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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 13:58 GMT
Archbishop's tough task ahead
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales
Dr Rowan Williams is taking over as Anglican leader

The new leader of the world's 70 million Anglican Protestants starts work on Monday.

Rowan Williams - who has been Archbishop of Wales - has been confirmed as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury at a service in St Paul's Cathedral in London.

Dr Williams takes over legally as Archbishop of Canterbury on Monday - but doesn't assume full role until his enthronement in February.

He faces a tough task holding together his squabbling community of Anglicans.

Liberal

He is acknowledged as an intellectual heavyweight - a former Professor of Divinity at Oxford University.

But he is not been helped by his reputation as a liberal on issues like the role of women and the place of homosexuals in the church.

Even before his selection, this had put Rowan Williams on a collision course with some more conservative elements in the Church of England.

Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams has shown that he is not one to duck controversy

They were horrified at his acknowledgement that he had once ordained a man he knew to be a practising homosexual; and at his support for moves to allow women priests to become bishops.

Splits on such issues within the Church of England are reflected globally within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In Africa, for example - where the church is growing fastest - many Anglicans are horrified at any hint of a relaxation on the current ban on homosexual priests.

Critical

Dr Williams has shown that he is not one to duck controversy.

He has questioned the link between Church and state which - among other things - gives the final say on the appointment of senior bishops like himself to the British prime minister.

He has criticised the targeting of children for profit in consumerist Western societies - and he has spoken out in no uncertain terms against any pre-emptive attack on Iraq.

Already, he has faced some vociferous attacks from his critics - leaving him, in his words, with a certain amount of blood on his face.

As he starts work, Dr Williams could find he needs all his intellectual clout to hold together his fractious family of Anglicans.


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