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By Ray Fleming

THE resignation of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is no surprise.
He only reluctantly accepted the position in 2002 under pressure from Tony Blair and yesterday he admitted that “crisis management is not my favourite activity”. In a quieter period he could have been a leader of deep faith, great learning and conciliatory temperament. But during his ten years as head of the 77-million Anglican community he could not escape from two intractable issues: gay clergy and women bishops. Speaking yesterday, he said: “The worst aspects of the job have been the sense that there are some conflicts that won't go away and that not everyone in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation”.

He will leave the Church when many fear Christianity is losing the battle against secularism and some will think he could have done more to prevent that. While possessor of a brilliant and far-reaching mind he has had difficulty in communicating his often complex thoughts to the general public; he has also favoured ideas -- the use of Muslim sharia law alongside British civil law in some cases, for instance -- which provoked immediate criticism.

Next year at the age of 61 Dr Williams will become Master of Cambridge University's Magdalene College -- an academic role to which he will be well-suited.