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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Liberal to head Church of England
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales
Dr Rowan Williams is outspoken and controversial
A liberal and often controversial bishop has been chosen as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, religious leader for 70 million Anglicans worldwide.

The Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams, has been confirmed as the successor to Dr George Carey in the Church of England's top post.

Prime Minister Tony Blair chose Dr Williams from a shortlist of two names, put forward by the Church after months of debate.

Dr Williams said he approached the job with a sense of awe but hoped to give the Church a renewed confidence in the 21st century.

"If there's one thing I long for above all else, it's that the years to come may see Christianity in this country able again to capture the imagination of our culture, to draw the strongest energies of our thinking and feeling," he said.

Paying tribute to his predecessor, he said Dr Carey had provided a "fine model of listening and interpreting", shaping the position as a "ministry of reconciliation and mission".

Dr Carey, who is currently in the United States, said Dr Williams had "great abilities" and he greeted his appointment "with joy".


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, welcomed the appointment of Dr Williams in what he called "challenging times" for Christian leaders.


The Church is in for an exciting ride with someone who is... open and engaged with contemporary issues

Synod member Christina Rees

"As a theologian of distinction, a man of deep spirituality and a gifted communicator he will, I have no doubt, prove to be a force for great good in this country and throughout the Christian world," he said.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said Dr Williams had been chosen because of his "wisdom, intellectual stature and deep spirituality".

Some Anglicans have warned that Dr Williams' appointment could split the Church, with many conservatives strongly against some of his views - in particular on the ordination of women and gay priests.

Frank Knaggs, a member of the conservative evangelical group in the church's synod, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We do have problems with his radical agenda.

"We would like him to clarify some of these issues, so we are arranging an early meeting hopefully to clarify some of these fundamental concerns."

Christina Rees, a synod member and former member of the Archbishop's council, told Today Dr Williams could prove a great unifier for the Church.

"He's got one of the finest theological minds, he's already been shown to be a tremendous unifying force for the Church in Wales... and he prefers to lead by consensus rather than diktat.

"I believe the Church is in for an exciting ride with someone who is not defensive, and who is open and engaged with contemporary issues of today."

Dr George Carey
Dr George Carey stands down in October
Dr Williams, 52, has backed the separation of church and state in England.

In other controversial stances he has also been critical of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, and earlier this month signed a letter condemning proposed American action in Iraq.

In a book republished in the Times on Tuesday, he tackled schooling and the "corruption and premature sexualisation of young children" in a consumerist society.

Dr Carey is due to retire in October after 11 years and Dr Williams will become the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams, who is married with two children, is the first Archbishop of Canterbury to have been chosen from outside the Church of England in modern times.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Pigott
"He inherits a church whose numbers and money have melted away over the last decade"
Dr Rowan Williams
"It is something of a shock to find myself here"

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13 Jul 02 | Politics
20 Jan 02 | Politics
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