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Welby confirmed as Williams’s successor

09 November 2012


THE next Archbishop of Canterbury will be the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, it was announced today. He succeeds Dr Rowan Williams, who will leave Lambeth Palace on 31 December to take up an academic post in Cambridge.

Bishop Welby initially failed to appear on the list of possibles for Canterbury because of his inexperience - he was consecrated only in October last year. As the months passed after Dr William's resignation (News, 16 March), other contenders have fallen away, and he emerged as the favourite. On Wednesday, bookmakers suspended betting on the candidates after a sudden volume of bets was placed on Bishop Welby.

It is also possible that Bishop Welby's age - he is 56 - worked in his favour. Early favourites, including the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, were their early 60s, and thus would be close to retirement - or technically beyond it - by the time of the next Lambeth Conference in 2018, which traditionally takes place at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Speculation has been rife since March, particularly after it was inferred that the Crown Nominations Commission had failed to agree on a candidate at what ought to have been its final meeting in September (News, 28 September). (Two names have to be submitted to the Prime Minister under the CNC rules, each having secured a two-thirds majority i.e. 11 of the possible 16 votes.)

Bishop Welby, who worked in the financial branch of the oil industry for 11 years until he sought ordination in 1987, was appointed to sit on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in July, after the Libor rate-fixing scandal (News, 20 July). Last month he spoke of the need to transform the banking sector from "the wreckage of a hubris-induced disaster, to retrieving its basic purpose of enabling human society to flourish effectively" (News, 2 November).

The new Archbishop will also assume control of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Holding the Communion together in the face of strong doctrinal disagreements proved to be one of Dr Williams's most challenging tasks. Bishop Welby has strong links with the Church in Nigeria, having spent a total of about 18 months there since 2002. He has since returned to the country many times and was heavily involved in reconciliation ministry as a Canon of Coventry Cathedral.

On Wednesday, Dr Williams, who had a difficult relationship with the media during his tenure, suggested that his successor should be someone who preaches "with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other". Since March, Dr Welby has enjoyed exposure in the national media. This has included the revelation that his father traded whisky in the United States during the Prohibition era. Also, interviewed in The Guardian by Dr Giles Fraser, he described himself as "one of the thicker bishops in the Church of England".

Bishop Welby married his wife Caroline in 1979 and lived in Paris for three years, during which time their first child, Johanna, was born. She died in 1983 in a car accident. They have five other children, aged between 16 and 27.

He trained for ordained ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham, where he took a degree in theology, and served his curacy in Nuneaton, at All Saints', Chilvers Coton, in Coventry diocese, before taking up two other positions in the diocese, as Rector of St James's, Southam, and of St Michael and All Angels, Ufton.

In 2002 he was made a Canon Residentiary of Coventry Cathedral, and in 2007 he became Dean of Liverpool. While he was there, the cathedral adopted a mission statement that included the phrase "a safe base to do risky things in Christ's service".

He will be enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral in the new year.

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