UK Archbishop to step down next year
Dr Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, has reportedly told close friends that he will step down next year as head of both the Church of England and the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
Williams, 61, will allegedly announce his stepping down after the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2012, and plans to remain in office until after the Church of England votes on the issue of consecrating women bishops, The Telegraph reported.
A spokesman from Lambeth Palace has declined to comment on the matter.
Williams, in 2003, was elected the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, and is eligible to remain in his post until he turns 70, which would be in 2020. His early retirement is consistent with previous archbishops, including his predecessor, Lord Carey of Clifton, who also retired after holding the post for 10 years.
The timing of Williams’ retirement is also reportedly a means to enable his successor enough time to prepare for the Lambeth Conference, which gathers all Anglican bishops worldwide every 10 years. The next conference is slated for 2018.
Williams presided over one of the most difficult periods of the Anglican Church which, in 2008, struggled with arguments over homosexual clergy, the issue of women clergy, boycotts and challenges to his authority.
Amid bitter rows within the church, the Roman Catholic Church formed an Ordinariate to accommodate disillusioned Anglicans. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/10/first-anglican-defections-to-catholic-ordinariate-announced-14115/).
Succession in question
With Williams’ pending announcement, succession comes into question. There have been allegations that Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, bishop of London, has been long saying Williams should step down to give others a chance to succeed him after having held the post for 10 years.
Chartres, who is a close friend of Prince Charles, is alleged to have said it would be good for the church if Williams steps down. A source told The Telegraph, “Richard has been saying it’s time for Rowan to stand down so that Sentamu can take over, but can’t have forgotten that he’s the same age as Sentamu.”
The source further told the Telegraph, “[Chartres] would have just as good a chance of becoming archbishop given his connection with the royal family, but the only problem is his opposition to women’s ordination.”
Chartres denies ever having said that Williams should step down. In the meantime, speculation is that Ugandan-born John Sentamu, archbishop of York, will succeed Williams temporarily as caretaker.
Of late, Williams has become more vocal on political issues, including expressing his opposition to a move by the government to sell publicly-owned forests, and criticizing welfare reforms and the Coalition’s education.
The highest posts of the Church of England are, technically, appointed by the Queen. She is advised by the Crown Nominations Commission, which is comprised of some members of the General Synod, among others.