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EDITIONS
Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Canterbury candidate - Christopher Herbert
Lambeth Palace and statuary BBC
The Queen must approve final choice of archbishop

There are vociferous calls for the Church of England's next spiritual leader to be a high-profile figure.

Some partisans want a deeply spiritual man chosen as the new archbishop of Canterbury.

Others say the person the Church needs should have strong links with Islam and other world religions.

If there is no agreement, a quintessentially English figure might be the next to sit on the throne of St. Augustine.

The Crown Appointments Commission will forward two names to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will ask the Queen to approve the one he prefers.

The late Robert Runcie
Robert Runcie was archbishop in 1980s
Most observers say the two frontrunners are Rowan Williams, archbishop of Wales, and Michael Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester.

But if the commission cannot decide between them, it may recommend instead a relatively unknown figure - Christopher Herbert, bishop of St Albans diocese, which lies north of London.

There is a recent precedent for a move from St Albans to Canterbury - the late Robert Runcie, archbishop during the 1980s, made the same journey.

Christopher Herbert at 58 is older than the other two fancied candidates, but he is seen as someone who has the ear of the Church.

He is credited with successfully steering through contentious business in the Church's "parliament", its general synod.

He has experience of local church life, having been vicar of a Surrey parish for nine years.

Media-wise

He has a reputation as a good chairman and a witty preacher.

Critics say he makes life hard for clergy in his diocese who oppose the ordination of women, though a diocesan spokesman has denied that.

Bishop Herbert is seen as media-wise, and has been criticised for allegedly turning to the media in the hope of raising his profile for the Canterbury job.

His diocesan website does include one section entitled "Advice on winning media coverage" - but that is advice which much of the Church badly needs.

Unlikely to rock boat

The bishop says he is committed to building links between the Church and civic society, including links with industry and commerce.

It all sounds admirable, low-key and unlikely to rock the boat.

But Christopher Herbert may prove a dark horse who appeals to constituencies trying to avoid more exotic possibilities.

If he surprises the Church by being chosen for Canterbury, he could also surprise it once he is installed.


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The contenders

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