8 November 2012 Last updated at 14:01

Justin Welby becomes Archbishop of Canterbury frontrunner

Key Points

  • Bishop of Durham Justin Welby is expected to be named as the next Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday
  • The 56-year-old would replace Rowan Williams, who steps down next month after 10 years in the post
  • Bishop Welby is known to oppose gay marriage but supports the ordination of women as bishops

    Good morning and welcome to our live coverage as the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, looks set to be named as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. We will bring you all the latest news, reaction and analysis on the story as it happens.


    It looks likely that the 56-year-old bishop will be officially named on Friday as the replacement for Archbishop Rowan Williams, who steps down in December after 10 years in the post.


    It is being widely reported by UK newspapers that the bishop will take up the post. The Daily Telegraph goes a step further and says he has already accepted the position.


    The bishop would become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and the nominal leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide.

    Justin Welby

    Bishop Welby became a bishop a year ago when he took up the Church of England's fourth most senior post as the Bishop of Durham.


    The body set up to choose Dr Rowan Williams's successor is the Crown Nominations Commission. The Archbishop of Canterbury's website says it is an "elected, prayerful body". It says its meetings are "necessarily confidential" to enable members to decide who should take on what it describes as a "major national and international role".


    The commission nominates two candidates to the prime minister, who then advises the Queen on the appointment. It held a three-day meeting in September to consider the contenders for the post, saying at the time that there would be no comment on any speculation about candidates or about its deliberations.

    The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

    What followed was a wave of speculation about who might take up the post. Among the runners and riders were the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (pictured), and Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London.


    Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England, tells the BBC News Channel that if the next archbishop is Bishop Welby the Church will have a "visionary and strategic leader" who is known to be "wise and collaborative, and a man known to be prepared to take risks".


    Christina Rees says Bishop Welby is known to be "extremely supportive" of women bishops. On the subject of gay marriage she says: "I understand he is toeing the Church's current line on homosexuality and same-sex marriage." But she adds: "He is a man who is prepared to change his views if it is the right thing to do."


    There has been no indication yet of Bishop Welby's appointment on his official Twitter account, which he appears to update regularly.


    Back in July, the Guardian's Giles Fraser - the former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral - interviewed the bishop, who indicated he was not interested in the job of archbishop. "Let's be clear, I'm one of the thicker bishops in the Church of England," he told Fraser.


    The BBC's John McManus says critics have argued that the fact Bishop Welby has only been a bishop for a year may leave him vulnerable when dealing with the Church's various factions, but that he is skilled at conflict resolution - even at one point risking his own life when dealing with warring factions in Nigeria.


    A bit more now about what we know about Bishop Welby - he's an Old Etonian and former oil industry executive, who is currently serving on a parliamentary inquiry into the banking sector. As a former oil executive he has previously said he understands the criticisms of capitalism. We'll have a full profile shortly.


    Responding to the expected appointment, shadow health minister Jamie Reed tweets: "Did I just hear that the new Archbishop is an Old Etonian? I'm off to the Chinese Communist Party Conference to see how meritocracies work."


    Ruth Gledhill, religious affairs correspondent at the Times, earlier told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Bishop Welby's strong financial background and business sense, as a result of his time working in the oil industry, was likely to have been viewed as valuable experience.


    Simon Edge, writing in the Daily Express, says Bishop Welby is an inspiration to anyone who has fancied a career change but worries they may have left it too late. Having read law and economic history at Cambridge University, he was the treasurer of an oil exploration company until the age of 31, when he quit to become a priest, he writes.


    Jim Naughton, editor of the Anglican website Episcopal Cafe, earlier told the BBC World Service's Newsday that the new archbishop would have to handle splits within the Church on gay marriage and the ordination of women bishops with great care. "Rather than waiting to see if it can be worked through by close diplomacy, by building relationships, there's a temptation to say: OK, this needs to be fixed, can I impose a solution?," he said. "That's the mistake that Rowan Williams made by pushing the Anglican Covenant which has pretty soundly rejected. So, I'm in hopes that as archbishop, Justin Welby will pursue a different course, a slower course of building relationships sort of maybe one person at a time and one province at a time."

    Canterbury Cathedral

    The official website of the archbishop explains the roles and priorities for the post, which it says have developed over more than 1,400 years. It says the central role and the source of the archbishop's authority is as Bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, which covers most of the county of Kent.


    Former BBC religious affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge tells the BBC News Channel that Bishop Welby is not that well known in the Church because of his rapid rise. But he says that he has a remarkable breadth of experience in reconciliation matters, both here in the UK and in Africa - along with other troubled areas - and the feeling is that that range of experience will strongly contribute to his tenure as archbishop.


    Mike Wooldridge says the bishop "will probably handle the job very differently" than Dr Rowan Williams, adding that he will use his managerial experience to fill pews and improve Church finances.

