Rowan Williams named as Archbishop of Canterbury
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has today ended weeks of speculation that current Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams would be named as the new head of the Church of England. Williams will this fall succeed the retiring George Carey and become the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

"It's a curious experience to have your future discussed, your personality, childhood influences, and facial hair solemnly examined in the media and opinions you didn't know you held expounded on your behalf," Williams said in an address this morning. "But in spite of the haze of speculation, it's still something of a shock to find myself here coming to terms with an enormous trust placed in my hands."

Williams has been called a "unifying force," a "theologian of distinction," and a man of "wisdom, intellectual stature, and deep spirituality."

"Rowan Williams combines outstanding scholarship with an attitude of personal warmth and an appreciation of the validity of views beyond his own theological perspective," said John Smith, U.K. director of the Evangelical Alliance, in a statement today. "The Evangelical Alliance welcomes what is a significant and imaginative appointment. We also applaud the decision to appoint the new Archbishop from outside the narrow 'English' confines of the Church of England."

Some in Anglicanism have expressed concern over Williams's support for the ordination of women and gay rights. According to the BBC's Alex Kirby, the Archbishop of Wales's "views pits him against traditionalists within the Church of England itself, and also within the much larger worldwide Anglican communion. "

A close friend of the archbishop says that "people call him a liberal, and in many ways he is. But he's an orthodox liberal when it comes to doctrine."

Williams is also known to be vocal about his views. He has been a staunch opponent of the U.S. war of terrorism and possible attacks on Iraq.

Perhaps because the media had been speculating for weeks that Williams would be selected from a short list of successors, the news of his appointment is being overshadowed in some press reports by an excerpt from his most recent book in today's Times.

In it, Williams attacks a marketing culture that preys on children and leads to their corruption and premature sexualization. He targets Disney, high-priced video games, and children's beauty pageants.

"If children are to be allowed to be children, we have to ask about what prevents adults from being adults," Williams writes. "Not only parents, but adults in general, adults in their social organization and their political choices, have to grasp what is involved in becoming responsible for the nurture and induction into human society of new human subjects in process of formation."

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The pope and World Youth Day:

  • Group of nearly 100 Belgian pilgrims to miss Pope's World Youth Day mass | They will forgo the Sunday service celebrated by Pope John Paul in order to catch their flight home. (Canadian Press)

  • Sex-abuse allegations dog church celebrations | About 20 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Quebec religious institutions carried crosses in a silent protest at a World Youth Day mass on Sunday. (The Star, Toronto)

  • Toronto Prepares for Pope's Arrival | Tens of thousands of young Catholic pilgrims are converging on Canada's largest city for a week of prayer and celebration with Pope John Paul II, who is flying in for World Youth Day despite concerns about his health. (Associated Press)

  • Young prepare to party as Pope arrives | The Pope, 82 and ailing, arrives in Toronto on Tuesday at the start of an 11-day trip that will take him to Guatemala and Mexico after he presides over the closing of World Youth Day celebrations at a mass on Sunday. (Reuters)

Pop culture:

  • No sex 'n' drugs... just Jesus | Christian rock is losing its happy-clappy image and picking up a flock of fans with a plunge into heavy metal—to the horror of pop pundits. (The Guardian, London)

  • When a muppet becomes HIV positive | The new HIV-positive Muppet on "Sesame Street" will not be introduced on the U.S. version of the program, and will remain in South Africa. (The Washington Times)

Missions and ministry:

Church life:

  • Churches consider merger | Two historic black denominations have moved a step closer to merger, with delegates to a recent gathering of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church adopting a plan of union with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as a "working document." (Religion News Service)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Vandals dig up graves of nuns | In a macabre robbery, the skeletons of two Catholic sisters have been dug up and removed. (The Dispatch, South Africa)

  • Brazilians see Virgin in a window | About 40,000 Brazilians have flocked to a house in a working-class town near Sao Paulo over the last week to pray before what they believe is a vision of the Virgin Mary, local security officials said. (Reuters)

  • Illiteracy can't quiet minister | The Bible is a book the Rev. John Yates has never read. (The Charlotte Observer)

  • Movement to Change 'Satans' Nickname | It will be the third time in 16 years that the controversial school nickname will be addressed. (Associated Press)

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