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Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury Hardcover – February 24, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


The Sunday Times
"Written with the Archbishop's cooperation, this excellent biography of the Primate of all England is theologically heavyweight, psychologically perceptive, and sometimes strikingly critical. Indeed, the fact that Rowan Williams has cooperated with such a warts-and-all portrait tells you a great deal about him."

The Tablet
"An eminently fair-minded biography. . . . Rupert Shortt is exceptionally qualified for the task he has taken on."

John Habgood, former Archbishop of York
"A major piece of work, as acute and well-informed politically as it is theologically. The sympathetic portrait of Rowan Williams as a profound and inspiring man of God is not allowed to hide his practical and political weaknesses and inconsistencies, nor the inevitable conflicts between personal belief and public policy. Rupert Shortt is to be congratulated for this timely assessment of a remarkable, gifted, and much-maligned leader."

John Austin Baker in Church Times
"This biography is timely and welcome. . . . We can be grateful for a work that is strong on empathy, but also balanced and fair in its judgments. The style is eminently readable, without ever being trite."

A. N. Wilson in The Times Literary Supplement
"Rupert Shortt's book triumphantly justifies itself. This is not just an instant biography of someone who happens to be in the news. It is a serious and learned book with a specific theme. That theme is the survival of Christianity in our midst. . . . The voice of Rowan Williams is, for many of us, a very attractive one, and Rupert Shortt has explained why."

About the Author

Rupert Shortt is religion editor of The Times LiterarySupplement and a visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall,University of Oxford. His other books include Rowan'sRule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterburyand God's Advocates: Christian Thinkers inConversation. He lives in London.,
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 484 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans; 1St Edition edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802864619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802864611
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,210,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This has been an important time in my life to read “Rowan’s Rule,” Rupert Shortt’s brilliant biography of Rowan Williams. At the end of this week, I will begin duties as the Conference Minister of the Penn West Conference of the United Church of Christ. This book was given to me by a dear friend who considered the insights in it to be valuable to what he anticipates my ministry will be. Indeed, the magnifying glass I will be under will be far less intense than that faced by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, but I imagine that on that lesser scale there will still be points of congruity. I was intrigued by both the challenges that Williams faced and his responses to them, and in some ways, it served as a cautionary tale for me. The book did not shy away from what some would describe as either “limitations” or downright “failures” of one of the greatest Christian leaders of our time. It is sobering for me to consider Williams’ weaknesses in light of my own, and I am grateful to Rupert Shortt for providing this well-written window into the Archbishop’s world. Even more, I am grateful to Rowan Williams, whose willingness to cooperate with such a candid and revealing biography not only speaks volumes about the depth of his character but serves as a great source of pastoral encouragement to someone like me.
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Format: Hardcover
Rare but not unprecedented, a biography of an Anglican Archbishop seldom contends with the sheer volume of primary and secondary texts about its subject as Rupert Shortt must address in this book. Bringing adroit insights to his task, Shortt tells a fair account not only of Williams, but also of the life and times of Anglican Christians served by him from Lambeth Palace. His subject is the life of the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Presiding bishop for 80 million Anglicans worldwide, Williams serves primus inter pares among fellow bishops of the global Anglican Communion.

First among Anglican bishops by rank--attributed to the ancient titular See of Canterbury--intensifies attention to Williams's biographic stout and froth. Shortt provides more stout than froth, and limits affectations with a steady hand. Exploring critical decisions that Williams made from the time of his mid-twenties [66, 72-4], Shortt discloses details from his mentor's developmental years, which tarnished halo's that admirers had projected onto the young Rowan long before his initial episcopacy in Monmouth (1991 at age 41).

Just the same, Williams had earned respect from fellow Anglicans such as a talented "orthodox" philosopher-theologian from Cambridge University--Professor Donald MacKinnon [62-3, 128-9], and Fr. Henry Chadwick [121-2], Dean of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford. In addition, respect came early in his career from Orthodox theologians such as Father Andrew Louth of Durham [122] and Christos Yannaras of Athens and Thessaloniki [70-1].

Whether blamed or praised, at least Williams "...has not endured public disgrace and imprisonment" [425] while shepherding his Anglican herd of mavericks.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this biography very much. The author clearly admires his subject and shares many of his views so there is some loss of objectivity. Nonetheless, he can be critical of the Archbishop although he's often tougher on the opposition (within and outside the church). The book is a good read but for one small quibble. The author is a bit too enamored (for my taste) with William's poetry and other writings. Some of it is useful but he over uses the device. As a character study though, one can't help but be impressed by this widely acclaimed theologian and "Renaissance man" who has never-the-less failed to meet the sky high expectations generated by his selection. Even those that don't subscribe to the "great man" school of history will enjoy this fine book and be left pondering the questions it raises.
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Format: Paperback
A detailed look at Rowan Williams's life, from his parents' background until 2009 (a couple years before he retired from the Archbishop's seat).

I learned a lot from this book, not only about Williams but about the Anglican church, and to some degree British culture in general (In fact, the author's assumptions about his British audience were quite revealing for this rural-grown American not so used to the implicit value judgments of British academia.)

The author is obviously sympathetic, and I liked the Archbishop a lot after reading this book. In fact, even in the areas in which the author is critical, the criticism is ignorantly made (especially concerning economics and pacifism), so I even ended up likely how Williams come out in those areas as well. The personal insight into Williams is great, though the heavy focus on his poetry could have been supplemented by a little more attention on his theological writings.

Only 3 stars because the author is rude, condescendingly attacking, and simplistic/ignorant whenever he brings up Rowan's critiques of capitalism and military violence. The book was written before Rowan's “rule” as Archbishop had come to a close, so we also miss some interesting potential material from the end, not to mention the ability to reflect on what has happened since he left.
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