Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

Archbishop of Canterbury to be Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge

Friday 16th March 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams has 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.

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.

Some recent highlights of the Archbishop's time in office follow:


Archbishop Rowan is first and foremost a priest and Christian teacher in the Diocese of Canterbury and the country as a whole.  As Archbishop he shares Christian teaching with the widest possible range of enquirers. 

Prof Richard Dawkins and Archbishop Rowan Williams

Dialogue on the nature and origin of human beings

Thurs 23rd Feb 2012 - Archbishop Rowan Williams, Professor Richard Dawkins and Sir Anthony Kenny discuss "The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin."

Archbishop Rowan's letter to Lulu Renton, aged 6

The Archbishop writes to Lulu, aged 6, about God 

Fri 22nd Apr 2011 - When his six-year-old daughter, Lulu, wrote a letter to God, journalist Alex Renton did his best to get her an answer.

 Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI

Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Fri 17 Sept 2010 - Pope Benedict XVI visited Archbishop Rowan Williams at the Archbishop's London home, Lambeth Palace.

John Humphrys, BBC

'In Search of God' With John Humphrys

Tues 31st Oct 2006 - the Archbishop talks about faith, free will, and the love of God with John Humphrys for the BBC Radio 4 series 'Humphrys In Search of God'.

National Life

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Established Church in England.  At times of national celebration or solemn reflection, he leads the nation's prayers. 

HM the Queen and the Archbishop at Lambeth Palace

The Queen makes Diamond Jubilee visit

 Weds 15th Feb 2012 - Archbishop Rowan Williams hosted a multi-faith reception for Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Lambeth Palace.

Service personnel from RNAS Yeovilton

Armistice Day service - 'our Forces have taken risks for the lives of strangers'

Fri 11th Nov 2011 - The Archbishop preached at the Act of Remembrance in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Fleet Air Arm Memorial Church.  

The Royal Wedding

The Archbishop of Canterbury on the Royal Wedding 

 Thurs 21st Apr 2011 - in a video filmed shortly before the Royal Wedding, the Archbishop talks about the sense of hopefulness and generosity which lie at the heart of marriage.

Archbishop in St Paul's

Sermon: end of military operations in Iraq

Fri 9th Oct 2009 - In a service of commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral to mark the end of military operations in Iraq, the Archbishop questioned the morality of the war.

Political Issues

Politics shapes how we live together in society.  Archbishop Rowan offers the wisdom of Christian teaching and ethical reflection in public debates that affect us all.

Archbishop during the House of Lords debate

House of Lords Debate on Christians in the Middle East

Fri 9th Dec 2011 - The Archbishop spoke in the House of Lords about Christians in the Middle East, saying that their position was 'more vulnerable than it has been for centuries'.

Archbishop in House of Lords Committee

Archbishop gives evidence on House of Lords Reform

Mon 28th Nov 2011 - The Archbishop gave evidence on the Draft Bill on House of Lords Reform, saying that the Second Chamber needed to 'represent the diversity of non-partisan civil society'.

Financial Times

Time for us to challenge the idols of high finance

Tues 1st Nov 2011 - The Archbishop on the 'widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign of diminishing'.

New Statesman

The New Statesman, guest-edited by Rowan Williams

Thurs 9th Jun 2011 - In his leader article, the Archbishop notes a widespread anxiety about proposed reforms and 'the feeling that not enough has been exposed to proper public argument'.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Ethics, Economics and Global Justice - Cardiff lecture 

Sat 7th Mar 2009 - at a time of market turmoil, the Archbishop said it was essential for ethical behaviour to be an integral part of the economic process.

Social Concerns

Archbishop Rowan's ministry is shaped by Jesus' teaching that we should 'love our neighbour as ourselves'.  Archbishop Rowan speaks regularly to those who risk being marginalised, so that he can bring their concerns to public view. 

HMP Grendon

Prison visit to HMP Grendon

Fri 8th Jul 2011 - In an article published in the Guardian Online, Andrew Brown describes a visit by the Archbishop to HMP Grendon.

Archbishop Rowan at a primary school

Literacy, dignity and freedom - the Evening Standard

Tues 7th Jun 2011 - In an article published in the Evening Standard as part of its Get London Reading campaign, the Archbishop says 'literacy is still about dignity and freedom'.

Archbishop Tenison School

Archbishop Tenison's School in Oval

Tues 8th Mar 2011 - The Archbishop visited this Church of England comprehensive school for boys, which places a special emphasis on art.
Archbishop at Shelter Advice Centre

We’re all vulnerable to homelessness

Thurs 3rd Sep 2009 - Shortly after visiting a Housing Advice Centre run by Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, the Archbishop wrote an article for Roof magazine.