    Sheila Lockyer, in Sherborne, Dorset,

    emails: I am delighted and excited. Having researched the candidates he was my choice. I like the way he desires to make the Church more accessible and up-to-date with "fresh expressions" of worship, showing what it is to be a Christian in today's world. He is an academic, theologian and financier with a proven business track record and message, competent to lead and take part in public debate without being intimidated or have his values compromised.

    1105: Breaking News

    The BBC's Liz Shaw tweets: "Downing St sources confirm to me will formally announce next #Archbishop of Canterbury tomorrow morning. Widely expected to be Justin Welby."


    Bishop Welby made the life-changing decision to swap his six-figure salary as an oil executive to train to be a priest in 1987. His decision followed the death of his seven-month-old daughter Johanna in a car crash several years earlier. He described the period following his daughter's death as a "very dark time" but said it also brought him closer to God. Read more about Bishop Welby in a profile compiled by Mick Ord, editor of BBC religion and ethics.


    The Reverend Timothy Njoya, a social change campaigner and former provost of the Anglican Church in Nairobi, earlier told Newsday the new archbishop must deal with the divisions in the Church without condemning either side. "You're wanting somebody intelligent enough to be able to give direction and to lead people and [do it] convincingly, with good arguments, on why one way or the other. But not to condemn one civilisation and say this is backward, this is civilised, to clearly define the future."


    Bishop Welby says he is unable to comment on speculation about the appointment. Speaking during a break in the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards inquiry, of which he is a committee member, he said: "I am not able to comment, only Lambeth Palace can." A police officer outside Portcullis House in Westminster, where the inquiry is being heard, congratulated the bishop on his new post to which he laughed and raised his hands in defence.


    Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holme, vicar of the Durham parish of United Benefice of Belmont and Pittington, tells the BBC News Channel it would be a "brilliant appointment" but Durham would be "very sorry" to see Bishop Welby go. She describes the possible appointment as "incredible" given that he became a bishop a year ago. "When we first started talking about it everyone was saying 'Don't be ridiculous' but then it seemed to just get more and more likely," she says. She says his appointment would show the Church is beginning to appreciate that experience of issues facing the world outside the Church is vital.

    Simon Farrar, in Reading, Berkshire,

    emails: I'm saddened by this appointment. Someone like Justin Welby with his conservative views on gay marriage is exactly what we don't need. When our gay brothers and sisters face discrimination worldwide we should be setting an example and throwing all of our support behind laws ensuring they are treated with love and dignity. As a liberal Anglican I feel very disappointed that the new archbishop is going to be out of line with the grassroots feeling in the church.

    Jeremy Ross, in London,

    emails: I would prefer Richard Chartres, someone more deeply experienced and with a longer history in the Church. Someone who can say, as he did at the Royal Wedding, "based on transformation, not reformation". He is more spiritually connected than an ex-technocrat.

    Caroline Piper, in Southam, Warwickshire,

    emails: Justin Welby christened my daughter while a vicar in Southam. We found him to be down to earth, wonderfully practical in dealing with both churchgoers and non-churchgoers and I think he will bring a sense of realism to the role.

    The Right Reverend Justin Welby is installed as the new Bishop of Durham in a ceremony at Durham Cathedral

    The Huffington Post is among the media outlets reporting on the event that sparked rumours that Bishop Welby would be the next archbishop. Speculation began to mount after the bishop cancelled an appearance on Friday's recording of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions, with his spokesman saying he was receiving too many enquiries to to attend.

    Peter Boston, Colchester

    emails: Obviously a high flyer within the Anglican Church but as soon as I saw that he had been educated at Eton & Cambridge I immediately asked myself how near to the ground he was to the real issues of today. I applaud his stance on female bishops but will he win this one? I have my doubts.


    Reverend Dr Peter Mullen, writing for the Telegraph website, states: "He (Bishop Welby) is of course an establishment man... I mean the new establishment: a hierarchy among the bishops and in the synod of left-wing modernisers, devotees of all the secular fads such as diversity, social cohesion, political correctness and, of course, apostles of that sublime superstition, global warming."


    Here is a clip of Christina Rees, a member of the Church of England's governing body, the general synod, giving the BBC News Channel her thoughts on the possible appointment of the Bishop of Durham as archbishop.

    Will Sweeney, in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire,

    emails: I am pleased. I think that Rowan Williams was an outstanding archbishop and he is going to leave some very large shoes to fill. As a 23-year-old ordinand currently training to become a priest in the Church of England I am very much looking forward to seeing where he leads us, and how he addresses the current issues of gay marriage, women bishops and multi-faith unity.


