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New Archbishop of Canterbury Expected To Be Announced

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Former oil boss who opposes same sex marriage emerges as favourite to become next Archbishop of Canterbury

  • Sources at Westminster say that the Right Reverend Justin Welby will be announced as successor to Dr Rowan Williams in the next 48 hours
  • The choice comes after months of tortured deliberations and less than a year after Dr Welby took up his first appointment as bishop in Durham


PUBLISHED: 21:49 GMT, 7 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:27 GMT, 7 November 2012


Dr Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, has emerged as favourite to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury

A former oil industry executive who opposes same sex marriage and the appointment of gay bishops emerged yesterday as the favoured candidate to take over as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, will be announced as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams in the next 48 hours, sources at Westminster said.

The confirmation that the 56-year-old is the choice to take over as head of the established Church comes after months of tortured deliberations and less than a year after Dr Welby took up his first appointment as a bishop.

The long delay - Dr Welby has been widely named as the leading contender for the job for the past three months - has led to charges that the leadership of the CofE is hopelessly divided.

It has even exposed the Church to mockery from bookmakers who stopped taking bets over the appointment, saying they were worried that clerics are trying to stage a betting coup.

An old Etonian, whose mother was private secretary to Winston Churchill, Dr Welby is thought to have been preferred because of the managerial skills developed during his career as an oil industry executive before he joined the Church.

The new Archbishop will bring an experienced eye to back the Church’s criticisms of unethical practice in banking and in industry, and he is also thought to be likely to be more sympathetic to David Cameron’s modernising Tory instincts than the instinctively left wing Dr Williams.

He is considered an opponent of same sex marriage and the appointment of gay bishops.

But he is likely to be much less abrasive in his opposition to the gay rights movement than his defeated opponent for the Archbishop’s post, the one-time favourite, the Archbishop of York, the Right Reverend John Sentamu.

Dr Sentamu is thought to have lost ground because of his conservative thinking on some social issues, although he is in agreement with the CofE’s liberal establishment in his criticisms of the excesses of capitalism.

His ability to command public attention may also have failed to endear him to some CofE insiders who prefer a more straight-laced brand of leadership.

The new Archbishop will move into Lambeth Palace after Dr Williams becomes Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge, where he spent many years as an academic, in December.


The new Archbishop will replace Dr Rowan Williams who is to become Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge

Dr Welby, whose mother and father were divorced when he was two, has himself been happily married for more than 30 years. He has three daughters and two sons.

His own father was sent to America in 1929 after his family lost their money and went on to make his own living as a bootlegger at the end of the Prohibition era.


Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was favourite for the post but is thought to have lost ground due to some of his conservative views on social issues

The father, Gavin Welby, is also said at one stage to have dated actress Vanessa Redgrave. The relationship is said to have ended after her family decided he was ‘a rotten piece of work’.

Dr Welby went to Eton and Trinity, Cambridge, and then to a high-flying career as a financial director in the oil business. He was treasurer of exploration company Enterprise Oil in 1987 when he quit industry for the Church.

He became rector of a church in Southam in Warwickshire in 1995, joined the staff of Coventry Cathedral in 2002, and was made Dean of Liverpool, leading the city’s Anglican cathedral, in 2007.

He was consecrated as Bishop of Durham - number five in the hierarchy of CofE bishops - at the end of October last year.

While he has little experience running a diocese he has spent years dealing with ordinary parishioners as a local priest - something missing from his predecessor’s job qualifications.

Dr Williams has been known in the Church as a theologian and intellectual. By contrast Dr Welby’s published writing has been mainly about the ethics of finance and management.

Dr Welby appears to have made few enemies during his Church career and is not identified with any one of its warring factions. This could help him as he tries to steer the Church through its troubles over gay rights.

Dr Williams, who was considered a supporter by the gay rights lobby, lost the backing of some fellow liberals for good after he blocked the appointment of gay rights champion Dr Jeffrey John as a bishop soon after he arrived at Lambeth Palace.

Dr Williams announced his decision to resign in the last week of March this year.


The new Archbishop will move into Lambeth Palace, pictured, replacing current incumbent Dr Rowan Williams (addressing the media in the picture)

The 16 members of Crown Nominations Commission, the committee that recommends a successor to the Prime Minister, were appointed in April under the leadership of former Tory minister Lord Luce.

Their failure to agree a name at a meeting in September led to speculation over division, over the development of an anyone-but-Sentamu faction, and the lack of enthusiastic support for Dr Welby.

However, Dr Welby has been consistently spoken of as the likely successor through the autumn.

Further delay would mean the Church would go into a meeting of its Parliament, the General Synod, in 10 days’ time, without a figurehead beyond December.

The authority of a new Archbishop would provide a boost for CofE hopes of at last passing its law allowing women to become bishops.

Edited by winter shaker

He finds no mercy

And he's lost in the crowd

With an armoured heart of metal

He finds he's running out of odd-numbered daisies

From which to pull the petals

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