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Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File, Associated Press
FILE- Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams greets worshippers to a religious service in Harare, Zimbabwe, in this file photo dated Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. In an interview published Saturday Sept. 8, 2012, in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Williams said the Anglican Church is planning to give some of the global duties of the Archbishop of Canterbury to a "presidential" figure so the archbishop can concentrate on leading the Church of England, and admitted he didn't do enough to prevent divisions in the Anglican church over homosexuality.

LONDON (AP) — Senior members of a Church of England commission are starting a three-day meeting Wednesday to select a new archbishop of Canterbury — the spiritual leader of the 78-million-strong Anglican communion.

The Crown Nominations Commission will deliberate in secret to choose a successor to Rowan Williams. He is leaving his post at the end of December to take on a new job as the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Much of Williams' tenure was devoted to trying to keep the diverse churches within the Anglican Communion together despite disputes over issues related to gender and homosexuality. Conservative and growing African churches are at odds with liberal churches in the United States and Canada on a variety of matters.

The commission will submit the name of a preferred candidate, together with an alternate, to Prime Minister David Cameron. The prime minister will offer the commission's choice to Queen Elizabeth II for approval.

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and the bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones, the bishop of London, the Rt Rev. Richard Chartres, and the bishop of Norwich, the Rt. Rev. Graham James are among the favorites to replace Williams.