ST. DAVID'S, Wales — The newly nominated archbishop of Canterbury was installed Monday as an honorary white druid, alarming some conservative clergy in the Church of England.

Rowan Williams, currently archbishop of Wales, was inducted into the Gorsedd of Bards, an organization that promotes Welsh language and culture and is not a religion.

Druids, who were both priests and judges, were a ruling class in ancient Celtic society.

"I think the Archbishop of Canterbury-designate needs to consider what other people, non-Welsh members of the Anglican communion, think he is doing," said the Rev. Angus Macleay of the Evangelical Reform Group.

Williams said that he was "very saddened that some people have reached the wrong conclusion about the ceremony."

"If people had actually looked at the words of the hymns and text used, they would have seen a very Christian service," said Williams.

The archbishop wore a white robe for the ceremony and chose the bardic name of ap Aneurin. That was a tribute both to a sixth-century Welsh poet and to Aneurin Bevan, a postwar Labor Party politician remembered as the founder of the National Health Service.

Elfyn Llwyd, a politician from Wales' Plaid Cymru party and a member of the Gorsedd, said the ceremony was a "quaint induction" and the group was entirely dedicated to developing the Welsh language and culture.

"It is clearly not a pagan organization — I would not be a member of it if it were, and nor would many other people of all religious persuasions who are members," Llwyd said.

"It is an old form of induction, there is no worshipping of any pagan gods of the kind. It is simply a rather quaint induction," Llwyd said.

"From there on it's a vehicle for assisting the development of the Welsh language and culture and nothing can be wrong with that."

The ceremony was part of the National Eisteddfod, a celebration of Welsh culture.

Although the Gorsedd of Bards calls its members druids, the organization dates only as far back as 1792 — the brainchild of Welsh scholar Iolo Morganwg.

Past members included the actor Richard Burton and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.


On the Net:

www.eisteddfod.org.uk/english/about/gorsedd.html