Justin Welby set to become new Archbishop of Canterbury

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Media captionJustin Welby, speaking in 2011, described changing career from the oil industry to a life in the Church

Bishop of Durham Justin Welby, a former oil industry executive, is set to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is thought the 56-year-old will be named as the replacement for Rowan Williams, who steps down in December after 10 years in the post.

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

Downing Street sources have confirmed the next archbishop will be formally announced on Friday morning.

On Tuesday, leading bookmakers stopped taking bets on the succession after a run of bets on Bishop Welby.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Bishop Welby has agreed to accept the post. Bishop Welby said he was unable to comment on the speculation.

Bishop Welby was educated at Eton and Cambridge University, and then spent 11 years in the oil industry before studying theology at Durham. He was ordained in 1992.

He became Rector of Southam in 1995 and was later appointed canon residentiary of Coventry Cathedral. He left the area in 2007 when he was appointed Dean of Liverpool.

He took up the post of Bishop of Durham in November 2011 and worked as Rowan Williams' special envoy to Africa, attempting to build unity between Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria.

Bishop Welby is regarded by observers as being on the evangelical wing of the Church, closely adhering to traditional interpretations of the Bible with a strong emphasis on making the Church outward-looking.

Even within the evangelical community, however, there are significant differences of outlook on questions of doctrine.

The Rev Dr Giles Fraser - former Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and the current parish priest at St Mary's in Newington, south London, said Bishop Welby was "the right man for the job".

He added: "I'm quite surprised that the church has had the courage to pick someone who's only been a bishop a short amount of time, but I am absolutely delighted that they have.

"He and I would disagree on a number of theological issues... He's very conservative on gay marriage and those sort of things, but very strongly in favour of women bishops which is good.

"Even though he comes from a very different part of the church from me - and this has got to be a sign of hope - I think it's a terrific appointment."

Dr Fraser went on to say that Bishop Welby's experience in Africa could help him "heal the divisions" within the church both at home and overseas.

His potential appointment has also been welcomed by Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion and the current Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States.

Bishop Robinson told the BBC that he had met Bishop Welby earlier this year and found him to be an "immensely likeable and sensible man".

He added that Bishop Welby's appointment would show the Church of England was "thinking outside the box, which is exactly what is needed, and it would be a breath of fresh air for the Anglican Communion".

Christina Rees, who sits on the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, said Bishop Welby, if he was chosen, would be a "visionary and strategic leader".

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Media captionChristina Rees, General Synod: "I understand he is toeing the Church's current line on homosexuality and same-sex marriage"

She told BBC News: "He's known to be wise, collaborative, a man prepared to take risks, someone extremely astute.

"He's worked in industry and commerce, in the oil business for many years. He's also known to be personally very warm and a man of prayer, deeply spiritual."

She added that she believed his business background means he is "well-equipped" to take the church "into the future".

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Dr Williams said that his successor would need to be someone who "likes reading the Bible and likes reading newspapers".

It is believed the incumbent archbishop was referencing a quote from Karl Barth, a 20th Century theologian who said: "You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other."

The Crown Nominations Commission, which nominates two candidates to the prime minister, who then advises the Queen on the appointment, held a three-day meeting in September to consider the contenders to be the next archbishop, but no announcement followed.

Dr Williams' successor will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, and the nominal leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide - though conservative Anglican provinces, especially in Africa, have been setting up alternative organisational structures of their own.

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