Rowan Williams officially became the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury on Dec. 2 in an ancient legal ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.
The ceremony was a confirmation of his election, effectively making the archbishop-elect the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Archbishop Williams was confirmed in the presence of formally bewigged lawyers and eight bishops. He made the oath of allegiance to the Queen and the declaration of assent to the historic “formularies” of the Church of England. He later called the experience of being placed in such a historic and important position “very humbling.”
Although conservative evangelical elements within the church have attacked Archbishop Williams’s appointment right from its inception, they were notable by their absence at the ceremony.
“There were no protestors, like those who shouted through Bishop William Wand’s confirmation in 1945, and whose successors still shop at Kensit’s bookstore in Fleet Street, and read about ‘sodomites’ in the English Churchman,” wrote Glyn Paflin in the Church Times.
In interviews on the eve of his formal induction, Archbishop Williams said he was saddened by the reaction of evangelicals to his appointment and that the Church of England should seriously consider creating a third province to accommodate those opposed to the ordination of women.
“You can’t indefinitely perpetuate a situation in which, in one body, the ministry of some is regarded wholly negatively,” he said.
In an interview with the Church of England Newspaper, Archbishop Williams blamed evangelical pressure groups, which called for his resignation based on his accepting views of homosexuality, for tarnishing the image of the church in the eyes of the public.
“I think I was saddened that before we had had any real conversation face-to-face certain decisions seem to have been made about what I thought,” Archbishop Williams said.
“Although I am not naive enough to think I could persuade anyone and everyone by dialogue that everything was all right, I would have liked the opportunity to establish some relationships before the positions were hardened.”
The evangelical group Reform had added to tensions with a statement “formally to distance themselves from the new Archbishop of Canterbury.”
A series of interviews with media and one high-profile lecture have kept Archbishop Williams in the headlines before he takes up his formal duties when he is enthroned in February.
The conservative Church of England Newspaper said the archbishop re-opened the homosexuality debate “by revealing his wish for same-sex relationships to be acknowledged by the church.”
In an interview with that newspaper, Archbishop Williams said that a heterosexual indulging in homosexual activity is clearly wrong, but that the Bible does not condemn life-long homosexuals. To the Church Times, he said he would be bound by the 1998 Lambeth Resolution, and would therefore not ordain anyone living in a homosexual relationship.
The Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, said in a radio interview that Archbishop Williams would not “fudge” on important issues.
“I think he will be a firm and holy leader,” he said. “He is going to be good for us but it is not going to be comfortable.”