THE Archbishop of Canterbury will step down at the end of the year, Lambeth Palace announced this morning. Dr Williams is leaving to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, starting in January 2013.
A statement from Lambeth, issued shortly before 10.30 a.m., said:
“Archbishop Rowan Williams has today announced his acceptance of the position of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, with effect from January 2013. He will therefore be stepping down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of December 2012.
“Dr Williams’ intentions have been conveyed to The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and who formally appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“Dr Williams was appointed the one hundred and fourth Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002. He said today:
“‘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 announcement that Dr Williams was to succeed Dr George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury was made on 23 July 2002. He was enthroned on 27 February 2003 in Canterbury Cathedral. Before his translation to Canterbury, he served as Bishop of Monmouth from 1992 to 2002, the last two years of which he was also Archbishop of Wales.
Dr Williams is 61. When he was appointed at the age of 52, he indicated that he was unlikely to stay in post until retirement age. Speculation that Dr Williams would retire early began to emerge last year. The Sunday Telegraph reported that he had “told friends” that he was ready to leave Lambeth in 2012 to retire early to academic life (News, 16 September 2011).
He has long had close links with Cambridge. He studied theology as an undergraduate at Christ’s College, was a tutor at Westcott House from 1977 to 1980, and was a lecturer in the School of Divinity from 1980 to 1986. From 1984 to 1986, he was Dean and Chaplain of Clare College. Dr Williams and his wife, Jane, met while they were living and working in Cambridge.
This afternoon, Lambeth Palace published an interview Dr Williams gave to the Press Association about his decision to step down. The interview can be read here
TRIBUTES were quick to pour in after it was announced that Dr Williams was stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that he had received the news of Dr Williams’s resignation “with great sadness”. He said: “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.”
Dr Sentamu said that, during a “challenging time for the Church of England”, Dr Williams had “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 Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, described Dr Williams as “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.”
Dr Morgan said that Dr Williams had “worked tirelessly over the past decade to hold the Anglican Communion together, taking very seriously the views of those who differ from him. He has tried to encourage everyone to work together, rather than pursue their own agendas, and that is always a difficult task.”
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, said: “In the last three years I have grown to appreciate more and more the fine qualities of Archbishop Rowan: his kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication to striving for harmony between peoples, especially within the Christian family, his courage, and his friendship. These will be much missed when he steps down from his demanding office in December. I will miss him.”
Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Dr Williams will become Master in January, said in a statement: “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.”
Dr Williams was quoted in the statement as saying: “I am very grateful to the College for the honour they have done me, and look forward to being part of such a lively and intellectually rigorous community. I hope I shall be able to continue the exciting developments that have been taking place under the guidance of the present Master and the Fellowship, and Jane and I look forward to taking up this challenging office next January.”