The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, announced on Friday he will step down at the end of the year after a decade of struggling to prevent a schism over women and gay bishops and same-sex unions.

The 80-million strong worldwide Communion has been threatened with division for a number of years, with reformists and conservatives failing to bend to his authority or attempts at consensus.

He will step down at the end of December to take up an academic role at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, his office said in a statement.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby)