Next leader of Anglicans described as politically outspoken

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

LONDON -- Rowan Williams, named Tuesday to lead the world's 70 million Anglicans as the next archbishop of Canterbury, was among those caught in the dust and debris of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Despite witnessing the terrible destruction and loss of life, he went on to oppose the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and the sanctions and threats of war against Iraq.

"No intensive campaign to search and destroy in Afghanistan will guarantee that it will never happen again," Williams said after the attacks. "Indiscriminate terror is the weapon of the weak. ... We have to be asking what it means that the world has so many people in it who believe they have nothing to lose."

But 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.

The head of the Episcopal Church in the United States, presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, praised Williams in a statement Tuesday for his ability to "relate classical Christian tradition to the needs and struggles of our world."

Professor Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., called Williams a complex thinker who would take a nuanced approach to battles between conservatives and liberals.

"He isn't going to make it easy for either of them," Douglas said. "I don't think he is going to be a single-issue guy."

Named 104th archbishop

Williams' appointment as the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, successor to the Most Rev. George Carey, was made Tuesday by Prime Minister Tony Blair and confirmed by Queen Elizabeth II, the supreme governor of the state church. Currently the archbishop of Wales, Williams is the first Welshman to be chosen primate of the Church of England.

Williams becomes leader of an English church and a global communion struggling with controversies over the ordination of women and attitudes toward homosexuals. Carey held the Church of England together through its decision to ordain women priests, but Williams is likely to face a growing debate about whether women can be bishops -- as they are in the Anglican churches of Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

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