Rowan Williams, who as archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader for more than 70 million Anglicans around the world, announced today that he will step down at the end of the year to become Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University.
"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 says in a statement on his official website.
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.
"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."