A panel tasked with nominating a new Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, is divided and may take months to reach a decision, British media reported on Sunday.
The Crown Nominations Commission was expected to name the successor to Rowan Williams next week, but is yet to choose a candidate after deliberating for three days in secret, according to the Sunday Times newspaper.
The panel, which ended talks on Friday, may take several months to name the new leader ahead of Williams’ retirement in December, Church of England officials told the BBC.
The Church said in a statement on Friday that “an announcement is expected during the autumn, and that remains the case.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron must sign off on the new appointment, which also must be officially approved by Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England as well as the British head of state.
The 16-member committee includes both senior clerics and lay members and is chaired by former British arts minister Richard Luce.
Contenders for the post include veteran churchmen such as Archbishop of York John Sentamu, 63, who would be the first black Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop of London Richard Chartres, 65, and Bishop of Norwich Graham James, 61.
The commission is also thought to be considering younger bishops including Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth, 53, and Bishop of Durham Justin Welby, 56.
Williams, now 61, was appointed the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, replacing George Carey.
He announced in March that he would take up a position as master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University next year in January.
His tenure was marked by his difficulties in maintaining unity amid disagreements over the consecration of female bishops in Britain, and of openly gay ones in the US.
The rows have threatened to cause a permanent rift with conservative Anglican bishops in Africa in particular.