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Welshman Picked as Top Anglican

July 24, 2002|From Associated Press

LONDON — Welsh Archbishop Rowan Williams, a renowned theologian and outspoken opponent of U.S. policies on Afghanistan and Iraq, was chosen Tuesday to be the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the world's more than 70 million Anglicans.

Williams, whose selection was made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and confirmed by Queen Elizabeth II, succeeds the Rev. George Carey, who plans to retire Oct. 31 after 11 years. He is the first Welshman to be chosen primate of the Church of England.

Williams, 52, defies easy categorization. He has been described as both theologically orthodox and a liberal, and he is a member of the anti-abortion Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Williams becomes leader of a global communion struggling with disputes over ordination of women as bishops and attitudes toward homosexuals. In Britain, he inherits a church undergoing a steep decline in attendance: It claims 26 million baptized members but draws no more than a million to Sunday services.

Williams said Tuesday that he was shocked by the "enormous trust" placed in his hands. "I now have to learn a good many new things ... how to speak of God in this very public position, in the middle of a culture which, while it may show a good deal of nostalgia, fascination and hunger for the spiritual, is generally skeptical of Christianity."

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