LONDON (Reuters) - The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury said his dual role as the head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the 80 million-member global Anglican Communion was too much for one person and should be divided in the future.
Rowan Williams, who steps down in December, told the Daily Telegraph he believed a more presidential figure should take on the wider role of guiding the Communion, a loose federation of 38 national and regional churches.
Discussions were under way on an overhaul of the Communion’s organisation that could split the Archbishop’s responsibilities, the newspaper reported him as saying in an interview published on Saturday.
Williams’ decade in office has been dominated by the threat of the Communion splitting over same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay priests, and has seen the failure of a peace pact designed to unite progressive and conservative Anglicans.
“Thinking back over things I don’t think I’ve got right over the last 10 years, I think it might have helped a lot if I’d gone sooner to the United States when things began to get difficult about the ordination of gay bishops, and engaged more directly with the American House of Bishops,” he told the paper.
A rift opened between Western and African churches after a Canadian Anglican diocese approved blessings for same-sex couples in 2002 and U.S. Anglicans in the Episcopal Church appointed an openly gay man as bishop in 2003.
Williams, 62, had championed a compromise that required member churches to agree not to act in a way likely to upset Anglicans elsewhere, but the pact was effectively scuttled in March when the Church of England voted to reject it.
“I think the problem though, is that the demands of the communion, the administrative demands of the communion have grown, and are growing,” Williams said.
“I suspect it will be necessary, in the next 10 to 15 years, to think about how that load is spread, to think whether in addition to the Archbishop of Canterbury there needs to be some more presidential figure who can travel more readily,” he added.
Future Archbishops of Canterbury would retain a “primacy of honour,” but there would be “less a sense that the Archbishop is expected to sort everything.”
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Peter Cooney