Comment – Atticus
The Sunday Times
September 24, 2006
It could have been a kiss of life to the beleaguered Church of England: Desmond Tutu has revealed he was once approached to become Archbishop of Canterbury.
A forthcoming biography tells how Tutu was contacted by a church official in 1990 to see if he’d be eligible to succeed Robert Runcie. At the time Tutu was Archbishop of Cape Town. He had won the Nobel peace prize, was renowned for his opposition to apartheid and had even featured in a Michael Jackson video.
In the event, the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher picked solid, uncharismastic George Carey, one of two names presented to her, and the following decade saw a record decline in church fortunes. At the time, Tutu’s name was never mentioned as a possible candidate.
The authorised biography, Rabble-Rouser For Peace, also reveals Tutu is critical of Rowan Williams, the current archbishop, for being too soft on opponents of gay clergy. When a church conference rejected the ordination of openly gay priests, Tutu said he was “ashamed”. He told author John Allen that if conservatives were unhappy with gay clergy “they have the freedom to leave”.