Reaction to the resignation of Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams Dr Williams said resigning was not an easy decision

There has been a mixed reaction to Dr Rowan Williams's decision to stand down as the Archbishop of Canterbury in December.

The 61-year-old is to take up the post of Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge from January 2013.

Fellow archbishops praised Dr Williams as "gifted" and "humble" but during his 10-year term as head of the Church of England, he has faced controversy over the Church's stance on women and gay bishops and same-sex unions.

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu

"The last decade has been a challenging time for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Thankfully, Archbishop Rowan is a remarkable and gifted leader who has strengthened the bonds of affection.

"Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavour, he has been much maligned by people who should have known better. For my part he has been God's apostle for our time."

Catholic Archbishop of Westminster the Most Rev Vincent Nichols

"In the last three years I have grown to appreciate more and more the fine qualities of Archbishop Rowan: His kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication to striving for harmony between peoples, especially within the Christian family, his courage and his friendship.

"I thank him for all the service he has given, recalling particularly his warm welcome to Pope Benedict at Lambeth Palace, a visit reciprocated with similar joy just last week."

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

"It has been an honour to work alongside him over the past decade and I consider it a particular privilege to call him not just a valued colleague in faith, but a true friend.

"The personal bond we have built and sustained over many years has been a source of strength and a symbol of how people of different faiths can come together as strangers and part as friends."

Church of England General Synod member Alison Ruoff

Start Quote

He has played a vital role in building friendships across faiths and denominations”

End Quote Ed Miliband

"Under Archbishop Rowan's tenure, the Church has really gone in a most liberal direction.

"Many, many churches have gone away from Bible truth and that's really to the detriment not only of the Church of England but also to the detriment to the nation.

"He's a kind, wise, warm, godly man, but had he actually stood up and been counted as a leader, I think we would be in a very different place in the Church of England from where we are now, and that is thoroughly regrettable."

The Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan

"He has worked tirelessly over the past decade to hold the Anglican Communion together, taking very seriously the views of those who differ from him. He has tried to encourage everyone to work together, rather than to pursue their own agendas, and that is always a difficult task.

"No doubt, being Archbishop of Canterbury has been a gruelling job for him and I expect he'll now be looking forward to returning to reading, writing and lecturing."

Head of the Progressive Conservatism Project at think tank Demos, Max Wind-Cowie

"His period of leadership over the Anglican Church has been marked by a real lack of leadership on a range of theological subjects - from the issue of women to gay priests.

"Dr Williams has shown himself to be incapable of holding the communion together both domestically here in the UK and globally, and I think his time in office has done a lot of damage to the Anglican communion."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Our Anglican Communion has been richly blessed with a splendid gift in the Archbishop of Canterbury. Had Archbishop Rowan been less endowed, our communion would have been horrendously torn apart.

"His profound spirituality and prayerfulness and massive intellect have helped to hold together a rather fractious Church."

Prime Minister David Cameron

"He has sought to unite different communities and offer a profoundly humane sense of moral leadership that was respected by people of all faiths and none.

"As prime minister, I have been grateful for his support and advice and for the work he has done around the world, particularly in Africa where he has taken such a close interest in the Sudan."

Labour leader Ed Miliband

"I think he was a thorn in the side of all governments and I think in a way that's an appropriate role.

He has done a very, very difficult job and seen the church through difficult times in a very skillful way. But most of all has shown himself to be someone of the deepest conviction and the deepest values and all my good wishes go with him."

Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

"Like everybody who meets him, I am always struck by how extraordinarily well-informed and measured he is in everything he says.

"I have always enjoyed our conversations, particularly in areas of common interest - tackling the stigma of mental health, the reform of our penal system, creating a fair asylum system and promoting human rights", he added.

Muslim Council of Britain secretary general Farooq Murad

"We have enjoyed a most fruitful and cordial relationship with Dr Williams during the short period I have been in office.

"The archbishop was brave as he spoke out in favour of accommodating the beliefs and traditions of many different communities. He will be missed."

Church Times editor Paul Handley

Start Quote

What strikes one about Rowan is his amazing resilience ”

End Quote Dr Malcolm Brown

"The difficulty is he's come to the post at a time when the Church is at its most fractious and has not the sort of personality to bang heads together or throw his weight around.

"He is good because he is extraordinarily thoughtful and at times this has been his undoing because as an intellectual, people have said 'well he's difficult to follow - difficult to understand'. I find that quite surprising because he's also very approachable.

"I think he's found relations with the rest of the world much easier than coping with the different factions within his own church."

Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the C of E Dr Malcolm Brown

Dr Brown praised Dr Williams for doing "an absolutely amazing job, in impossible circumstances".

"Yet what strikes one about Rowan is his amazing resilience and the fact that he's almost seemed to enjoy it and lost none of his humanity and humility..."

Bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones

Bishop Jones said Dr Williams had served the Church, Britain and the Anglican Communion "tirelessly, courageously and beyond the call of duty".

"His visits to the diocese of Liverpool showed his pastoral sensitivity and his exceptional ability to engage a wide range of people in the debate about the Christian faith," he said.

Bishop of Southwark the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun

"No-one who listens to Rowan teaching, or listens to him preaching, can be in any doubt of his great ability in those areas.

He said the archbishop had a talent for bring together - across the Anglican Communion and in the Church of England - those "at risk of being polarised".

Chairman of evangelical group Reform the Reverend Rod Thomas

"His departure opens up the potential for a new leader to heal the deep divisions within the Anglican Communion.

"What is needed is someone who will hold firm to Biblical truth in areas such as human sexuality in order to promote the gospel and unite the church in the face of militant secularism."

Former Labour Prime Minister and faith advocate Tony Blair

"He brought to the office a vision, an intellectual integrity, an openness to all, and a deep spirituality that has weathered the trials and challenges through which the Church of England has been passing."

The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, Bishop Angaelos

"Through his 10 years at Lambeth Palace, the archbishop has sought to deepen and strengthen relations within the Christian family around the world and has always been mindful of the deep and historic relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

"I will always hold very fond memories of the archbishop's visits to our Coptic Orthodox Church Centre, and the many ways in which we have worked together."

Baptist pastor and chairman of the Evangelical Times Roger W Fay

"The 39 Articles is the basis on which the Church should work and the greatness of any archbishop is measured against that creedal statement.

"I don't know Dr Williams well enough to pass a personal statement, but my impression is that he hasn't related closely to the 39 Articles and that his skills are more political than theological when it comes to adhering to those Articles.

"I think that the resignation could lead to a period of instability."

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