Archbishop of Canterbury to be Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge – Comments from Bishop of Dover

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. Dr Williams’ intentions have been conveyed to The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and who formally appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams was appointed the one hundred and fourth Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

He said today:

“It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision. During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond. I am abidingly grateful to all those friends and colleagues who have so generously supported Jane and myself in these years, and all the many diverse parishes and communities in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion that have brought vision, hope and excitement to my own ministry. I look forward, with that same support and inspiration, to continuing to serve the Church’s mission and witness as best I can in the years ahead.

“The Bishop of Dover, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, who has delegated responsibility for Canterbury Diocese on behalf of the Archbishop, commented:

“Archbishop Rowan has been deeply valued in this Diocese for his leadership, pastoral experience, prayerful commitment and warmth.

I am deeply grateful for his personal support and I shall miss him as a colleague and friend.”

Julian Hills, Canterbury Diocesan Secretary added:

“It has been a delight to work with Archbishop Rowan. He has always given his fullest support to the work of Canterbury Diocese and to the laity and clergy who work and worship in churches in this area. I wish him the very best for the future.”

Dr Williams will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury, both for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, until the end of the year.

The Crown Nominations Commission will consider in due course the selection of a successor.


Notes to editors:

Bishop of Dover, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott is available for interview after 3pm on

Friday 16 March. Please contact Canterbury Diocese Director of Communications, Emily

Shepherd: 07876 210 446 or

Some recent highlights of the Archbishop’s time in office can be seen here:



The responsibility for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury rests with the Crown

Nominations Commission (CNC). Its task is to submit the name of a preferred candidate

(and a second appointable candidate) to the Prime Minster who is constitutionally responsible for tendering advice on the appointment to the Queen.

The membership of the CNC is prescribed in the Standing Orders of the General Synod.

When an Archbishop of Canterbury is to be chosen there are 16 voting members

  • The Chair (a layperson) – to be appointed by the Prime Minister
  • A Bishop – to be elected by the House of Bishops
  • The Archbishop of York or, if he chooses not to be a member of the CNC, a further

Bishop to be elected by the House of Bishops

  • Six representatives elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee
  • The six representatives (three clergy and three lay) elected by General Synod to serve as members of the Commission for a five year period
  • A member of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion elected by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

In addition, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments are non-voting members of the Commission.

Before the Commission first meets there will be an extensive consultation process to determine the needs of the diocese, the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

This has several phases;

  • The diocesan Vacancy in See Committee will prepare a brief description of the diocese and a statement setting out the desired profile of the new Archbishop
  • The Prime Minister’s and Archbishops’ Secretaries for Appointments will conduct a wider consultation exercise to inform the Commission’s consideration of the needs of the mission of the wider Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The expectation is that the Commission will have an initial meeting around the end of May to agree its process, which is likely to continue over the summer. The number of meetings will be for the Commission to determine. The process will among other things include;

  • Review of background material and results of the consultations, discussion of the challenges for the next Archbishop and, in the light of these, consideration of the personal qualities required
  • Consideration of candidates
  • Voting to identify the recommended candidate and a second appointable candidate, whose names will go forward to the Prime Minister.

Since 2007 the agreed convention in relation to episcopal appointments has been that the

Prime Minister commends the name preferred by the Commission to the Queen. The second name is identified in case, for whatever reason, there is a change of circumstances which means that the appointment of the CNC’s recommended candidate cannot proceed.

Once the Queen has approved the chosen candidate and he has indicated a willingness to serve, 10 Downing St will announce the name of the Archbishop-designate.

The College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral formally elect the new Archbishop of


The election is confirmed by a commission of diocesan bishops in a legal ceremony (the

Confirmation of Election), which confers the office of Archbishop on him.

The new Archbishop does homage to Her Majesty.

The new Archbishop is formally enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral.

Further details on the nomination process for Diocesan Bishops can be found at

This includes the particular arrangements made for the See of Canterbury.