Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in March he will step down at the end of 2012, setting the stage for the unique process of government officials appointing the leader of the 77 million member worldwide Anglican Communion.
His surprise announcement stunned the religious world. Williams, 61, has led the Church of England since 2002.
Traditionally, the archbishop is chosen by a committee of Anglican clergy and laity, who then draft a short list of candidates to submit to the British prime minister. While Queen Elizabeth II is the supreme governor of the Church of England and formally appoints the archbishop, the decision is based on the final determination of the prime minister.
The favorite to replace Williams, according to numerous observers, is Ugandan-born John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York and the No. 2 official in the Church of England. Sentamu, the sixth of 13 children, fled his homeland and its dictator, Idi Amin, in 1974.
Williams told reporters his successor will need "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros."
Next January, Williams will serve as master of Magdalene College in Cambridge, returning him to the academic life that defined his early years.
Williams worked to prevent a global schism as the Episcopal Church in the U.S. ordained two openly gay bishops and allowed same-sex unions. Such steps, he warned, tear at the "bonds of affection" that keep the Anglican Communion as one.
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