Rowan Williams (1950- ), the one-time Archbishop of Wales, was selected in July, 2002, to become the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury and the leader of the Anglican Church, succeeding Dr. George Carey after his 11-year tenure. Williams published his first book when he was 29 and, at the age of 35, he became Oxford University's youngest professor when he was ppointed professor of divinity.
Williams is also the first Welshman to be chosen for this position in at least 1,000 years. Indeed, he is actually from the Welsh Church rather than from the Church of England, and so is the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times who didn't come from the Church of England.
Williams' theological and political views are decidely liberal in nature. He strongly supports the separation of church and state, accepts homosexuality and endorses the ordination of both women and gays, would permit divorced people to remarry within the church, and has criticized Western military intervention in Afghanistan. Williams has even admitted to ordaining a practicing gay man into the priesthood, an act which has infuriated many conservatives within the Anglican church.
Many of his positions are vehemently opposed by traditionalists, both those within England and the even more conservative Anglicans around the world. As an example of just how conservative some can be, African Anglican bishops have tried to perform exorcisms on gay Anglican bishops. Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, caused some controversy when he asserted that married couples who choose to remain childless are "self-indulgent and incomplete".
One of Williams' concerns is how the Church and Christianity have been declining in influence in England and in Western society generally:
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.
Church Dissent Unfortunately, Williams' liberal views on things like homosexuality have served to exacerbate the split in the Anglican church between liberals and conservatives. According to Rev. George Curry, the head of the conservative Church Society, if the differences are not resolved amicably and the rift healed somewhat, conservative Anglicans may start looking somewhere other than Canterbury for spiritual leadership. One name suggested for that ledership is the conservative archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen.
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