16 March 2012
Archbishop of Canterbury resigns
The Alliance’s general director has today joined leaders from around the world in paying tribute to Rowan Williams who announced that he will be stepping down from his position as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As Dr Williams revealed he will leave Lambeth Palace to become master of Magdalene College, Cambridge University, in January, the Alliance’s general director Steve Clifford said whoever succeeds him will have to be prepared to engage in debate in public life in the years to come.
Looking back at his tenure, Dr Williams said that despite “controversies” and “conflicts” on various issues, he was most proud of the Church of England’s new mission outreach programme Fresh Expressions and getting the Church “to recognise the possibility of new styles of congregational life and new styles of training for ministers to go with it”.
Commenting on Dr Williams’ departure, Steve Clifford, general director, said: “The Evangelical Alliance is sad to hear of Rowan Williams’ departure after 10 years of leading the Anglican Communion. It is with great respect that we celebrate a man who has faced criticism throughout his tenure with grace and composure, despite what has often been a pressured and challenging job. We will also remember him for his sharp mind, pastoral care, and commitment to the Church.
“With the government determined to push through legislation redefining marriage, his successor will enter the role during a challenging time for Christians in the UK and must be prepared to engage in debate with the government on issues of public concern. This makes the appointment of deep significance, not only for the Anglican Church, but for the nation. We look forward to a successor with whom we can stand united in the years to come.”
Mr Clifford joined a host of other prominent Christian leaders who have today honoured Dr Williams’ time as archbishop.
Former prime minister Tony Blair, founder and patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, said: “The announcement that Archbishop Rowan Williams is stepping down later this year spells the end of an outstanding period of leadership and service to the Anglican Communion, and to this country, by an Archbishop of Canterbury.
“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. Lambeth Palace as his residence has been home to all faiths and his engagement with the secular world has been gifted by his philosophical insights, theological wisdom and engaging dialogue.”
Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said: “Through his 10 years at Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Rowan 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, and at a wider level, with the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches internationally.
“We have also seen his great interest in and representation of Christians in the Middle East, as exemplified in the House of Lords Debate on 9 December 2011. In the Archbishop we have also seen constant and faithful efforts aimed at holding together the Anglican Communion through what has been a very challenging time.”
Mark Russell, chief executive of Church Army, added: “Rowan Williams is a remarkable man. He has held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury through demanding years and he has given so much of himself as he has led us. On behalf of the whole Church Army family I pay tribute to Rowan and thank him for his leadership, his compassion and his commitment to mission.”
Loretta Minghella, director of Christian Aid, highlighted Dr Williams’ engagement with international development and environmental issues. “We have been particularly grateful for the way he has publicly highlighted important systemic issues – from climate change to economic justice – which must be addressed if our relationships with each other and with future generations are to reflect the will of God. We will miss him very much.”