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Breaking: Rowan Williams stepping down at year’s end

Breaking: Rowan Williams stepping down at year’s end

UPDATED: Rowan Williams will step down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of 2012 to become head of Magdalene College at Cambridge.

Lambeth Palace has a news release. An extract:

“It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision. During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond. I am abidingly grateful to all those friends and colleagues who have so generously supported Jane and myself in these years, and all the many diverse parishes and communities in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion that have brought vision, hope and excitement to my own ministry. I look forward, with that same support and inspiration, to continuing to serve the Church’s mission and witness as best I can in the years ahead.”

Dr Williams 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.

The Crown Nominations Commission will consider in due course the selection of a successor.


The Archbishop of York says at his website:

…. Our partnership in the gospel over the past six years has been the most creative period of my ministry. It has been life-giving to have led missions together, gone on retreats and prayed together. In his company I have drunk deeply from the wells of God’s mercy and love and it has all been joyful. He is a real brother to me in Christ.

The last decade has been a challenging time for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Thankfully, Archbishop Rowan is a remarkable and gifted leader who has strengthened the bonds of affection. Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavour, he has been much maligned by people who should have known better. For my part he has been God’s apostle for our time.

The BBC reports here.

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols comments here.

From NPR reports and links to others:

Williams, 61, became the church’s 104th archbishop in 2002.

The Guardian notes that “his time in office has been marked by a slowly growing schism in the worldwide Anglican church which he has failed to heal.”

During his tenure, the Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops — a move that was opposed by many Anglicans.

And as The Independent writes, “his departure [also] comes after tensions within the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexuality.” But, the newspaper adds:

“He denied that there was a ‘great sense of free at last’ in view of the long-running battles between liberals and traditionalists over the issue of gays within the Anglican Communion.

” ‘Crisis management is never a favorite activity,’ [the archbishop said]. ‘I have to admit, but it is not as if that has overshadowed everything. It has certainly been a major nuisance. But in every job that you are in there are controversies and conflicts and this one isn’t going to go away in a hurry.’ “

The Guardian adds that “the bookies’ favorite to succeed him is the archbishop of York, John Sentamu.”

From The Independent:

Other possible contenders to replace Dr Williams include Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London.

Dr Chartres, 64, who is close to members of the Royal Family, gave the address at the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last year and is known for campaigning on environmental issues.

Liverpool-born the Rt Rev Nick Baines, 54, Bishop of Bradford, is also viewed as a contender for the post.

Highly educated and articulate, he is known as the “blogging” bishop, in recognition of his enthusiastic approach to using new media.

The Rt Rev Tim Stevens, 65, Bishop of Leicester, who leads the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords, and has recently clashed with the Government over the proposed benefits cap, could also be a possible contender


Another name mentioned is Graham James, the bishop of Norwich

From the Guardian, Williams is reported to say about his successor:

“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.”

Thinking Anglicans notes Procedures for appointing the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

More reactions below:

The New Statesman:

By announcing his resignation now, rather than (as had been expected) after this summer’s Jubilee celebrations, Williams will at least avoid being seen to have quit in response to a humiliating failure. But he may well still be in post when the General Synod gives its final approval for the consecration of women as bishops. This would be a proud legacy to take his leave on. Yet the instinctively Anglo-Catholic Williams will also be acutely conscious of the implications of the move for the Church of England (facing yet more splits and Romeward defections) and for wider efforts towards Christian unity. The question is another of the many circles that his immensely subtle theological mind has never quite managed to square.

A statement from the Prime Minister.

A statement from Magdalene College:

Magdalene College, in the University of Cambridge, is delighted to announce that the 35th Master of Magdalene will be The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Dr Rowan Williams PC, FBA, FRSL.

The College has been fortunate in benefitting from the outstanding leadership of Mr Duncan Robinson CBE FSA,DL for the past ten years, during which time the academic standing of the College has been greatly enhanced, substantial efforts have been made to promote access, and a major new Court has been built, providing twenty-first century facilities.

The College looks forward to the Mastership of Dr Williams who has the capacity and vision to guide the College in a time of unprecedented change in higher education. His very distinguished record, both as a scholar and a public figure, will provide for the whole community a model of the high standards of achievement to which Magdalene is committed. Dr Williams will also work with Fellows and staff in the vital task of increasing access and widening participation to students from every background and walk of life.

Commenting on the appointment, the current Master says “I congratulate the Fellowship on the appointment of Rowan Williams. The College is fortunate to have recruited as Master someone of such outstanding intellectual stature, and such profound commitment to public service, especially at a time when collegiate Cambridge faces so many challenges. I wish him every success in the post it has been both my privilege and my pleasure to hold for the past ten years. My wife and I look forward to welcoming the Williamses to Magdalene.”

Currently trending on Twitter.


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Ann Fontaine

The Archbishop cannot do this by himself. He can exert a lot of power on other bodies but there really is no system for kicking Provinces out.

Nicholas Sturtz

Sorry, one more question:

I read the document about what will happen now that Arch Bishop Rowans has announced his retirement, and I see that the Arch Bishop of York will take over responsibilities if there is no replacement by the start of the new year.

I know that Arch Bishop Sentamu is very conservative, and isn’t very happy with the Episcopal Church USA’s stance on homosexuality.

Could he kick us out of the Anglican Communion if he were to come to power? What would that do to us?

Nicholas Sturtz

Thank you VERY much for the info Ann! I’m a very procedural person (I am a computer programmer after all) so I always like to know what will happen (:

Ann Fontaine

Nicholas – the procedure is here

Nicholas Sturtz

As a fairly recent convert to the Episcopal church (2009), I don’t know much about what happens next so I have a question: How much say does the British Monarch and Parliament have in the election of the next Arch Bishop?

I came from the Roman Catholic church, so I am fairly familiar with how they do it (Conclave and all) having been through it with the passing of John Paul II.

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