaievich Lossky: an exposition and critique (DPhil). University of Oxford. OCLC 863503770. Retrieved 3 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  83. Imogen Levy and Duck Soup "Westminster Abbey – Historic Abbey service for Pope". Retrieved 30 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  84. David Batty (3 April 2010). "Archbishop of Canterbury: Irish Catholic church has lost all credibility". Guardian. UK. Retrieved 18 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  86. "Dr Rowan Williams is honoured for work on Russia". BBC. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  87. Our Correspondent (14 August 2012). "Recognising excellence". The Tribune Express, 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  88. K.U.Leuven celebrates commitment to European society, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven,
  89. "Archbishop of Canterbury receives freedom of city". BBC. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Church in Wales titles
Preceded by
Royston Clifford Wright
Bishop of Monmouth
Succeeded by
Dominic Walker
Preceded by
Alwyn Rice Jones
Archbishop of Wales
Succeeded by
Barry Morgan
Church of England titles
Preceded by
George Carey
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Justin Welby
Academic offices
Preceded by
Duncan Robinson
Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Order of precedence in England and Wales
Preceded by
The Lord Deighton
as a Baron in the Peerage of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
The Lord Nash