A report by Riazat Butt, in the Guardian today states that Richard Chartres, the bishop of London has denied suggesting it would be beneficial if the archbishop of Canterbury were to retire early, after it was claimed he was briefing against the most senior cleric in the Church of England. See yesterday’s report on this site.
Butt in her report continues: The Right Rev Richard Chartres is said to have told clergy that Rowan Williams should step aside to make room for someone else and proposed the current archbishop of York, the Most Rev John Sentamu, as Williams’ successor.
The bishop of London quashed reports in the Sunday Telegraph that he was either sizing up the role for himself or earmarking it for other clergy. Chartres’ office said: “As far as the bishop is concerned, there is nothing to the [Sunday Telegraph] story and he won’t therefore be discussing it.”
Lambeth Palace refused to comment on whether Williams was leaving office in 2012 – almost a decade before he needs to – and on speculation regarding his possible replacement.
Cambridge University – which is reportedly preparing a professorship for Williams on his alleged departure from Lambeth Palace – was unavailable for comment. The archbishop of York declined to be interviewed.
It has been frequently suggested that Sentamu is keen to be archbishop of Canterbury, a prospect that has underwhelmed fellow clergy.
Sentamu’s abbreviated title is “ABY” and, in some circles, this has come to mean “Anyone But York”. Bookmakers Paddy Power still rank Sentamu as Williams’ most likely successor, with Chartres coming in second place.
While the job of the archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, it is also viewed from inside as a thankless and difficult task.
Williams’ tenure has been pocked by bitter and endless rows over homosexuality and the ordination of women as bishops, and he has also attracted opprobrium for his comments on sharia law and, most recently, the coalition government.
Next year he faces a litany of difficult domestic and international affairs:
– The future shape of the church and the wider Communion.
– Synod will take a final vote on the legislation permitting the ordination of women to the episcopate and decide whether to adopt a constitution intended to keep worldwide Anglican churches together.
– A rival Anglican network – for conservative evangelicals – is holding a leadership conference in New York as well as opening offices in London and Nairobi.
More immediately Williams travels to Zimbabwe next month to show solidarity with Anglicans, becoming the first British representative to visit the country’s capital Harare since 2001, and has requested a meeting with President Robert Mugabe.