Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, head of the Church of England for the past 10 years, has decided he should resign because he was tired of grappling with numerous sensitive issues, church sources said.

Runcie, 68, made the announcement Sunday, his 10th anniversary in office. He asked for prayers in the naming of his successor. His resignation takes effect Jan. 31, 1991, nine months before his 70th birthday, when he would be required by church rules to step down.Sources within the Church of England General Synod said Runcie was tired after a trying decade in which he confronted many sensitive issues, including the ordination of women and the divisions between Catholics and Evangelicals.

Other associates said Runcie was looking foward to spending more time with his wife, Rosalind, and their two children.

"I judge the beginning of 1991 to be the right time for me to hand over to the next archbishop of Canterbury," Runcie said in a statement. "I ask for prayers in support of those responsible for making that choice.

"The first half of next year will be a time of fresh initiatives for the church of England and for the churches of the British Isles," he said.

Runcie's resignation is expected to spark a battle between Anglican traditionalists and liberals to succeed him. The final decision will be made by the prime minister.