Rowan Williams formally steps down today as the Archbishop of Canterbury to take up a life in gentle academia after nearly a decade of leading the world's Anglicans during one of its most turbulent periods.
According to Lambeth Palace officials, his departure will be marked with none of the fanfare that greeted the Welsh-born cleric when he was first enthroned on the Chair of St Augustine in Canterbury Cathedral nine years ago. Later this afternoon, the 62-year-old archbishop will quietly leave his quarters at Lambeth Palace and travel north to Cambridge, where he is due to take up the post of Master at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Hard as he tried to unite his church's increasingly fractious groups, he leaves the Anglican Communion bitterly divided over the issue of women clergy and homosexuality. His successor, Justin Welby, who will be enthroned at Canterbury in March, will need to find a way through the same disagreements that came to dominate his predecessor's tenure.
Dr Williams's last official sermon will be his New Year's Day address delivered via BBC1 tomorrow at 12.15pm.