Thursday, June 20, 2002

The Next Archbishop of Canterbury

There is no guarantee that this report is true. If it is then someone has broken the rules of secrecy and it is a serious offence!
Until the official statement is made from the Prime Minister's Office we do not know. --PT,,2-332465,00.html

June 20, 2002

Church turns to Wales for Archbishop
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Rowan Williams is first choice to succeed Carey at Canterbury

THE Church of England has chosen the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams, to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The appointment, which is due to be ratified by the Prime Minister within the next few weeks, will end months of speculation over the successor to Dr George Carey as 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams was selected as the first choice of the Crown Appointments Commission after a two-day meeting in Woking, Surrey last week.

The Times has learned that Dr Williams was the first of two names in order of preference which are being submitted to Tony Blair.

Although Mr Blair will be at liberty to choose the second name, or refer both names back, neither of these options is considered likely.

“He is very impressed by Rowan and thinks he is a terrific theologian,” said a Labour Party source. “There is huge enthusiasm both in the Parliamentary Labour Party and in Downing Street. Virtually every Labour MP with a Christian interest wants Rowan.”

The Prime Minister’s choice will be approved by the Queen before a formal announcement is made, probably in the second half of July.

A supporter of women priests and homosexuals, Dr Williams was felt to have the charisma and the catholicity necessary to lead the Church of England in the 21st century.

He was also considered to have the spiritual presence necessary to act as primus inter pares, or “first among equals”, of the primates of the Anglican Communion in an increasingly secular age.

As someone who will work well with the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, Dr Williams will also provide a liberal balance to the 11-year incumbency of an evangelical at Lambeth.

He is understood to have made a favourable impression when he preached before the Queen at Bangor Cathedral last Tuesday during her visit to Wales as part of her jubilee celebrations. He spoke of the years of peace and devoted service that had characterised her reign, and the “gratitude of kingdom and Commonwealth” that she had earned.

Dr Williams, who is married with two children and who celebrated his 52nd birthday last week, will be eligible to remain in office until he is 70. He will be the first Archbishop appointed from outside the Church of England since the Reformation.

The support for Dr Williams at almost every level of the Church and society has been almost unprecedented, with the bookmakers William Hill making him joint 9-4 favourite with the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

Dr Williams, born in Swansea and from a Welsh-speaking family, is revered throughout Wales where the Anglican Church in Wales has received an international profile under his leadership.

Some of the opposition to his selection came from church members in Wales who did not want to lose their archbishop to England. Dr Williams was also opposed by evangelicals who fear that his positive stance towards the ordination of homosexuals could herald conflict and even splits in the worldwide church.

The arcane process to select the new Archbishop, in which members of the commission are sworn to secrecy and must pledge not even to tell their wives of when or where they are meeting, began with a meeting of the Privy Council in January this year. At that meeting, the Queen declared the See of Canterbury vacant from October 31, the date of Dr Carey’s retirement.

Mr Blair selected Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to chair the commission, which was made up of 13 voting members including Dr Hope and the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Rev Timothy Stevens.

Members had to reach a two-thirds majority to make their selection from a list of a dozen names. Other names considered included Dr Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, and the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres.

Contentious issues that the new Archbishop will have to tackle include the ordination of women bishops, the gay rights issue and the next Lambeth Conference, due to meet at Canterbury in 2008.

On a practical level, he will have to develop a strategy to help a church with increasingly perilous finances cope with dwindling congregations and a rising pensions bill.

Many of these issues require a leader who can inspire confidence. Dr Williams, with his air of mystical spirituality and his ability to deliver inspired and intellectually authoritative speeches, was thought to be a man who could inspire such confidence both nationally and internationally.

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