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The Archbishop of Canterbury must fulfil a number of roles including that of bishop of the Canterbury diocese and head of the Church of England as well as acting as a "focus of unity" for the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In recent years, the Anglican Communion has been split by the divide between traditionalists and liberals over homosexuality.
The appointment comes as the CoE General Synod stands poised to give final approval in November to the introduction of women bishops after years of negotiations.
Dr Williams has described the post of Archbishop of Canterbury as one of "immense demands" and has said his successor will need the "constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros".
There has been growing speculation about possible candidates to replace Dr Williams, who leaves his post at the end of December.
No clear front-runner for the post appears to have emerged within the Church of England with a number of senior figures said to be possible contenders.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, is another senior figure thought be under consideration.
The commission is also thought to be considering whether to appoint one of a younger generation of bishops including the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, who is 53 years old, and the Rt Rev Justin Welby, 56, who was enthroned less than a year ago as Bishop of Durham.
- The new Archbishop will be chosen by the Crown Nominations Commission. It has 16 voting members, and is chaired by former Conservative arts minister Lord Luce.
- The commission has to submit the name of a preferred candidate and a second appointable candidate as Archbishop to the Prime Minister.
- Under convention agreed since 2007, the Prime Minister commends the name preferred by the commission to the Queen for approval.
- The second name is used only if there is a change of circumstances which means the appointment of the recommended candidate cannot go ahead.
Senior church officials will today begin a key three-day meeting today to decide who should succeed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Williams, 61, is stepping down after ten years to take on a new role of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University.
The Crown Nominations Commission will carry out its deliberations at a secret location.