17 Mar 2012

Rowan Williams quits as head of Anglican church

8:52 pm on 17 March 2012

The spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is stepping down at the end of the year,

Dr Williams, 61, announced unexpectedly that he would leave the role December to take up an academic post at Cambridge University.

He said it was time to move on after a decade as archbishop and his new post as master of Magdelene College would give him the time he has longed for to think and write about the Church.

Dr Williams leaves an 80-million strong worldwide church that has been split over women and gay bishops, and same-sex marriages.

In an interview with Britain's Press Assocation he said that crisis management was "never a favourite activity" and had actually been "major nuisance" during his tenure.

"I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros," he said.

Dr Williams taught at Cambridge and Oxford universities before becoming a bishop.

Among those tipped to replace him is the Church of England's second highest cleric, Archbishop of York John Sentamu. Born in Uganda, he fled to Britain in 1974 to escape from dictator Idi Amin.

Anglicanism is a loose family of member churches with the Archbishop of Canterbury as its spiritual leader. As such, Rowan Williams had prestige and respect, but no direct powers beyond the Church of England he leads.