New Anglican head mixes conflict role, business skill

Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:35am EST
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* New Archbishop of Canterbury is conflict negotiator

* Skills crucial to moderate Anglican gay rights rows

* Oil career informs critical views on banks' ethics

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Rowan Williams once said the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the fractious Anglican wing of world Christianity, needs "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros".

He overlooked the calm and patient negotiating skills that probably helped his successor Justin Welby clinch the job.

Welby, 56, whose nomination was announced last Friday, hardly seems an obvious choice to head the Church of England. He started out in the oil business in France, had a late vocation to the priesthood and became a bishop only last year.

His resume includes years of work as a crisis negotiator in Africa, among separatists in the swamps of the Niger Delta and Islamists in northern Nigeria.

Those skills, honed as head of Coventry Cathedral's Centre for Reconciliation from 2002 to 2007, will be crucial in an Anglican Communion that has come close to schism over gay rights and a Church of England preparing to welcome women bishops.   Continued...