Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the 85 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, announced Friday he will step down from his post at the end of the year.
Williams has been Archbishop of Canterbury, the top role in the Church of England, for 10 years.
He has accepted the position of master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University, starting in January, a statement on his website said.
Williams said: “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.”
He thanked those who had “brought vision, hope and excitement” to his ministry.
He has informed Queen Elizabeth II of his decision, the archbishop’s office said. As supreme governor of the Church of England, the queen will formally appoint his successor.
The Crown Nominations Commission will consider who will follow Williams in the role “in due course,” his office said.
The secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, wrote to senior church leaders to announce Williams’ resignation, the Anglican Communion News Service reports on its website.
Williams’ time in office had “coincided with a period of turmoil, change and development in the Anglican Communion, and his careful leadership, deeply rooted in spirituality and theology, has strengthened and inspired us all in the Communion during this time,” Kearon is quoted as saying.
And there’s this nice bit of color and context from Rocco:
A keen student of the Benedictine spiritual tradition who reportedly considered becoming Catholic as a young man, the 104th Archbishop departs his post with Vatican-Lambeth ties quite possibly at their warmest since Pope Paul VI famously took the ring off his finger to give to Archbishop Michael Ramsey at the close of Vatican II.
An especially warm rapport has developed between Williams — a world-class theologian in his own right — and Benedict XVI, most recently evidenced by the Pope’s invitation for the archbishop to address this October’s Synod of Bishops dedicated to the pontiff’s top pastoral priority, the New Evangelization. While some commentators aimed to interpret 2009′s Anglicanorum coetibus – Benedict’s response to requests from Anglican groups to enter Catholic communion as a unit — as Rome’s “parking a tank on the lawn of Lambeth Palace,” the bond made for perhaps the emotional high-point of the following year’s papal State Visit to Britain as the successors of Peter and Augustine presided together at Vespers in Westminster Abbey, marking a Pope’s first pilgrimage to the iconic London church dedicated to St Peter.