Lifestyle & Belief

Archbishop of Canterbury resigns


More scholar than back-room politician, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, resigned today. He will become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge


Matthew Lloyd

Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, was the right man at the wrong time. An academic and much-lauded scholar, Williams became Archbishop 10 years ago. His greatest skills are in theological disquisition and as a conciliator.

Unfortunately, the 77 million Anglicans in his ministry are hopelessly divided over the issue of homosexuality. They don't want to be reconciled on the questions of whether gay men should become bishops or if gay marriage is possible within the Church.  The issue overshadowed his time as the 104th Archbishop.

Williams is a well-known social liberal but on this issue he sought compromise. He would ordain gay bishops - provided they were celibate. Liberals in the church hierarchy were angry with him for that. Conservatives were just as angry and don't see that there is anything to compromise on. No gay bishops, period.

He has spent most of his decade in office trying to prevent schism. It clearly has not been fun. Today he said his successor would have to have, "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros, really." (full video of resignation statement here).

Williams, will leave his position at the end of this year and become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge starting next year.

The favorite to succeed Williams is the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. Uganda-born Sentamu is to the right of Williams on the critical gay issues. He has condemned Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to legalize gay marriage - homosexuals may form legally-recognized civil partnerships but gay marriage is not recognized by British law.

But he has also condemned bankers' greed and once cut up his clerical collar in protest at the international community's inaction over the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe.

There is a very good piece here about how the issue of gay clergy threatens to split the Anglican Communion.