    The BBC's religions section looks at the six key roles that the Archbishop of Canterbury has. They are:

    • Diocesan Bishop of Canterbury
    • Metropolitan for the Southern Province of the Church of England
    • Primate of All England
    • Leader of the Anglican Communion
    • Ecumenical role - the Archbishop of Canterbury takes the lead in respect of Anglican relationships with other Christian churches in the United Kingdom and abroad
    • Interfaith role - the Archbishop of Canterbury leads in respect of Anglican relationships with other faiths
    Bishop Welby asking questions at the Tyrie Commission on Monday

    It is not yet known if Bishop Welby's role as a member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards will continue if he is made archbishop.

    The Reverend Tudor Vaughan Roberts, from Wiltshire,

    told the BBC, "Bishop Welby is the right man for the job. I met him in London last year at an Alpha International Conference and he came over as a humble, intelligent, and inspired man of God. He spoke to me, a lowly local vicar, and took time to talk to me and was genuinely interested in what I had to say."


    In a Guardian piece on Bishop Welby today, the newspaper says Bishop Welby is unique among the candidates for having no critics. "Welby appears to be grounded by a rather Etonian appreciation of the brutal realities of power," adds the newspaper.

    Durham Cathedral

    The BBC's Fiona Trott, outside Durham Cathedral, says people in the city have been saying Bishop Welby is the "perfect man for the job" because although he has only been there 12 months he has made a big impression. She says he is "really is in touch with local people" in the area, adding: "What people here in County Durham are also saying is that they like somebody who has not always worked for the Church."

    Richard Lock, in Dorking, Surrey,

    emails: I do not believe we should have an Archbishop of Canterbury - it is a non-elected position which allows an individual with no popular mandate to be heard with little opportunity for the public to respond. Religion, like the current political system, is past its sell-by date and is not fit for purpose.


    BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says the possible appointment of Bishop Welby seems to come as the Church arrives at a cross-roads, in his analysis for the BBC News website. He says the Church needs new, younger congregations; money to pay for clergy and the upkeep of its buildings and it needs to show a sceptical world how the Christian message remains relevant. "No single person will bear the burden more directly than Bishop Welby," he writes.

    Dan from Manchester

    emails: As a 17 year old gay Anglican, I worry about my future in the CofE no matter who becomes the Archbishop. Bishop Welby may be a better choice in regards to gay marriage than some of the other candidates, but he is still a conservative bishop and I worry that his conservative nature may hold the CofE back from embracing all of Christ's people.

    BusyMum from Northamptonshire

    emails: Rather than criticising his privileged background, let us be thankful that someone of his calibre has given it up in today's materialistic society to serve our church & communities. He will be able to challenge our business leaders in language they understand. As a churchwarden, I believe the organisation of the Anglican church needs to learn from business as well as challenge it. I pray for strength and wisdom for him.


    The London Evening Standard is reporting that several online betting accounts were set up that several online betting accounts were set up this week in south-west London to put money on Bishop Welby becoming the new archbishop. Labour MP Chris Bryant says the bets might be "insider trading" and wants the appointment system reformed. Bookies suspended betting on Tuesday after large bets were placed on Bishop Welby.

    Dr Rowan Williams

    Dr Rowan Williams said at a news conference on Wednesday that his successor would need to be someone who "likes reading the Bible and likes reading newspapers". It is thought he was referencing the 20th Century theologian Karl Barth, who said: "You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. You have to be cross-referencing all the time and saying, 'How does the vision of humanity and community in the Bible map on to these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?' And you have to use what you read in the newspaper to prompt and direct the questions that you put to the Bible: 'Where is this going to help me?"'


    BBC business editor Robert Peston, writing in his blog, says Bishop Welby would have a "huge, unsustainable financial deficit to shrink" as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. He says one of the most pressing problems is a "massive hole" in the fund that pays the pensions of retired clergy - the deficit in the fund ballooned from £262m to a peak of £507m in November of last year.


    Just a reminder that no formal announcement on the post has been made - that announcement is expected on Friday. However, it is widely expected that Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Rev Rupert Martin from Wakefield, West Yorkshire

    emails: I think that this is an brave and timely appointment. Justin Welby will bring considerable experience to three crucial areas of concern for the Church of England; evangelism, reconciliation and finance. I just hope that he won't be judged on the school and university he went to, but on the evidence of his working life and ministry, which shows that he is rooted in reality as well as spirituality.

    The Queen shakes hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury

    The archbishop's official website today posted an outline of the process for appointing a new Archbishop of Canterbury. The process, which began at the end of May, will end when the Queen has approved the chosen candidate and he has indicated a willingness to serve. It is then the job of Downing Street to announce the name of the Archbishop-designate.

    Caroline St Leger-Davey from Winchester, UK

    emails: Impressive decision to appoint someone who has only been a bishop for a year. I like the fact that he studied theology as a mature man and that he has worked in the real world. Good choice.

