Welshman Chosen to Lead the Anglicans

Opposes Abortion, Wants to See Women Ordained

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LONDON, JULY 23, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The man named as the next Anglican archbishop of Canterbury defies easy labels.

Rowan Williams, a Welsh theologian named to succeed George Carey as the religious leader of 70 million Anglicans worldwide, favors ordaining women and practicing homosexuals as priests.

He also opposes abortion, unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq, and crass consumerism aimed at children.

Williams also is sympathetic to the idea of the Church of England losing its established status. He would prefer the Anglican denomination being put on an equal footing with Catholics, «free churches» and other Christian professions.

Prime Minister Tony Blair named the 52-year-old Williams, the current Anglican archbishop of Wales. Williams was nominated by Queen Elizabeth II to take over from Dr. Carey, who is retiring in October.

Reaction to Williams’ appointment varied widely.

One of Britain’s leading pro-life groups, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, warmly congratulated Williams on his elevation.

Said John Smeaton, SPUC national director: «The archbishop has been a life member of SPUC for many years; we are delighted to see that someone of such positive pro-life views has been recommended for the most senior position in the Church of England.»

Smeaton added: «The example he gives of Christian witness to the sanctity of human life whether unborn or born will inspire other Anglicans throughout the world to recognize that society must foster a loving and supportive environment for the weakest and most vulnerable of the human race.»

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, welcomed the appointment of Williams in what he called «challenging times» for Christian leaders.

«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,» the cardinal said in a statement.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said: «Rowan Williams is a quite exceptional thinker and man of God, and I look forward to the same warm friendship that I had with his predecessor, which did so much to improve Jewish-Christian relationships.»

Williams said he hoped to give his flock 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 was quoted by BBC as saying.

Some Anglicans, however, have warned that Williams’ appointment could split their denomination, with many strongly against some of his views — in particular on the ordination of women and homosexual priests.

Frank Knaggs, a member of the evangelical group in the Anglicans’ synod, told BBC Radio 4’s «Today» program: «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.»

By contrast, Christina Rees, a synod member and former member of the archbishop’s council, said Williams could prove a great unifier for the Anglicans. «He’s got one of the finest theological minds,» she said. «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.»

Williams has been critical of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, and earlier this month signed a letter condemning proposed American action in Iraq.

In a newly republished book, he also tackled schooling and the «corruption and premature sexualisation of young children» in a consumerist society.

A Welshman — he speaks Welsh fluently — Williams is the first archbishop of Canterbury from outside England since the 16th-century break from Rome. He is married with two children.

He has acknowledged knowingly ordaining a practicing homosexual priest, something which raises Anglican hackles as few other issues do, BBC noted.

The archbishop has also criticized Western policy since Sept. 11, describing the military action in Afghanistan as «morally tainted,» and the bombing campaign as morally equivalent to the terrorism it sought to defeat.

At a news conference after his appointment, Williams said any action against Iraq in President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism should be on a strictly international basis.

«I would only support military action which the United Nations had cleared as far as Iraq is concerned,» Williams told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Williams unleashed a blistering attack against consumer society, slamming the entertainment giant Walt Disney, child talent shows and violent computer games for corrupting the young and making them prematurely sexually aware.

«It is still mercifully rare to murder for a pair of trainers, or to commit suicide because of an inability to keep up with peer group fashion; but what can we say about a marketing culture that so openly feeds and colludes with obsession?» he said in the Times newspaper. «The Disney empire has developed this to an unprecedented degree.»

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