Archbishop of Wales 'favourite to be archbishop of Canterbury'

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The archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is the leading choice of the Church of England's governing body to become the new archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans.

Williams, 51, a former professor of divinity at Oxford University and a recognized theologian and intellectual, came top in a survey of General Synod members published today by The Times newspaper.

The General Synod is not involved in choosing the archbishop, so the survey is signicant only as a sampling of opinion among church leaders.

The survey of 220, or 42 percent, of the synod's 516 clergy and lay members found 28 percent backed Williams. The Right Rev. Michael Nazir­Ali, 52, a native of Pakistan, was second at 19 percent.

The bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres was third with 13 percent. The bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev. James Jones, and the bishop of St. Albans, the Right Rev. Christopher Herbert, were joint fourth with eight percent each.

If Williams were chosen as archbishop of Canterbury he would be the first non­English bishop to hold the post in more than 300 years.

The selection process for the new leader following Carey's January announcement of his intention to retire is slow and deliberate. The 13 voting members of the Crown Appointments Commission – a lay chairman appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, two bishops, three lay and three clergy members of the General Synod plus four representatives from the Canterbury diocese – will trim a list of 10 to 15 names to final shortlist of two.

Those two names are then recommended to the prime minister, whose choice will be ratified by the queen.