From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Williams first choice for archbishop of Canterbury

Date Thu, 20 Jun 2002 16:39:09 -0400 (EDT)


London Times says Rowan
Williams of Wales first choice for
archbishop of Canterbury

by James Solheim

(ENS) According to an article in the June 20 issue of the
London Times by religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill,
Archbishop Rowan Williams of Wales is the first choice
of the Crown Appointments Commission to be the next
archbishop of Canterbury. 

The paper said it had learned that Williams was the first
of two names chosen by the commission at its two-day
meeting in Surrey last week. The complicated and arcane
process requires that commission members are sworn to
secrecy, pledging to tell no one, not even family members,
about the process. 

The names will be submitted to Prime Minister Tony Blair
in the next few weeks. He is responsible for forwarding a
choice to Queen Elizabeth II, although he could return the
names to the commission, regarded by most observers as
quite unlikely. The queen will make a formal
announcement, "probably in the second half of July,"
according to the paper. 

The Times quoted a Labour Party source that said the
prime minister was "very impressed by Rowan and thinks
he is a terrific theologian. Virtually every Labour MP with
a Christian interest wants Rowan." Williams is felt "to
have the charisma and catholicity necessary to lead the
Church of England in the 21st century," according to the
paper's sources. And he has "the spiritual presence to act
as primus inter pares, first among equals, of the primates
of the Anglican Communion in an increasingly secular

If he were appointed, Williams would be the first
archbishop of Canterbury appointed from outside the
Church of England since the Reformation. He was born in
Swansea and grew up in a family that spoke Welsh. 

Williams has been identified as a leading candidate for the
position in recent months, leading in surveys taken of
church leaders in the church's General Synod, and even a
9-4 favorite with the bookmakers. Opposition to the
appointment has come from those who "fear that his
positive stance towards the ordination of homosexuals
could herald conflict and even splits in the worldwide
church," according to Gledhill. 

In an interview with the Southern Cross during a
speaking tour in Australia, Williams admitted that he had
ordained a gay man who was living in a committed
relationship. "I am not convinced that a homosexual has
to be celibate in every imaginable circumstance," he said.
"But if that were the case, I would also want to be sure
that their attitude to their sexual habits is a responsible,
prayerful and theologically informed one." 

Williams pointed out that "there are distortions at both
ends of the spectrum" in dealing with sexuality issues.
"There is an attitude that says the entire historical sexual
morality of the church is open to negotiation, and that
really there are no fixed points. At the other end of the
spectrum, there are people who say that anything which
deviates an inch from the apparent plain sense of
Scripture is a fundamental matter of Christian integrity." 

"I'm not happy with either of those extremes," William
said in the interview. "I believe that there is an integral
sexual morality, which the church has rightly taught, and
that has to do with the fact that our active sexuality must
express the fidelity of God, both in creation and in Christ.
It's only within that framework that I want to discuss the
question of active homosexuality as a theological

--James Solheim is director of Episcopal News

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