Ex-oilman named new leader of world's Anglicans

Fri Nov 9, 2012 8:13am EST
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By Alessandra Prentice

LONDON (Reuters) - A former oil executive was named leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans on Friday, ending months of closed-door negotiations as the church struggles with bitter rifts over senior women clergy and homosexuality.

Justin Welby, 56, who has been bishop of the northern English city of Durham for barely a year, will replace incumbent Rowan Williams in December.

He is widely regarded as an opponent of gay marriage but in favor of the ordination of women as bishops, two of the most divisive issues facing the Church.

Welby's appointment as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury caps a meteoric rise in the Church of England hierarchy since he quit the oil business world and was ordained in 1992.

The bespectacled and soft-spoken Welby accepted the appointment at London's Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 800 years.

"My initial reaction was, 'oh no'," a smiling Welby told reporters in a wood-vaulted room adorned with portraits of former archbishops and gold chandeliers.

"It's something I never expected. And the last few weeks have been a rather strange experience, to put it mildly."

The long-awaited appointment, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron's office, follows weeks of intense speculation that a row over whether to choose a reformer or a safe pair of hands had stalled the nomination process.   Continued...

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, walks through Westminster in London November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett