The Anglican Church-Bermuda's largest religious denomination-has formally begun a search for a new leader.

Rev. Ewen Ratteray, the church's first Bermudian bishop in nearly 400 years on the island, retired in March after 12 years at the helm.

Archdeacon Andrew Doughty said the church's chancellor, lawyer David Cooper, had begun the process and would be seeking nominations from members of the Synod, the governing body of the church.

Once nominations were in, the vacancy in see committee, would set a date for the election. Voters are drawn from members of the Synod. The successful candidate must have support from a majority of both houses of the Synod. One house comprises lay members while the other is made of the clergy.

Archdeacon Doughty said the election would most likely be held in September.

Likely contenders

Rev. Doughty and Rev. Patrick White, both Bermudian, are said to be likely contenders for the post of bishop, but Rev. Doughty, who is rector at St. Mary's in Warwick, declined to say whether he was interested in the post. Rev. White, a Bermudian who spent many years in Canada, is rector of St. Paul's Church in Paget.

The election of Rev. Ratteray was closely contested by three candidates, all of them Bermudian. The others were Canon James Francis, of Christ Church, Devonshire, and Archdeacon Arnold Hollis of St. James Church in Somerset. Rev. Ratteray squeaked in by only one vote

Bermuda's Anglican Church has been spared the rancour over gay and female clergy and same-sex marriages that threatens to split the worldwide Anglican Communion in two.

But membership in Bermuda has declined over the last two decades and the church, which practised segregation up to the 1960s, had been beset by conflicts over non-Bermudian versus Bermudian clergy, problems getting work permits for foreign priests through immigration, and a shortage of Bermudian priests in general.

Earlier this year, Culture Minister Dale Butler called on the church to sponsor scholarships for young black Bermudians as reparations for the role it played during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.