In the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury and the senior bishop in the province of Canterbury, the southernmost and largest of England's two ecclesiastical provinces. He is also the Primate of All England and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The former Archbishop of Canterbury was Dr. Rowan Williams (2002–2013), who was seen as a theological liberal when he was chosen to be Archbishop. His time as head of the Anglican Communion has been marked by an almost ceaseless controversy between liberal and traditionalist churches, clergy, and laity. The current Archbishop of Canterbury is Justin Welby.
The Archbishop is a Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords as long as he holds his position. The practice has developed of appointing retired archbishops as peers so that they continue to sit in the Lords after their retirement.
Present and former Archbishops
The present Archbishop-elect is the Right Reverend Justin Welby.
His predecessor was the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams (2002–2012), an academic theologian who had previously served as Archbishop of Wales.
Rowan Williams was preceded by Archbishop George Carey (1991–2002). Carey rose from working-class origins through the church's ranks, and was seen as being part of the Church of England's evangelical wing.
Carey was preceded by Archbishop Robert Runcie (1980–1991). Runcie was seen as a fully-paid-up member of the British Establishment, whose contacts and knowledge of protocol were markedly superior to those of Archbishop Carey. His natural home was the High Church wing of the Church of England, whose beliefs and practices have some affinities with Roman Catholicism.
There has been an Archbishop of Canterbury since St. Augustine of Canterbury who, in the late fifth century, was sent as a missionary to Britain by Pope Gregory the Great.