Carey’s role under review

Published April 1, 2001

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey holds a Rwandan child during a recent visit to Africa.


An increasingly time-consuming international and ecumenical role has led Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey to ask for a review of the archbishop’s role and for recommendations on how to make it more workable.

An eight member review team completed the first phase of this scrutiny and identified areas where they say specific recommendations will be needed in the near future.

The team collected opinions from among the 164 countries represented in the worldwide Anglican Communion. It plans to issue a final report next summer.

In the review team’s early findings Lord Hurd, the team’s chair, said that the accumulation of tasks falling on the archbishop “is already formidable and unlikely to diminish.” Commenting on the progress so far, Lord Hurd said “obligations have been added and none taken away.” Traditional roles such as speaking to the nation through the daily media have grown.

The team’s early findings show that the largest fresh source of obligation comes from the growth of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which totals 70 million members. Its report says that although the 39 provinces are autonomous, the archbishop is one of the “four instruments of unity” since Canterbury is the originating See. The other instruments are the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ meeting (now annual) and the decennial Lambeth Conferences. The archbishop is also closely involved in all three.

This growth has put increased demands on the archbishop’s time because he is expected to travel at a level unknown to his predecessors – 31 out of 42 days in 1999. This international travel includes responding to disputes and invitations to visit individual provinces, and more time in preparation and recovery after a trip.

International leadership has now evolved into a requirement that the archbishop “spearhead the response of the international faith community to such issues as poverty reduction, and development, for example through a joint initiative with the World Bank. In an increasingly globalized international community, it is reasonable to expect such requirements to increase.”

The archbishop is diocesan bishop of Canterbury, in Kent. He has two bishops who assist him and preaches in Canterbury Cathedral at major festivals such as Easter and Christmas. He is also the Primate of all England, and he consecrates new bishops in the Southern Province, is joint president with the Archbishop of York of the General Synod, and chair of the Church Commissioners for England.


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