Meet the new Archbishop of Canterbury: Justin Welby 8 November 2012

Information regarding the identity of the new Archbishop set to replace Rowan Williams has been kept quietly under wraps by the Crown Nominations Commission, however it seems his identity has finally been revealed.

Key sources have named Justin Welby as the successor. The Very Revd Justin Welby, currently the Bishop of Durham, is a surprise choice – Archbishop of York John Sentamu has been a long standing favourite.

Bishop Welby’s career is in many ways more varied than the erudite theologian Rowan Williams. Welby’s early years in Eton and Cambridge was followed by a brief career in the oil industry. He entered the clergy in his early thirties, leaving behind his lucrative executive roles for more humble pastures. Welby confidently moved up the Church hierarchy, assuming his current role as the Bishop of Durham in November only last year.

As perhaps one of the few senior Anglicans with a history in the business industry, he is well placed to guide the Church and country through a recession and the aftermath of a banking crisis. He has spoken and written extensively on the ethics of financial industry, highlighting his approach to theology.

That said, whether he is able to steer the Church of England through one of the most significant challenges it has faced in centuries with the same skill as Archbishop Williams remains to be seen. Supporters have described him as rooted in the traditional church but with an open mind to modern worship, signs perhaps that he may act as a successful bridge between the more conservative and liberal sides of the Church.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, due to retire this year, will leave a significant legacy. His tenure was marked by his willingness to enter into public and political debate, though always with the same considered and scholarly approach that marked his ministry in general. Speaking of the future Archbishop, he outlined Barth’s assertion that one should preach ‘with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other’.

We can perhaps expect more of the same from the Revd Justin Welby, who has so far not been shy from the public gaze.

About Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed is Editor of On Religion magazine. He holds a doctorate in religious studies and an MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain.

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