New Archbishop of Canterbury to be chosen

Rowan Williams Dr Williams is stepping down after 10 years

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Church officials are preparing to decide who will be the new Archbishop of Canterbury, ahead of Dr Rowan Williams stepping down in December.

The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) has started its three-day meeting to select the best man for the top job in the Church of England.

Dr Williams, 61, was appointed the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

The decision comes as a BBC poll suggests there has been general public approval of his leadership.

Who is in the running?

Runners and riders

The selection will bring to an end a period of intense lobbying by Anglicans who believe the new archbishop will be taking over at a critical time in the Church's history.

There is no time limit for the decision, which will be made by 16 voting members of the commission, including clergy and lay people. No date for the announcement has been set.

The new archbishop will be a man as no decision has even been made yet on whether women should be able to be ordained as bishops in the Church of the England.

Contenders for the post include Bishop of London Richard Chartres, Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Norwich Graham James, Bishop of Durham Justin Welby, and Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu - the second most senior bishop in the Church.


The Crown Nominations Committee has a grand-sounding name, but it is mostly made up of ordinary members of the Church, clergy and lay people, appointed or elected to represent the diocese of Canterbury or the ruling Synod.

Their task is anything but ordinary, and the 16-strong committee has met several times this year to carry out an exhaustive assessment of a range of potential candidates for Anglicanism's top job, using interviews for the first time.

They will choose two names - probably by the end of Friday - and send them in order of preference to Downing Street.

The prime minister is very likely simply to endorse the preferred candidate and send his name to Buckingham Palace for the Queen, the Church's Supreme Governor, to approve.

With the Church - and the wider Anglican Communion - facing serious internal divisions over issues such as homosexuality, Anglicans will be waiting anxiously for the outcome.

But the protocol - and checking the chosen candidate actually wants the job - will take time, and an announcement from Downing Street is unlikely before next week.

Others already elected by the House of Bishops to sit on the CNC - effectively removing themselves from the running - include the Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend James Newcome, and the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Reverend Michael Perham.

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham James told the BBC he was praying that he was not chosen for the post.

"Anyone who really longs to be the Archbishop of Canterbury is probably not terribly well-equipped to do the job.

"Nonetheless I am fairly sure the whole process will lead, I hope and pray, to God choosing someone other than me," he said.

Meanwhile, people on Twitter are being urged to pray for the CNC as its meeting begins.

The hashtag #prayforthecnc will be used in messages sent out by the Church of England's communications office directing people to a special prayer which has been posted on its website.

Close to splitting

The meeting begins on a day an opinion poll for BBC Local Radio by ComRes - which questioned 2,500 people in England - suggests most people think Dr Williams has been a good leader.

However, a quarter said he had not kept the Church relevant in modern Britain.

The election process began in March, when Dr Williams announced that he would be standing down at the end of the year.

He is due to take the position of Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge in January.

Under his leadership, the Church of England has come close to splitting over the ordination of gay clergy and women bishops, and has struggled to maintain its membership.

Earlier in September, Dr Williams said he had done too little to prevent the divide over homosexuality.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Dr Williams also revealed that the Church was drawing up plans to appoint a presidential figure to share some of the burden of running the worldwide Anglican communion.

Dr Williams has consistently supported the ordination of women, and previously showed no objection to the appointment of an openly gay bishop.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    Why is the Church of England still our 'official' religion? Why is our head of state also the head of this religion. Why are church of England bishops allowed to influence public policy through their presence in the unelected House of Lords. A full separation of church and state is urgently needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    For those from the C of E here wondering why an atheist would take part in this debate, my answer. Once the bishops are out The House of Lords, once religious schools stop being funded by the state, once ministers stop announcing how religion needs to be more part of everyone's lives, once babies no longer have their genitals snipped etc, then I will leave this debate alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I'm not a Christian but am very fond of the C of E. I would like to say that Dr Williams seems a very good man, has done a great job and will be very hard to replace.
    I saw someone say the job of Ab of C is the only one harder than England manager. I agree, the job is a tightrope walk keeping modernisers and conservatives happy. You couldn't pay me enough to do it. Good luck to the new guy

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I always find it odd that those with no faith, rather than simply ignoring a debate that is irrelevant to them, find it neccessary to pour scorn and abuse on those that do have faith. I guess that there is a small fear deep down inside them that they have got it wrong and that they desparately want others to join them in their lack of belief so that they can feel more comfortable about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Views are on whether the church should remain attached to the state or not seem rather irrelevant to the matter at hand, and to disregard this appointment with a "Who cares?" is bordering on the naive. This man will be capable of impacting modern Britain (it's society and government), for better or for worse, whether you like it or not. The appointment should not be taken lightly.


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