LONDON (AP) -- A nominating commission has picked Archbishop Rowan Williams of Wales as its first choice to be the new leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Church of England, The London Times has reported.
Among candidates for archbishop of Canterbury, Williams, 52, stands out for his liberal view on homosexual priests, the most divisive issue among the world's 77 million Anglicans -- including U.S. Episcopalians.
In 1998, 82 percent of the world's Anglican bishops opposed same-sex activity, but Williams declined to endorse that decision. Before the 1998 vote Williams had ordained a gay priest living with a partner, the London Telegraph said last month.
Following that report, Williams told an interviewer in Australia, ''I am not convinced that a homosexual has to be celibate in every imaginable circumstance.''
Two choices for Canterbury are sent by the nominating commission to Prime Minister Tony Blair, in order of preference. The Times did not identify the panel's second choice. Blair could select either one or request further names, but the Times predicted Blair would choose Williams within weeks. Queen Elizabeth will then make the official appointment.
In a related development, conservatives in Africa, Asia, Latin America, England, the United States and Canada are protesting approval of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples by the Anglican Church of Canada's diocese for southwest British Columbia.
Outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said the decision threatened Anglican unity, and he will raise the issue with an international council in September.
Anglican Communion: http://www.anglicancommunion.org
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