Ebor Lectures

Renewing the Face of the Earth - Ebor lecture in York

Weds 25th Mar 2009 - In this speech, the Archbishop says that respect for the environment is not an optional extra, especially for Christians.

Good Childhood Report

House of Lords debate - the Good Childhood Inquiry

Thursday 12th February 2009 - The Archbishop spoke in the House of Lords, calling attention to the publication of the Good Childhood Inquiry report.

International Affairs:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop of the worldwide Anglican Communion, representing 85 million Christians in 165 countries.  Archbishop Rowan shares in the work of churches around the world to teach the Christian faith and to care for those in need or in danger. 

Archbishops meet with President Mugabe

Archbishops' meeting with Zimbabwean President

Mon 10th Oct 2011 - The Archbishops of Canterbury, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Tanzania met with President Robert Mugabe to protest against abuses.

Archbishop in Africa

Into the Heart of Africa - Church Times article

Fri 1st Jul 2011 - The Archbishop made a pastoral visit to the Church in north-east Congo, which is rebuilding after conflict. Malcolm Doney from the Church Times went too.

Archbishop Rowan is welcomed to Kibera

Archbishop’s visit to Kibera slums, Kenya

Thurs 23rd Jun 2011 - During a trip to Kenya, the Archbishop saw first-hand the 'inspiring work' being done by local churches in situations of extreme overcrowding and poverty.   

Inter-religious Relations

Reflecting the Christian principles of love and charity, Archbishop Rowan works to build harmonious relations between religions.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Archbishop Rowan

Reflections on Auschwitz - Birkenau

Thurs 13th Nov 2008 - The Archbishop and the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, reflect on their visit to Auschwitz - Birkenau.
Archbishop Rowan Williams

'Sharia law' - What did the Archbishop actually say?

Thurs 7th Feb 2008 - The Archbishop's remarks on civil and religious law provoked a strong reaction. Read here the Archbishop's lecture at the Royal Courts of Justice.


The Archbishop meets regularly with leaders of other churches, experiencing their lives and ministries and advancing ecumenical dialogue, theological reflection and co-operation in mission.

Archbishop Rowan at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly

Lutheran World Federation Assembly - 'Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread'

Thurs 22nd Jul 2010 - Addressing the Lutheran World Assembly, the Archbishop says 'the bread that is shared among Christians is a recognition of dignity'.
Archbishop Rowan at the Methodist Conference

Methodist Conference - 'What's the life we're prepared to lay down for Christ?'

Tues 29th Jun 2010 - The Archbishop speaks at the Conference of the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI

Archbishop and Pope: 'Our Churches Share Witness and Service'

Thurs 23rd Nov 2006 - In his first official visit to Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop and the Pope share a service of midday prayers and psalms in the Vatican.
Ecumenical Patriarch

Archbishop visits Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople

Mon 17th Nov 2003 - The Archbishop speaks of his 'deep personal respect for the liturgical and theological traditions of Orthodoxy' during a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.

The Arts

Famously a fan of the Simpsons, Father Ted and The West Wing, the Archbishop is also a poet and author (bibliography available here).  His other cultural loves include Bach, Dostoevsky, and WH Auden.

Archbishop and pupils at Argyle Primary School

Poetry with the Archbishop at Argyle Primary School

Weds 18th Jan 2012 - the Archbishop visited Argyle Primary School at the end of the school’s Poetry Week, and shared some favourite poems with the pupils.

A History of the World in 100 Objects

A History of the World in 100 Objects - BBC Radio 4

Thurs 21st Jan 2010 - The Archbishop spoke about the 'Swimming Reindeer', a sculpture carved from a mammoth's tusk 13,000 years ago.


Icons and the Practice of Prayer

Fri 16th Jan 2009 - In a lecture at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Archbishop explored aspects of how icons are practical aids to meditative prayer.


Where Rowan Williams meets Dostoevsky - The Telegraph

Sat 27th Sept 2008 - The Archbishop talks to A.N.Wilson about his book Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction

JS Bach

The Archbishop on Bach - BBC Radio 3 

Thurs 22nd Dec 2005 - BBC Radio 3's A Bach Christmas: 'it's very difficult to listen to Bach without a sense of being invited to change your life'.
 Desert Island Discs

Archbishop's Desert Island Discs - BBC Radio 4

Sun 22nd Dec 2002 - For Desert Island Discs, the Archbishop chose his favourite 8 tracks, a book and one luxury.


A full resource of the Archbishop's sermons, speeches, articles and interviews is available by clicking the buttons in the upper right corner of this page. 



Back · Back to top