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Christians and Jews face hard choices over archbishop and chief rabbi roles
27th July 2012
Today will bring to a head many of the religious hopes and disappointments of the last decade as two sets of religious establishments seek successors to their incumbents.
The Crown Nominations Commission meets to review the candidates that have been shortlisted in the hunt for a new archbishop of Canterbury, while a similar search is on for the next chief rabbi. What is remarkable is how both men came to office on a tide of goodwill, seen as the best person to lead their faiths, yet are each departing with a sense of unfulfilled promise. It begs the question as to whether the fault was theirs, or whether the two positions have become an impossible task for any individual.
Jonathan Sacks had already gained national prominence before his appointment through his eloquent broadcasts and writings, and is the only rabbi to give the Reith Lectures. There was great hope that his unique combination of traditional credentials and modern outlook would enable him to hold together the increasing divide between orthodox and progressive sections within British Jewry.
Rowan Williams was appointed with a similar reputation for academic brilliance and communication skills. He was seen as someone who could promote the church's teachings against the twin challenges of secular attacks and popular apathy. Both men found themselves derailed by the same issues – gay rights, the role of women and communal unity – which overshadowed many of their other achievements.
Jonathan Romain | Read this article in full at guardian.co.uk
Photograph: National Assembly for Wales