Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has announced he is to stand down in December.
He will take the position of Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge from January next year, his website says.
In a statement on his website, the head of the 77 million-strong Anglican Communion said serving as archbishop had been "an immense privilege".
He said stepping down had not been an easy decision.
He added that during the time he has left there is "much to do" and thanked those in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion who had "brought vision, hope and excitement" during his ministry.
In a more in-depth interview, Dr Williams reflected on growing divisions within the Anglican Church, and said it seemed some conflicts would not go away "however long you struggle with them".
Under his leadership, the Church of England has come close to splitting over the ordination of gay clergy and women bishops. Dr Williams has consistently supported the ordination of women, and previously showed no objection to the appointment of an openly gay bishop in Reading.
Dr Williams also reflected on some of his more controversial comments, including remarks in 2008 that adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK seemed "unavoidable".
He 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, Lambeth Palace said.
Lambeth Palace said the Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, has been informed.
The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) will consider "in due course" the selection of a successor.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said he had received the news "with great sadness" and described Dr Williams as a "remarkable and gifted leader".
Prime Minister David Cameron said Dr Williams had "guided the Church through times of challenge and change" and praised the work he had carried out around the world, including in Africa. Last October Dr Williams delivered a sermon in Zimbabwe as part of an African tour to try to heal divisions within the Anglican Church.
"He sought to unite different communities and offer a profoundly humane sense of moral leadership that was respected by people of all faiths and none," Mr Cameron said.
Friday, March 16, 2012
++Rowan calling it quits
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