The former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rev David Sheppard, has entered the debate about who should succeed Dr George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury, insisting that the head of the Anglican Church must have a wife.
In an article for the Independent on Sunday he appears to rule out the unmarried Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, indicating instead that the likely successor is the Bishop of Rochester, the Rev Michael Nazir-Ali.
Though highly thought of, Dr Hope's time as a senior cleric has been dogged with controversy. Speculation over his sexuality abounded during the early 1990s, culminating in his statement that he regarded it "as a grey area". Only last year, Dr Hope gave his imprimatur to a controversial rethink of the church's view on homosexuality.
In his article, printed below, the former Bishop of Liverpool makes his views clear on all the leading candidates. By proposing a successor with views that are "well rooted in the tradition", he seems to focus on Mr Nazir-Ali, who has been beset by a smear campaign since Dr Carey announced his intention to retire earlier this month.
Mr Sheppard says working with other faiths is key to the role of archbishop. The next archbishop should be able to overcome Islamophobia and have a "readiness for collaboration" with different cultures.
Mr Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan and grew up as a Muslim, has been under attack in the media in recent weeks, with false allegations that he faked his academic qualifications and that he lied about his age. It also emerged that he had been involved with the Catholic Church in his youth in Pakistan. In a statement earlier this month, he said that he suspected that racism lay behind the smear campaign.
Mr Sheppard urges the church to opt for a traditionalist who does not "pretend that he stands outside the church". He says: "We need an archbishop who will respect other positions, but will teach with firm conviction based on Christian exploration that is well-rooted in tradition." That would appear to rule out the Archbishop of Wales, the Rev Rowan Williams. Considered one of the best brains in the church, he is none the less seen as a controversial figure because of his acceptance of the idea of ordaining gay clergy.
Mr Sheppard also appears opposed to the appointment of the Bishop of London, the Rev Richard Chartres, stressing that the new archbishop should "makes sure doors are opened to women, now that the church has settled the long-running argument about their ordination".
Mr Chartres is opposed to the ordination of women and has never ordained a woman to the priesthood.Reuse content