Welsh primate tipped as Carey’s successor

A secular newspaper in England is reporting today that a commission has picked Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Both the Church of England and a spokesperson for Archbishop Williams are downplaying the report as speculation, but the Times (of London) says the Crown Appointments Commission, which is made up of bishops, priests and lay Anglicans, selected the Welsh primate as its first choice after a two-day meeting in Woking, Surrey last week.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, retires at the end of October. The Archbishop of Canterbury is considered primus inter pares, or “first among equals”, of all the primates, or head bishops, of every province in the Anglican Communion. 

According to the Times, the commission passed along its top two recommendations for candidates to Tony Blair, England’s prime minister. Mr. Blair is free to choose the second candidate, who the Times did not name, or send the recommendations back to the commission, but the newspaper’s source thought that outcome unlikely.

The Queen must give final assent to the choice of candidate before a formal announcement is made, probably in the second half of July.

Archbishop Williams, 52 and a Welshman who speaks Welsh, would be the first Welshman selected for at least 1,000 years. Educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and at Christ Church and Wadham Colleges, Oxford, Archbishop Williams became a professor of divinity at Oxford at the age of 36. He was elected Bishop of Monmouth in 1992 and has been the Archbishop of Wales since 2000.

Initially considered an outsider as a non-Church of England bishop, Archbishop Williams was one of the bookmakers’ favourites in English betting circles. He is also known overseas for controversial views: he is in favour of women priests and bishops and favours the disestablishment of the Church of England. He also does not see sexual orientation as a bar to ordination.

He has been married to Jane Paul since 1981, and the couple have two children, Rhiannon and Pip.

While the process to appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury is so obscure that candidates themselves do not even know if their names are before the commission, other possible candidates often mentioned include Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester; James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool; and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. Bishop Kenneth Stevenson (Portsmouth), Bishop Graham Jones (Norwich) and Bishop Peter Forster (Chester) have also been touted as possible successors.


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