17: The Church and Prayer with Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams joins Brandon and Hannah to talk about church unity in the face of difference, vocation, and prayer.

Brandon Nappi, Rowan Williams, and Hannah Black with podcasting microphones

The 104th Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting Yale Divinity School to give the Taylor Lectures. He titled these lectures “The Claims of Solidarity: A Conversation in Theology and Ethics.” Rowan Williams’s first book, The Wound of Knowledge, became an instant classic. His prolific output since has ranged from Patristics to poetry and from systematic theology to social ethics.  His works range from highly technical and sophisticated contributions to scholarly debates to accessible yet challenging works addressing the human condition and the spiritual life. He has written and spoken with care and passion about peace, religious pluralism, economics, human sexuality and much more.

Rowan Williams studied theology at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. He then pursued DPhil in theology at the University of Oxford. During that time, he had a hand in forming the Jubilee Group, a movement of Anglican Catholics committed to authentic social witness. He trained for ordination and lectured at Mirfield in Yorkshire before returning to Cambridge, where he was ordained and taught at Westcott House.

After a curacy, he was appointed a university lecturer in divinity at Cambridge, then Dean and Chaplain at Clare College. He was then appointed Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church, University of Oxford. 

He was Bishop of Monmouth 1991–2002 and Archbishop of Wales 1999–2002. In 2002, he was elected Archbishop of Canterbury. He was the first since the Reformation to be appointed from outside the Church of England. In this role, he sought not merely to promote his own ideas and commitments but to maintain conversation across a disparate and in some cases willfully divided Anglican Communion, seeking to encourage understanding of the other and of communion itself by different sides in what remain contentious debates.

He was Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge 2013–2020 and is now back in Wales, where he writes theology and poetry.

Rowan Williams holds honorary degrees from both Yale University and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

Hannah’s book recommendations: