Archbishop Of Canterbury Rowan Williams To Stand Down


this site geneva; font-size: small;”>He will take the position of Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge from January next year, more about his website says.

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Dr Williams, 61, was appointed the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

In a statement on his website, the head of the 77 million-strong the Anglican Communion said serving as archbishop had been “an immense privilege”.

He said stepping down had not been an easy decision.

He added that during the time he has left there is “much to do” and thanked those in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion who had “brought vision, hope and excitement” during his ministry.

In a more in-depth interview, Dr Williams reflected on growing divisions within the Anglican Church, and said it seemed some conflicts would not go away “however long you struggle with them”.

Church members will be surprised and some will be greatly troubled. There will be a sense of bereavement about him leaving.

He has become a very revered figure. He took on an almost impossible job. Most people, even though he has enemies on both the more right-wing and liberal side of the Church, would respect the way he has dealt with the problems the Church has had.

His resignation is not that surprising – Dr Rowan Williams never wanted this job. He was a reluctant Archbishop of Canterbury. But he came into office feeling he was called to a job, but one there were few candidates for.

He hoped to recapture the imagination of the public for Christianity. But his 10 years in office have been hugely dogged by the disputes, especially over homosexuality.

Under his leadership, the Church of England has come close to splitting over the ordination of gay clergy and women bishops.

Dr Williams also reflected on some of his more controversial comments, including remarks in 2008 that adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK seemed “unavoidable”.

He will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury, both for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, until the end of the year, Lambeth Palace said.

Lambeth Palace said the Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, has been informed.

The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) will consider “in due course” the selection of a successor.


The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said he had received the news “with great sadness” and described Dr Williams as a “remarkable and gifted leader”.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Dr Williams had “guided the Church through times of challenge and change” and praised the work he had carried out around the world, including in Africa. Last October Dr Williams delivered a sermon in Zimbabwe as part of an African tour to try to heal divisions within the Anglican Church.

“He sought to unite different communities and offer a profoundly humane sense of moral leadership that was respected by people of all faiths and none,” Mr Cameron said.

‘Avoid schism’

Dr Williams’ resignation marks the end of more than 20 years as a bishop and archbishop. Dr Williams, who was born in Swansea and speaks Welsh, was consecrated bishop of Monmouth in 1991 and elected archbishop of Wales in 1999.

He has been the most able Archbishop of Canterbury for centuries and perhaps his true worth will only really be appreciated by the Church once he’s gone”

More reaction to the resignation

His predecessor, Lord Carey, held the post for 11-and-a-half years and retired at the age of 66 in 2002.

His departure comes after tensions within the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexuality and women bishops.

Dr Williams said: “The worst aspects of the job, I think, have been the sense that there are some conflicts that won’t go away, however long you struggle with them, and that not everybody in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation.

“But I certainly regard it as a real priority to try and keep people in relationship with each other.”

He said he stood by his remarks in the early part of 2008 about sharia law.

“I re-read quite recently the text of the lecture on sharia law and I still stand by the argument of it,” he said.

Responding to the announcement of his retirement, Church of England General Synod member Alison Ruoff said: “He’s a kind, wise, warm, godly man, but had he actually stood up and been counted as a leader, I think we would be in a very different place in the Church of England from where we are now, and that is thoroughly regrettable.”

Dr Sentamu is widely viewed as the front-runner to replace Dr Williams, and would become the first black Archbishop of Canterbury if so.

Other possible contenders include Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, who is the Bishop of Bradford, and the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, who leads the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords.

In an interview about his potential successor, Dr Williams said: “I would like the successor that God would like.

“I think that it is a job of immense demands and I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros, really.

“But he will, I think, have to look with positive, hopeful eyes on a Church which, for all its problems, is still for so many people, a place to which they resort in times of need and crisis, a place to which they look for inspiration.

“I think the Church of England is a great treasure. I wish my successor well in the stewardship of it.”

‘Dim-witted prejudice’

Dr Williams described serving as archbishop as an “enormous privilege”.

Dr Williams met and prayed with Pope Benedict at the Vatican last weekend

“The privilege is that you are taken into the heart of the local church’s life for a few days, you see what really matters to people in parishes, schools and prisons and hospices and so forth,” he said.

“I think there must be very few jobs where you have quite that degree of open doors for you.”

He said he did not believe that Christianity was losing the battle against secularisation in Britain.

“I think there is a great deal of interest still in the Christian faith,” he said.

“Although I think there is also a lot of ignorance and rather dim-witted prejudice about the visible manifestations of Christianity, which sometimes clouds the discussion.

“I don’t think that there is somehow a single great argument that the Church is losing.”

Dr Williams becomes the 35th Master of Magdalene College when he replaces Duncan Robinson in January next year. Mr Robinson has spent 10 years in the post.

A statement on the college’s website said Dr Williams had the “capacity and vision to guide the college in a time of unprecedented change in higher education”.


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