From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Review team wrestles with complex role of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Date 02 Feb 2001 13:19:13for <,>; Fri, 2 Feb 2001 13:31:49 -0800 (PST)


Review team wrestles with complex role of the Archbishop of Canterbury

by James Solheim

     (ENS) A review team examining the future of the Office of Archbishop of 
Canterbury has entered a new phase, issuing a consultation paper in December and 
moving into a fresh round of consultations. It expects to issue a final report 
and recommendations next summer.

     The review was requested personally by the current archbishop, George Carey, 
who asked that the current scope of the office be examined and recommendations be 
shaped for the future.

     The eight-member team has considered oral and written submissions from 
sources among the 164 countries represented in the worldwide Anglican Communion 
and its December report distilled the views expressed. "As a result of our 
continuing work, members of the Review Team have gained a much fuller picture of 
the demands on the time and resources of the Office of the Archbishop," said Lord 
Hurd, who chairs the team. 

     Sifting through the issues raised during the first stage, Hurd said that the 
team would "welcome further evidence before moving towards conclusions of our own 
in due course."

Identifying issues

     "On some crucial points, in particular the relationship between the 
archbishop and the Anglican Communion, there are quite wide differences of 
approach among those whom we have consulted," said Lord Hurd in his introduction 
to the paper. He said that the team came to understand "more clearly than when we 
began why the archbishop set up our group. The accumulation of tasks falling upon 
him is already formidable and unlikely to diminish." Hurd said that the team was 
seeking to "propose a framework which will make possible the unique form of 
leadership which our church requires."

     In summarizing some of the obvious challenges of the archbishop's role in 
the life of the church and the nation, the report pointed to:

     *the traditional roles, especially those connected with speaking to the 
nation, have become more demanding;

          *growth of the Anglican Communion is imposing deeper obligations, 
including extensive travel and response to disputes and difficulties within the 
Anglican family;

          *an interfaith role in dealing with issues of poverty and development 
in a world of increasing globalization;

          *oversight of the Diocese of Canterbury, supported by two suffragan 
bishops, and metropolitan of the Southern Province of the Church of England;

          *a national role in his capacity as Primate of All England, serving as 
chaplain to the Royal Family and pastor to the nation;

          *a need to establish relations with other church in England and 
elsewhere because of increasing diversity.

Considering options

     The report sketched several options that have emerged at this stage of the 
review--continue the present arrangement, perhaps consolidating the staffs at 
Lambeth and the Church of England's Church House; or identify those areas where 
the archbishop alone can make a contribution.

     "Events have been driving archbishops of Canterbury to assume new roles 
without reduction of old ones and excluding the opportunity to stand back and 
assess how the roles should be addressed and balanced collectively," the report 

     The aims of the review ranges between on one hand "simply devising a less 
demanding regime for the archbishops and, on the other, trying more ambitiously 
to attain a greater coherence by balancing the English and global roles more 
harmoniously and fruitfully, using better staff work and planning to that end," 
the report said. "In all cases, it would be necessary to explore how far it is 
feasible to satisfy both English and Communion requirements simultaneously, and 
resolve potential conflict between them," it concluded.

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