Rowan Williams, Golf, Miserable and Glorious Failure at the ACC and Elsewhere

In his own wrap of the Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams made a statement that, for me, stuck out like a sore thumb:

Drawing upon a phrase coined by the English Roman Catholic nun, Maria Boulding, Dr Williams stated “the alternatives for Christians were not success or failure, but glorious failure and miserable failure. Glorious failure is the recognition that we fall again and again and have a Lord and Saviour whose promise is so inexhaustible that we can pick ourselves up and begin the world all over again, newly created. Miserable failure takes many forms, including the form of telling ourselves that we haven’t really failed at all.”

I am a golfer (sort of.)  For a long list of reasons, I don’t have a high swing speed, thus the ball doesn’t go very far when I hit it, even when I hit it well.  Occasionally I’ll play a very challenging course here with narrow fairways bordered by very high trees and thick brush. I’ll hit it off the tee, maybe dribble it to the side, where the ball bounces into the undergrowth and out of bounds.

I have a friend who is a long hitter.  He tees it up and hits it further, but if it’s not down the middle it sails magnificently over the treetops, looking far more spectacular than mine.  But after its inspiring flight the ball drops into the trees and undergrowth, out of bounds.

My shot is miserable failure.  His shot is glorious failure.  But the result is the same: the ball is out of bounds, most likely lost, and we’re out a penalty stroke in getting to the hole.

The thing that Williams–and others of his idea–hasn’t figured out is that God doesn’t want his people to fail.  He has, however, redefined success, and that success needs to be in his strength, done his way and have his objectives.  It’s a subtle difference, but one that separates a church that actually meets people at their point of need to one that just bounces from one fiasco to the next.


And that, unfortunately, is the impression that comes out of the latest ACC.

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