Williams takes his first steps to freedom as a former archbishop

By staff writers
January 1, 2013

As the New Year arrives, Dr Rowan Williams is enjoying his first day formally free of the responsibilities of being Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams assumes three new roles in 2013. He is chair of the board of trustees of UK-based churches' international development agency Christian Aid. He also becomes Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he will be able to resume academic activities

He further takes an unelected lifelong seat in the House of Lords, having accepted the title Baron Williams of Oystermouth.

Mumbles community councillor Tony Colburn commented: "He lived in Oystermouth for many years and went to Dynevor School and has close connections to All Saints Church."

Dr Williams' successor at Lambeth and Canterbury will be the current Anglican Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, who is enthroned in March this year.

In the meantime, there is an interregnum. Yesterday the former Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, who left his role in protest at the treatment of the Occupy London camp and has resumed parish ministry, tweeted: "While the cat's away...".

The retirement of Dr Williams also brings to an end the Facebook page 'Free the Lambeth One', which attracted several hundred supporters, including a couple of religion correspondents from the national press in England.

Dr Williams used his final New Year's message to highlight positive, voluntary attributes of the church in public life.

He referred to the Robes project, where more than 20 local churches combine to offer food and shelter to homeless people in London.

"Religion here isn't a social problem or an old-fashioned embarrassment, it's a wellspring of energy and a source of life-giving vision for how people should be regarded and treated," he said.

"So let's recognise this steady current of generosity that underlies so much of our life together in this country and indeed worldwide.

"It's all based on one vision - to make our society, our whole world, work for everyone, not just the comfortable and well off.

"And it's a vision that sometimes seems to need Olympic levels of patient hard work and dedication," he said.

Dr Williams noted that volunteers from churches and other faith groups made up a huge percentage of the "army of cheerful people making the wheels go round".

"How very good that people like that are there for us, we can say - but as soon as we've said that, we should be prompted to ask the tougher question: what can I do to join this silent conspiracy of generous dedication?"

[Ekk/3]

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