Who might replace Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury?

Is this a good question for this site? As I mentioned in a comment on the question, it strikes me as bad for two reasons:

  1. It's speculative. I'm not saying a person can't make an informed or educated guess or predictions, but future-prediction is expressly off-topic on several other SE sites, and probably should be here, too, if it's not already. (With the obvious exceptions of discussions of Biblical prophecies, etc)

  2. It's too localized. How is this different than asking "Who will be the next pastor of XYZ church in my neighborhood?"

  • 3
    I think this differs from the local pastor in that he is the leader of an entire denomination rather than just a single congregation. I still agree that the question as currently formed is speculative. It could potentially be too localized because of the time sensitivity.
    – wax eagle
    Mar 22, 2012 at 3:01

4 Answers 4


As written the question is entirely speculative until such time as a replacement is announced. At that point, it becomes trivial to answer. So currently, it's a question that calls for speculation and at some point in the future, it calls for a Google search. That's not a good long-term artifact in my opinion.

Thankfully, there's a very easy way to fix the question title:

How is the Archbishop of Canterbury replaced?

I would also remove or reword this paragraph:

An amazing answer would call out a few likely candidates and what a future Anglican Communion would look like as a result?

(Nothing says such an answer couldn't be provided, but since questions guide topic, I'd prefer to see the topic focus on the facts that can be known and will still be true for years to come.)

  • 3
    I agree, asking about the process would make for a much better question. "How do Southern Baptist churches select pastors?" would also be a valid question, IMO.
    – Flimzy
    Mar 21, 2012 at 17:26

This deserves a longer response befitting the magnitude of the office and what this will mean to the Anglican church. I apologize for the short reasoning without considering the weight of the question.

This on the surface is a poor fit for our site. The problem is that none of us are sitting in a position to choose the Archbishop and thus cannot say with any certainty who it is going to be. However, like Marc did in his answer we can answer what the criteria are and how the selection process works.

As Peter brings up in his answer this type of question will probably come up when other major church officials are appointed (such as the Catholic or Coptic Pope etc, in fact the Coptic Pope just died recently and will be appointed soon). Obviously these men do hold unique offices and special positions of power and authority in their denominations so they probably deserve special consideration beyond the local pastor (anything else might be insensitive to the denominations that hold these positions in reverence).

I think we should probably focus our efforts on two different types of questions when these kinds of events happen:

  1. How does the selection process work?

  2. What kind of issues will the new leader be dealing with?

I think with these two types of questions we answer factually and try to avoid some of the localization that has happened. I have to admit I'm somewhat skeptical that the second type can be done well without becoming obsolete quickly, but I hope that they can make good and useful questions at least for a period of time.


So, you're thinking that trying to get information on the election process and likely candidates for the Anglican Equivalent of the Pope is off topic? In just a few months, the Anglican church is probably going to rip itself apart, and the only person who can prevent this or deal with the aftermath is too localized?

1. too speculative

I'm sorry, but you just said the equivalent of "Discussing who the potential candidates for PoTUS is is offsite for a politics or history.SE. Even after the election, it is long-term important to know who was being considered. Knowing about the positions of William Jennings Bryan, William Seward, or Henry Clay is still important today. Knowing the potential points of view is an historical artifact that will always be relevant.

2. too localized As the link in Marc's answer states:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is, along with the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch, widely regarded as an international spiritual leader, representing the Christian Church. On overseas visits, a meeting with the Head of State is almost always a part of the programme, as are meetings with other significant political persons

Getting an understanding of Frank Luter's personality for the SBC (excuse me GCBC) is a far different cry than Joe Schmo of First Baptist. Getting to know Father X is a different cry from getting to know what Cardinal Ratzinger. In both cases the choice of candidates for the head says a great deal about what the denominations value. I mean, the SBC is probably going to pit a black man as it's leader for the first time ever! If getting to an understanding of what he represents isn't important then what is is?

The fundamental issue in the Anglican Communion is whether the liberal west or the conservative African wings will take prevail on issues like Same sex blessings, biblical authority, etc. The election of John Seta,u or Rowan Williams will define what 80 million people will believe. If 80 million is too localized, feel free to tell me- but then, why would we be talking about any church at that point?

Knowing the denominational head is vital. To compare the Anglican Pope to the local priest is, in my estimate, uninformed qt best or insulting at worst to the entire worldwide Anglican Communion. If you had said this about the Pontiff, I would hope that Peter Turner wouldnraise bloody heck, and I would have been with him. To say the same of the head of the 80 million member Anglican Communion is the same thing.

  • 3
    I've provided some suggestions to help improve the question. I think it is too localized, but by time. I suppose if the site were filled with experts in Anglican church politics, the answers would have considerable long-term value. But we don't have those sort of experts (yet). Mar 21, 2012 at 14:55

I don't think a question in 2005, "who might replace Pope John Paul II" would be terribly constructive. (I remembering my English Prof asking me who I thought would replace him, and I was like, "I'm kinda hoping for that Ratzinger guy" - totally called it!)

But, a question in 2012, "who was in the running to replace Pope John Paul II" would actually be pretty interesting, to me at least.

So, maybe it's best to wait until facts come out and speculation dies down (and go with Jon's suggestion and Marc's answer to focus on the criteria). I don't think there's anything wrong with the brownie points part at the bottom, but others might find it off topic and in finding it off topic reason that the whole question is off topic, which it's definitely not.

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