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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
New archbishop: An expert anwered your questions.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury is to be Dr Rowan Williams, the liberal Archbishop of Wales, it was announced on Tuesday.
Conservative Anglicans have expressed misgivings about Dr Williams' appointment as he believes the Church of England should lose its established status and become a church on equal footing with all other Christian denominations.
He also supports gay and lesbian clergy, the ordaining of women priests and allowing divorcees to marry in church.
Dr Williams is known for being candid, calling Western military aggression towards Afghanistan "morally tainted" and criticising the threat of action against Iraq.
The Archbishop of Canterbury heads the worldwide Anglican communion of 70 million people.
Andrew Brown, religious author and broadcaster answered your questions in a LIVE Forum.
He is said to combine relatively conservative theological views with a set of broadly liberal opinions on secular matters. His support for women priests and gay rights has led some conservative Christians to warn that his appointment could split the Church.
I am joined from our Cambridge studio by Andrew Brown, author and broadcaster on religious affairs. He's here to answer some of the e-mails you've been sending us.
First of all, can I start with the issue that perhaps has marked out Rowan Williams most of all in the minds of people who don't know him and that is homosexuality and his advocacy of gay priests - or the ordination of gay men.
John Tigwell, Ashford Kent asks: How can Dr Williams be for the ordination of gay and lesbian people when the Bible clearly states that the act of homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord?
Shamil Appathurai, Colombo, Sri Lanka asks: How will ordaining gay and lesbian clergy improve the work of the Church or is it just a remedy to fix the decreasing number of people taking to the priesthood?
Is the ordination of gay people an abomination in the eyes of Lord?
As for the second question - whether it's a merely a way to prop up declining numbers. The point I think that matters is that there are already a great many gay and indeed lesbian priests within the Church of England and in some of the churches of North America. What Dr Williams is doing is being honest about the situation as it actually is. It's not really a question of changing policy so much as people admitting publicly what they have been doing and believing privately for at least the last 15 or 20 years.
So is this the cart being put before the horse?
Equally, if you tend to think that the role of the Bible is to support decency in an indecent world and that this involves fairly straightforward patterns of heterosexual marriage, then you're going to uphold the so-called traditionalist view.
We have a couple of questions here. Brian Whittaker, London, UK: Given the Church of England's increasing irrelevance to the life this country, does it really matter at all who is the next Archbishop?
Adam Blackie, St. Albans, UK: I'm a fairly regular churchgoer - two or three times a month. At 42 years old I find myself to be one of the youngest members of the congregation. What should a new Archbishop do to make church-going more attractive to the under 30s?
As to the second question, what can an Archbishop do to make the Church more attractive to people under the age of say 30? I think there's almost nothing that an Archbishop on his own can do. I think it also entirely possible that church-going may be like listening to Radio 4 - a habit that people pick up in their 40s or when they have children.
What an Archbishop can do however is to re-moralise, if you like, the really rather demoralised and dispirited clergy of the Church of England at the moment and this, I think Rowan has a fair chance of doing. They are the people who by their direct and personal interactions with their local communities will persuade people to go to Church or not.
Chris Bessant, London, UK: How will African bishops react to Dr Williams appointment?
Chris Meyer, Durban, South Africa: Considering the arrogant disregard shown in the selection process, for the views and desires of the vast majority of Anglicans outside the United Kingdom, what credibility and authority will Rowan Williams command in the Anglican Communion at large? Does Rowan Williams possess the skills and theology to hold the Communion together at one of its most critical moments?
I watched dumbfounded as a Nigerian bishop actually attempted to exorcise on television, the chairman of the lesbian and gay Christian movement. This is not a rift which can be healed. People can stop talking about it and agree to disagree but I'm afraid that that the attitude of conservative evangelicals towards homosexuality is simply not reconcilable with the attitude, either of Rowan Williams or it has to be said of the great majority of churchgoers in the developed world.
He then goes on to ask a provocative second question: Is he not just another of Tony's cronies?
Well, I think we can rule that one out straight away, can't we?
It's all very well to say - why didn't Tony Blair take into the opinions of the Archbishop of Rwanda, say, when appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury - but one is entitled to ask, why should he. When does the Archbishop of Rwanda take any notice of the opinions of Dr Williams?
We have a question from Kairen, UK who asks: I understand that Dr Williams is also a druid which I understand to be a pagan cult. Is this true? If so there appears to be a fundamental incompatibility which the Church of England should take a stand against.
Andrew Brown, thank you very much for joining us from Cambridge today.
13 Jul 02 | UK Politics
04 Feb 02 | Wales
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