Anglican Leader Rowan Williams Steps Down

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LONDON (AP) -- The head of the Church of England is leaving office after a decade as the spiritual leader of the world's 80 million-strong Anglican Communion.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is being replaced on this last day of the year by 56-year-old Justin Welby, a former oil executive who's been serving as the bishop of Durham.

The ten years in which the 62-year-old Williams held office saw him struggling to maintain unity within the Anglican Communion amid bitter disagreements over female bishops and church teachings on gay relationships.

Williams has been praised for engaging with church critics and atheists including Richard Dawkins, but he has also raised eyebrows with his opinions on controversial issues including the war in Iraq and Islamic law.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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