For the better part of the last decade Rowan Williams served as spiritual leader to the 77 million member worldwide Anglican Communion, and now the world knows who his successor will be — former oil executive-turned-clergyman Justin Welby.
The New York Times reports that Welby, 56, has been selected to become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury when Rowan Williams steps down from the post later this year. Welby’s most recent posting in the church is as current the Bishop of Durham. Prior to his career in ministry, he was an oil executive. He has been the Bishop of Durham since 2011.
He will take over the post as leader of the Anglican Communion as it continues to face schisms over the proposed ordination of women to the rank of Bishop and the role of homosexual marriage in the church. While seen as something of a traditionalist, the Associated Press reports he may be open to change on controversial issues.
“We must have no truck with any form of homophobia in any part of the church,” Welby said. “I am always averse to the language of exclusion.”
As the Anglican Church continues to face divisions on key issues, Welby has sought to establish himself an Archbishop of Canterbury who seeks reconciliation and he already has the respect of many bishops. The Durham See is the fourth-ranking diocese in the Anglican Church. He has served as a member of the upper House of Lords as well on a banking commision.
“He and I in fact differ on the question of the blessing of same-sex unions,” said Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia, “but that has enriched and deepened our relationship and our engagement with one another.”
The Anglican Communion consists of the Church of England, which broke off from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1530s, and various other national and international churches in full communion with it.