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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Archbishop's legacy
Dr George Carey retires in the Autumn
Carey pushed through the ordination of women

The Most Reverend George Carey steps down on 31 October as the Church of England's spiritual leader.

Appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1991, he was for most people an unexpected choice.

He has tried hard to prepare the Church for the new millennium, but with mixed success.

His successor will take over a Church short of confidence, with several potentially divisive issues to resolve.

Falling church attendance

Dr Carey piloted through the general synod, the church's "parliament", the agreement finally to ordain women priests.

But it was a half-hearted Church that agreed to accept women as equals, something most of the secular world had done long before.

The synod insisted on making provision for parishes which rejected women priests, appointing several bishops to look after them so they need have nothing to do with what they regarded as a tainted ministry.

And in a supremely illogical moment, the synod decided that women could not progress beyond the priesthood to become bishops.

Women priests ordained by Dr Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Carey had progressive ideas to keep church up with the new millennium
So they still remain, in a sense, second-class clergy, although their arrival in the episcopal ranks will come soon.

These flaws, as many Anglicans see them, in the acceptance of women were not Dr Carey's fault - but they did happen under his leadership.

The Church has tried to draw in new members - it held a decade of evangelism during the 1990s, intended to attract recruits, but without notable success.

Church attendance has in fact dwindled during Dr Carey's time in Lambeth Palace, at least on Sundays.

Officials say that is a partial way of reading the statistics, and suggest that weekday services tell a different story.

Attempts to unite the Church of England with the Methodists have still not succeeded, even though there is virtually no doctrinal difference between them.

Probably the most serious problem facing the Church of England, like most other UK denominations, is that it faces growing indifference in society.

Spiritual leader?

The number of people who share the Church's beliefs is falling, and there are fewer who see any point in the institution's survival.

Some archbishops manage to strike a chord in society by speaking in a way which relates their faith to national life.

Dr Carey has not been seen as one of them, and for much of his time in office he was really overshadowed as the country's spiritual leader by the late Cardinal Basil Hume.

The archbishop's critics say he has done his best, but that he leaves behind a Church less confident and more introspective than when he took over.

Yet he can take comfort from realising that, if his stock in the UK is not very high, he is regarded with real affection and respect by many of the 70 million faithful who make up the worldwide Anglican Communion.

He has been their leader, too - his international achievements may outlast his domestic career.

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