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Ex-oilman Welby named archbishop of Canterbury

Published:Sunday | November 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Britain's bishop of Durham Justin Welby (right) poses for photographers with his wife Caroline after a news conference following the announcement he will become the next archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in London on November 9.- AP


How will Justin Welby lead the world's Anglicans and heal their deep divisions? Even he is not sure yet.

Welby generated high hopes but few clear expectations last Friday as British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the 56-year-old former oil executive was being promoted to archbishop of Canterbury after only a year's experience as a bishop.

"We don't know much about him and there are very few expectations because he has been a bishop for such a short time," said Paul Handley, managing editor of the Church Times newspaper.

But, he said, initial signs were "very encouraging and impressive".

Welby, appointed last year as bishop of Durham in north-eastern England, worked for 11 years in the oil industry, rising to treasurer of Enterprise Oil before deciding he was called to the priesthood.

A skilled mediator who has worked to resolve conflicts in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, he will lead a global Anglican Communion riven by sharply divided views on gay people and the place of women in the church.

As the 105th holder of a post that stretches back to the 6th century, Welby takes over after Rowan Williams retires in December.

Welby said he felt privileged and astonished to be chosen to lead the church at "a time of spiritual hunger".

"It's something I never expected," Welby told reporters, saying he had been "overwhelmed and surprised" to be offered the job.