Lord picked to choose Archbishop

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams Credit: ITV Meridian

A crossbench peer and former Conservative minister has been appointed head of the commission to choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lord Luce will chair the Crown Nominations Commission, charged with finding a successor to Rowan Williams who is stepping down after a decade as the Church of England's most senior cleric.

The peer's appointment, by David Cameron, was announced by Downing Street today. The nominations commission will put its recommendation to the Prime Minister who will then seek the Queen's approval. An announcement is expected in the autumn.

Dr Williams revealed last month that he would be leaving his post at the end of December in time to start a new role as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge next January.

Lord Luce, 75, was a Tory MP for 21 years and served in Margaret Thatcher's government, including as minister of state at the Foreign Office until he resigned over the 1982 Falklands invasion.

He also spent six years as Lord Chamberlain to the Queen until 2006. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2000 and sits as a crossbencher.

Lord Luce described the appointment as a "great privilege" and a "heavy" responsibility.

"I am very conscious of the significance of the archbishop's role both nationally and across the world," he said.

"It is, of course, of great importance both to the Church of England and to the wider community in our country, given the Church's contribution to our society at all levels.

"The archbishop is also the head of world-wide Anglican Communion. And the appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury also means a great deal for other Christian denominations and for other faiths.

"Archbishop Rowan has made an outstanding contribution in all of these spheres. Finding a worthy successor will not be an easy task for the commission."

His wife Rose is a lay minister in the Church of England and they worship at a parish church near their home in West Sussex.

On announcing his resignation, Dr Williams said: "I would like the successor that God would like. I think that it is a job of immense demands and I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros really.

"But he will, I think, have to look with positive, hopeful eyes on a Church which, for all its problems, is still for so many people a place to which they resort in times of need and crisis, a place to which they look for inspiration."