Archbishop hands over reins to take up academic role

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams Credit: PA

The Archbishop of Canterbury will leave office today after a decade as head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the 77 million-strong Anglican Communion.

Dr Rowan Williams, 62, departs as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury to take up the posts of Master of Magdalene College Cambridge and chairman of the board of trustees of Christian Aid, the international development agency.

Dr Williams's departure comes after a turbulent 10 years in office in which he has fought to maintain unity within the Anglican Communion amid rows over Church teaching on gay relationships.

He leaves the Church of England battling to resolve long-running negotiations over the introduction of women bishops after legislation to introduce the first female bishops was defeated last month at the General Synod.

He will be replaced by 56-year-old former oil executive the Rt Rev Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, who will be consecrated in March at Canterbury Cathedral as Archbishop of Canterbury.