Conservatives in the worldwide 70 million-member Anglican Communion are cautiously greeting the selection of Rowan Williams as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams will succeed retiring George Carey, an evangelical, next month. Prime Minister Tony Blair chose him in July.
Married and the father of two school-age children, Williams, 52, supports the ordination of homosexuals and women and opposes abortion. He has also spoken out against the United States-led war on terrorism and against the commercial exploitation of children. A Welshman, Williams is the first Archbishop of Canterbury from outside the Church of England since the 16th century.
"If there's one thing I long for above all else, it's that the years to come may see Christianity in this country able again to capture the imagination of our culture, to draw the strongest energies of our thinking and feeling," Williams said.
John Smith, U.K. director of the Evangelical Alliance, called the appointment "significant and imaginative." Smith praised Carey, who is stepping down after 11 years, for upholding key doctrines such as the resurrection and the uniqueness of Christ, "as well as the moral imperatives of the Christian faith … on human sexuality and family life."
Smith added: "We hope and pray the new Archbishop will work hard to sustain these important traditions."
The Anglican Mission in America is a conservative movement resisting liberal dominance in the Episcopal Church. "Williams is clearly brilliant and largely orthodox, based on his writings concerning the cardinal doctrines and teachings of the church," Jay Greener of AMIA told Christianity Today. "However, he seems to be less clear and orthodox on social and moral issues that affect us today, and seems somewhat ambiguous on the role of Scripture to speak to these issues in an authoritative way."
Some non-Westerners had lobbied for someone from their ranks to be chosen. More Anglicans attend church in Nigeria than in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia combined. Many are conservative in theology.
"We are friends and Christian brothers, " Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria said of Williams. "I wish him well. My hope is that he will prove his detractors wrong."
Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
BBC has the full text of the address given by Dr Rowan Williams on the announcement that he is to be the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.
Profiles and analysis of Williams' appointment include:
Apostle of humility—Jane Shaw, The Guardian, London (July 25, 2002)
Thoughts on the road to Canterbury—The Telegraph, London (July 24, 2002)
'A theologian of distinction'—BBC (July 23, 2002)
The challenges facing the new archbishop—BBC (July 23, 2002)
Liberal to head Church of England—BBC (July 23, 2002)
Rowan Williams: Intellect and humility - and very much his own man—The Independent (July 20, 2002)
The great debate'God has a beard, so should Williams' (Richard Morrison, The Times, London)
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