Church of England Gets A Homespun Archbishop

By Alexander MacLeod, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 1990 | Go to article overview

Church of England Gets A Homespun Archbishop


Alexander MacLeod, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE Church of England has a new spiritual leader to take it into the 21st century. He is George Carey, an avowed evangelical Christian, who in January will become the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury.

The selection by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II of a little-known cleric of working-class origins to succeed Archbishop Robert Runcie as leader of the Church of England and its 70 million adherents around the world at first stunned, then appeared to please most Anglicans.

Dr. Carey, a scholar and a Christian traditionalist, has been a bishop for less than three years and was not considered to be a strong candidate for archbishop.

Hours after the announcement of his appointment, Carey said he intended to administer his church with the help of a group of bishops of his own generation.

"I want to encourage the Church of England to grow numerically as well as in its understanding of the Christian faith," Carey said. "Sadly, all too often the church seems light years away from many people - people like the ones I grew up with."

Speculation about the new occupant of the Anglican Church's most important see, which was first held by St. Augustine of Canterbury in 601, has been rife since the spring when Dr. Runcie announced his retirement.

It had been thought that the Crown Appointments Commission, which makes recommendations about bishoprics to the prime minister, who in turn advises the queen, would propose a more prominent candidate.

Instead, their unanimous choice after weeks of secret deliberation turned out to be the son of a hospital porter who was born in London's East End, did poorly at school, and was converted to Christianity at the age of 17.

Carey, currently Bishop of Bath and Wells in the west of England, comes from the "evangelical" wing of his church. This sets him apart from "Anglo-Catholic" and "liberal" Anglicans who do not place such heavy emphasis on the scriptures and traditional Christian theology.

He is strongly against the ordination of practicing homosexual clergymen, of whom there are a significant number in the Church of England.

Carey counts himself a "charismatic Christian" and favors singing and dancing as part of church worship. He will be the first Archbishop of Canterbury in this century to have served as an ordinary parish priest.

He favors the ordination of women as priests, is regarded as a "green" on environmental issues, and said soon after his appointment was announced that he intended his church to be "better managed. …

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