by John Carey
THE CLOSEST equivalent that the Anglican Church has to a papal conclave was set in motion this week by Dr Donald Coggan's announcement that he is to retire as Archbishop of Canturbury on January 26 next year.
But it is unlikely to come up with any surprise to match the elections of Albino Luciani and Karol Wojtyla. The most obvious successor would seem to be Dr Stuart Blanch, who is now Archbishop of York — a position held by both Dr Michael Ramsey and Dr Coggan before their elevations to Canterbury.
Not only is Dr Blanch widely known and respected throughout the Anglican Communion: he is also a very able theologian and is popular with people of all ages. He took over from Dr Coggan at York in 1975 when Dr Coggan became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Other potential candidates include Dr Robert Runcie, bishop of St Albans and Dr Graham Leonard, bishop of Truro.
Cardinal Basil Hume said that although Dr Coggan's retirement was not entirely unexpected, the announcement had come as a surprise. He added: "1 have always valued his Openness and frankness in our discussions together. I hope he will have a happy retirement."
For the first time the new archbishop will be appointed on the basis of advice given to the Prime Minister by the Crown Appointments Commission which was set up in 1977. The 'Commission is not expected to put forward any names to Mrs Thatcher before the autumn kit the carlies'.
Its members include two bishops, six members of the General Synod and Bishop John Howe, secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council. It is headed by Mr Richard O'Brien, chairman of the Manpower Services Commission.