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As Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams Retires, Speculation Turns to Successor

Williams retire at the end of 2012 to serve as master of Magdalene College in Cambridge.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said today he will step down at the end of 2012, setting the stage for the unique process of government officials appointing the new leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Williams' surprise announcement stunned the religious world, even as the short list of prospective successors swiftly began to circulate. Williams, 61, has led Church of England and the world's 77 million Anglicans since 2002.

Traditionally, the new leader is chosen by a church committee of Anglican clergy and laity, who then draft a short list of candidates to submit to Prime Minister David Cameron.

While Queen Elizabeth II is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and formally appoints the archbishop of Canterbury, the decision is based on the final determination of the Prime Minister.

That process could be dogged by controversy. In the recent past, some Church of England reformists have cast doubt of whether a political figure should be involved in picking a spiritual ...

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