Williams quits as Anglican head, says successor needs "rhino skin"

Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:43pm EDT
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By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has agonized about schisms in the Anglican Communion over women and gay bishops and same-sex unions, announced unexpectedly on Friday that he would step down at the end of the year.

He said it was time to move on after a decade as archbishop and his new post as master of Magdelene College at Cambridge University would give him the time "which I have longed for" to think and write about the Church.

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

Williams, 61, a white-bearded and bushy-browed theologian, will leave behind a church split between progressives ready to allow women bishops and bless same-sex unions, and conservatives opposed to such modern reforms.

His resignation also appeared to spell the end for his faltering project to forge more unity in the Anglican Communion, an 80-million strong worldwide federation of 38 national and regional churches that see him as their spiritual leader.

He acknowledged these strains in an interview with Britain's Press Association, saying that crisis management was "never a favorite activity" and had actually been "major nuisance" during his tenure.

"There are some conflicts that won't go away, however long you struggle with them," he said. "Not everybody in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation."