Tutu backs liberal for Archbishop

One of the most senior figures in the Anglican Church, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has entered the debate about who should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The former primate of southern Africa has given his backing to the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams.

Archbishop Tutu told BBC 2's Newsnight programme that Dr Williams towered head and shoulders above all the other candidates to succeed Dr George Carey as head of the Anglican Church.

Dr Carey has announced he will retire from the post in October 2002.

Apron strings

Backing Dr Williams as the most appropriate candidate for the job, Archbishop Tutu said he was the Church of England's leading theologian.

He said the Welsh bishop had an incredible capacity to communicate and a deep spirituality.

Archbishop Tutu said the failure to appoint Dr Williams would mean the worldwide church had lost a wonderful opportunity.

And he used the interview to criticise the existing links between the Church of England and the British state.

Archbishop Tutu said it was time to cut the apron strings and end the situation which gives the prime minister the final say in the appointment of archbishops.


If Dr Williams is made Archbishop of Canterbury he would be the first Welshman to hold the position for at least 1,000 years.

But his liberal views have not made him first choice with conservative elements of the church.

Dr Williams recently acknowledged that he had ordained a man he knew to be a practicing homosexual.

Criticism of the move was dismissed by Archbishop Tutu, who said that one of the glories of the Anglican church was that it embraced diversity.


Dr Williams, 51, has played down speculation that he is a contender for the job of leading the Church of England and the wider Anglican community.

But he has already won backing from columnist AN Wilson and the Bishop of Hull, the Right Reverend Richard Frith.

Dr Williams, who has been the Archbishop of Wales since 2000, was born in Swansea in 1950 into a Welsh-speaking family from the Swansea Valley.

The father-of-two was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, and at Christ Church and Wadham Colleges, Oxford.

He has written a number of books on the history of theology and spirituality and published collections of articles and sermons, as well as a book of poems in 1994.

Following Dr Carey's decision to retire other potential candidates have included the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, and the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali.

Whoever succeeds Dr Carey will be the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury since 597AD.