    Bill Walker from Portsmouth, UK

    emails: If what the Church Commissioners wanted was a chief executive of Church Of England PLC, then he was the ideal choice. He may not be so good at dealing with the dwindling and aging congregations around the land. A forthright and energetic believer like the Archbishop of York would have been better at spreading the word and filling the pews (so incidentally improving the cashflow).


    Edward Stourton, of BBC Radio 4, has profiled Bishop Welby, revealing how, as Dean of Liverpool, Justin Welby allowed bellringers to play John Lennon's Imagine from the cathedral bells.

    Efrem Leigh from Welwyn, England

    emails: Congrats to Justin. I worked with Justin at Enterprise Oil in 1987 when he was my Treasurer. He gave me my first job in dealing and I really enjoyed working for him! Fantastic man and very calm in the dealing room! Wish him every success in his new role! Talk about escape the rat race to follow your calling! Justin did it and I did as well.

    Jenny Green from Weybridge in Surrey

    emails: I am very disappointed if this happens. Justin Welby does not have the experience and is therefore not a "safe" pair of hands. He is the bishops' popular choice, not the parishioners or people's choice.


    Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, tells BBC News Bishop Welby understands "something of the darker side of life". "He's had personal tragedy in his life, he's had a child that's died in a car crash and that's given him a richer understanding of the complexity of the world," he added.

    Eton College

    Bishop Welby's schooling at independent school Eton College has drawn much comment. The school's website states that by the time pupils leave "we want each boy to have that true sense of self-worth which will enable him to stand up for himself and for a purpose greater than himself, and, in doing so, to be of value to society".


    Writing in political magazine the Spectator, Freddy Gray says of Bishop Welby's likely appointment: "It's sweet, in a way. All we need now is an Old Etonian named as Bank of England Governor, and David Cameron's alma mater will have the complete power set." But he goes on to say that as a former oil executive "who saw the light" he seems a "worthy enough choice".

    Jack Thompson from London, UK

    emails: What's wrong with having been to Eton and Trinity College Cambridge? Just because Cameron and Boris went to Eton doesn't take away from the school's fine record as a provider of a good education. And as for Trinity, I went there from a grammar school in Lancashire and I'm proud of the fact. Bishop Welby is much younger than me so I never knew him at university. Sounds like the man the CoE needs to bring a few comunicants to their senses.


    Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, says Bishop Welby's experience of reconciliation work in war-torn countries makes him a good choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. He adds: "He paints on a bigger canvas than simply the issues of the church. He is someone who understands conflict on a very deep level."


    Also speaking on The World at One, Giles Fraser, who is now priest-in-charge at St Mary's Newington in south London, says Bishop Welby is "straightforwardly conservative" but is still keen for the church to discuss the issue of gay marriage. He adds: "He talks human, which is a really valuable thing."


    General synod member Alison Ruoff says: "I am delighted that he is an evangelical with a proven track record of standing up for the gospel." She adds: "He is a proven leader and we have not had leadership from Rowan (Williams). We need leadership from a man who is biblically minded and going to stand firm with the armour of God."


    Rev Sally Hitchiner, an Anglican priest in London who has worked with Bishop Welby, tells Sky News that criticism of his Eton background is "crazy". She says much of his ministry has been in areas that are not particularly privileged and he is "compassionate" and very good at engaging with people on any level.


    World media are also picking up on the story. The Australian newspaper says it is Bishop Welby's "hard-headed business executive that could represent the greatest shift in the style and tone of the church's leadership".

    Raymon BE Croft from Hermanus, Western Cape Province, South Africa

    emails: Welby is an excellent choice as he has few rivals and enemies within the Anglican fold and is not known for extreme views. He has friends in all the doctrinal camps and can adopt a flexible position. His experience in finance and industry is well-needed as the church has tended to become isolated from progressive, informed secular opinion and badly needs to regularly update and review its doctrinal platform.


    Ruth Gledhill, of the Times, tells Sky News the last four archbishops have been theologians - so it is a "departure" to choose Bishop Welby, who she calls a "businessman".


    Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, says whoever gets the job needs to decide what the institution's policy on homosexuality is going to be. "The issue is ripping the Church apart, but more importantly it is interfering with the human rights of many people in the gay community, who have absolutely nothing to do with the Church," he says. Mr Sanderson's views are among those included in this BBC News website round-up of opinions on what the archbishop's priorities should be.

    Lachlan from Salford

    emails: Justin Welby would be an excellent appointment. He is a real Christian from the real world, not a woolly minded philosopher. I pray his leadership will reinvigorate the Church's role of proclaiming the real good news of Jesus Christ. Under him, many thousands of new generation Christians like me may consider coming back to the CofE.


    That's all for today's live coverage - thank you for joining us.

    Make sure you visit the BBC News website tomorrow for coverage of the official announcement of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, including the latest reaction and analysis.


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