Profile: New Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

 Justin Welby Justin Welby was Bishop of Durham for just over a year

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The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, turned his back on a successful career in the oil industry to train as an Anglican priest.

He brings experience of personal tragedy and of civil conflict in Africa to his new role leading 80 million Christians in more than 160 countries.

The archbishop's rise has been remarkably swift. He was a bishop for little over a year and the 57-year-old became a priest only in his mid-30s.

The father-of-five emerged as a late favourite for the Church of England's most senior post after enjoying positive media coverage, having started the contest as an outsider.

Justin Portal Welby was born in London on 6 January, 1956 to Gavin Bernard Welby and his wife, Jane Gillian (nee Portal), his parents divorced and his mother later remarried becoming Lady Williams of Elvel. His father died in 1977.

He was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge, spent 11 years as an oil executive and became group treasurer for FTSE 100 oil exploration group Enterprise Oil Plc prior to the biggest career decision of his life.

Former colleague Vivian Gibney recalls his diplomatic skills. "One of his main strengths is to find the way forward in negotiations… a solution that works for all sides," she said.

"He is very good as seeing others' point of view."

Oil to the cloth

As an oil executive, Justin Welby was earning a six-figure salary back in 1987 but gave it up to train to be an Anglican priest. He took a degree in theology at Cranmer Hall in Durham, where he studied from 1989 to 1992.

Start Quote

He was great fun and very energetic”

End Quote Reverend Simon Betteridge Former colleague

"I was unable to get away from a sense of God calling," he told business publication Money Marketing in 2012. "I went kicking and screaming but I couldn't escape it."

The life-changing decision followed a personal tragedy in 1983 with the death of his seven-month-old daughter, Johanna, in a car crash.

"It was a very dark time for my wife Caroline and myself, but in a strange way it actually brought us closer to God," he said in a local newspaper interview in 2011.

Even while working as an oil company executive, Justin Welby had become a lay leader at the charismatic evangelical Holy Trinity Brompton church in London. Later, after ordination, he became curate in the village of Chilvers Coton with Astley, near Nuneaton.

The Reverend Simon Betteridge, who was a church youth worker at the time, recalls an "enthusiastic, hands-on vicar".

"The local authority had virtually closed down all the youth services and the church didn't have any major youth project work," he said.

"When Justin came he had a vision to provide a proper youth service which connected the church to young people in a deprived area. He was great fun and very energetic."

In 2002, Justin Welby became canon at Coventry Cathedral. He also became co-director for international ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation.

He already had experience of Africa from his oil days, but he was now to witness at first hand some of the horrific results of civil war. On a number of occasions he came close to being killed.

He was able to develop a deep understanding of the nature of conflict, as well as an admiration for the Nigerian people who, he says, retain their faith and energy in the face of terrifying odds - something he says continues to inspire him.

The Church of England

Tintern Abbey

King Henry VIII replaced the Pope as leader of the Church in England and Wales after he was refused an annulment from his first wife Catherine of Aragon.

In 1534 Henry passed the Act of Succession and then the Act of Supremacy. These recognised that the King was "the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglican Ecclesia".

Henry adopted the title given to him by the Pope in 1521, that of Defender of the Faith.

These acts set up the protestant Church of England which would later lead to the creation of the wider Anglican Communion.

"You saw this practical vision, this willingness to overcome things that most of us would be traumatised by for a generation," he told the BBC at the time.

After serving as Dean of Liverpool Cathedral for nearly four years, in November 2011 Justin Welby became Bishop of Durham, one of the most senior posts in the Church of England.

In a pastoral letter to his diocese on the issue he wrote how he was "committed to and believes in the ordination of women as bishops".

He has been less forthright about his views on homosexuality. While he has rigorously defended the Church's right to oppose single-sex marriages, he has also been keen to accommodate opposing views expressed from a position of deeply held faith.

He is a member of the parliamentary commission on banking standards, which has been looking into the Libor rate-fixing scandal. He has also written extensively on business ethics, including a 1992 book "Can Companies Sin?"

The Church will hope that his passion for resolving conflict and finding workable solutions will equip him for some of the huge challenges confronting the worldwide Anglican community over the coming months and years.

These include the issue of the ordination of women bishops which was narrowly rejected at the Church of England Synod last November, despite his support for reform.

There's also the debate over same-sex marriages, to which he is opposed, and the wider issue of the church's attitude towards homosexuality in general, and in particular gay clergy; all issues which have caused serious differences of opinion between conservatives and liberals within the church.

His first significant intervention into the political arena was to publicly back a letter from 43 bishops to the Sunday Telegraph criticising Government plans to cap welfare benefit rise to 1% a year until 2016, arguing it could push 200,000 children into poverty.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, said his eventual successor would need "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros".

However, the new archbishop appears not to be over-daunted by the scale of the challenge ahead.

In a recent interview with the BBC he said, "If I looked at it as just me facing it, I would be extremely daunted. I know above all, that it is the work of God and the grace of God that enables the church…it's not me…it's the whole people of God facing the challenges."

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