Update: Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change tour and book
My sermon "The Spirit-led Missional Church" (Acts 11) Audio

The missional ecclesiology of Rowan Williams

I have posted below for download the paper I finished recently on the missional ecclesiology of Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion.  The question I was asking was, "What would Rowan Williams be thinking about if he was a church planter or emerging church pastor?" 

Download Rowan_Williams's_Theology_of_the_Church_as_Missionary.pdf

I look forward to reading your comments.  I am not an expert on Williams but I have read eight books by him.  If you know of any place I might consider publishing this, I would be open to advice.   

Three benefits of my paper:

This paper has three main benefits.  First, Christians might use the four “practices” as a guide for evaluating their own churches.  Does our church embrace fully the four practices in Williams’s work that can help ensure our faithfulness to the gospel? 

The terms “practices” and “standards of excellence” are borrowed from MacIntyre and are not used by Williams but I think they are an enlightening way of organizing his arguments related to the mission of the church.

Second, Christians might use the “standards of excellence” for the practice of communicating the Good News to evaluate their own church’s outlook toward mission.  Does our practice of communicating of the Good News adhere to the standards of excellence which should characterize that practice according to Williams?

Third, this paper brings together in an organized way the diverse thought of Rowan Williams for the edification of the church.  Williams tends to be misunderstood as the recent furor over his comments about Sharia exemplify.  His writings have different audiences and content so that one could get a skewed understanding of Williams’s thought if they are unaware of the scope of his work.  For example, if someone only read Lost Icons, they might be unaware of his explicitly Christian writing such as Tokens of Trust.  This paper allows both liberals and conservatives, critics and fans, to better appreciate and understand Williams.  By organizing it in these categories and explaining it, I hope to set Williams’s work “on a lower shelf,” that is, making it somewhat more accessible than it might otherwise be.  I have also quoted liberally from Williams in order to point readers toward the places in Williams’s writing where he makes these arguments so that further research can be done.

When one understands Williams’s work in its breadth, it is difficult not to appreciate the beauty and sensitivity and brilliance of his writing.  His writing truly can help churches who are attempting to do innovative mission work to do so with faithfulness to the Christian tradition as well as great effectiveness and flexibility.  The difficulty in reading Williams is that his essays tend to be so occasional, that is, trying to address a specific situation.  Therefore, it is possible to misinterpret them if they are taken to be representative of Williams’s approach to related issues.  I think this essay helps to relieve some of those possible misconceptions by framing the issue in terms of practices and standards of excellence and bringing together eight of Williams’s works.

A few websites with Anglicans thinking about new forms of church:
Fresh Expressions

Jonny Baker

Emergent UK:

Emergent UK

Jason Clark


Archbishop Rowan Williams: How is emergent church viewed in the Anglican Communion?

Archbishop Rowan Williams: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the emergent church? Archbishop Rowan Williams - What is church?