Church of England panel under pressure to name new Anglican leader

October 25, 2012

(Church-goers arrive for a Christmas carol service at Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England, December 23, 2009. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)

A secretive group choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, is under pressure to break a deadlock in their talks and reach a decision, nearly a month after an announcement was expected.

The choice of the next head of the worldwide Anglican Communion comes at critical time for a church threatened by a rise in secularism and long-running divisions over senior women clergy and homosexuality.

The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury will have to contend with the risk of a schism over sex and sexuality. Liberal church leaders in the United States and Britain are at odds with more conservative figures in places such as Africa.

Rowan Williams, who steps down at the end of the year after a decade in the job, has warned that his successor will need the “constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros”.

The succession talks are shrouded in secrecy, but commentators speculate that the panel is split over choosing a reformer or a safe pair of hands to maintain the status quo in a post that dates back 1,400 years.

Members were expected to reach a decision in September and pass two names – their first choice and a back-up – to Prime Minister David Cameron, who then seeks the approval of The Queen, the church’s supreme governor.

Read the full story by Alessandra Prentice and Peter Griffiths here.
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