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.Thus begins a brief notice that appeared today on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Web site. A companion story from Anglican Communion News Service reminds us that
The Archbishop is the Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion. He is convener and host of the Lambeth Conference, President of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and Chair of the Primates’ meeting. In these roles he travels extensively throughout the Anglican Communion, visiting provinces and dioceses, and supporting and encouraging the witness of the Church in very diverse contexts. As primus inter pares among the bishops, he has a special concern for those in episcopal ministry.
|Photo by Brian|
By retiring at the end of 2012, the archbishop will likely see through the final approval of women bishops in the Church of England, although he is still at odds with the General Synod as to how the introduction of women bishops should be implemented. He will chair a final meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand later this year.
It is less clear what Rowan’s legacy will be respecting the proposed Anglican Covenant. It is highly likely that Church of England dioceses will vote not to send Covenant adoption back to this summer’s General Synod, thereby precluding the pact’s adoption on Rowan’s watch. Many have suggested that such a development will scuttle the Covenant project.
The archbishop’s announcement comes the day before five additional diocesan synods will be voting on the Covenant. Were all the dioceses to vote no on the Covenant, the matter could not return to this General Synod, which ends in 2015. That is unlikely, but it is probable that additional votes against the Covenant tomorrow will bring it closer to defeat in England. The timing of today’s announcement may have been chosen to avoid the embarrassment of resigning after a major defeat or in the hope that the announcement might have a salutary effect on the diocesan voting.
I will have more to say about Rowan Williams and the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at a later time. For now, I will simply say that, as “Focus of Unity,” Rowan has been an abject failure. His personal obsession with church unity led him to compromise his own principles and to appease radical elements within the Anglican Communion, leaving the Communion on the brink of disintegration.
Rowan Williams’ tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury has been a disaster. He cannot leave office soon enough.