Cathedral solace for Archbishop

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of the strength he has drawn from Canterbury Cathedral following the “painful” defeat of legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England.

Dr Rowan Williams described the cathedral, the mother church of the Church of England, as a “great open space” for people to come into and discover “new things” about about human life and possibilities.

“When the Church itself looks dysfunctional or muddled (yes, I have noticed), there are still things that don’t change,” Dr Williams wrote in the Radio Times Christmas double issue.

“A couple of days after the Church of England’s painful vote on women bishops, I was back in Canterbury, looking at the building and thinking: ‘Not even these past few days take away the open space, the possibilities’.”

In his Radio Times article, Dr Williams said English cathedral congregations had grown dramatically in recent years, debunking the “cliché” that the Church of England is fading away.

The Archbishop was writing in advance of his appearance on New Year’s Day in the BBC Two documentary Goodbye to Canterbury, detailing his thoughts after a decade as Archbishop of Canterbury and how Canterbury Cathedral has been a “spiritual touchstone” throughout his ministry.

The General Synod failed last month by just six votes to give the necessary majority to legislation introducing the first women bishops – plunging the Church into crisis and recrimination.

Dr Williams leaves his post at the end of this month to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. His successor, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March next year.