The Queen has approved the nomination of the Rt Rev Justin Welby for election as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding Dr Rowan Williams, who is retiring in December after 10 years as Archbishop.
The Rt Rev Christopher Foster, who leads the Church of England in south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, was responding to the announcement, which was made officially today. (Fri 9) The current Bishop of Durham was unveiled as the new Archbishop at a press conference at Lambeth Palace this morning.
Bishop Christopher said: “I welcome the news that Bishop Justin Welby is to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. He will bring his vigorous faith in Jesus Christ and a passion for reconciliation and truth.
“His previous experience in business and the world, combined with his ordained ministry in Coventry, Liverpool and Durham, give him great insight into the challenges and opportunities for the Church and the Gospel in the coming years. I am confident he will speak and lead with clarity about the issues facing the nation and the world.”
The Rt Rev Justin Welby, 56, will be enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral on 21st March 2013.
He said today: "I don't think anyone could be more surprised than me at the outcome of this process. It has been an experience, reading more about me than I knew myself. To be nominated to Canterbury is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing. It is overwhelming because of those I follow, and the responsibility it has. It is astonishing because it is something I never expected to happen.
“One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham. I work with a group of wonderful senior colleagues and remarkable clergy and lay people. It is an astonishing part of the country, one which as a family we were greatly looking forward to living in for many years. The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly. In many ways it has been the ancient cradle of British Christianity. It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its past.”
Dr Rowan Williams issued the following statement: "I am delighted at the appointment of the Right Reverend Justin Welby to Canterbury. I have had the privilege of working closely with him on various occasions and have always been enriched and encouraged by the experience.
“He has an extraordinary range of skills and is a person of grace, patience, wisdom and humour; he will bring to this office both a rich pastoral experience and a keen sense of international priorities, for Church and world. I wish him - with Caroline and the family - every blessing, and hope that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion will share my pleasure at this appointment and support him with prayer and love.”
Born in 1956 in London, the Rt Rev Justin Welby was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He worked in the oil industry for 11 years, becoming group treasurer of a large British exploration and production company. During this period he became a lay leader at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, in London.
A major influence on both Justin and his wife Caroline was the death of their seven-month-old daughter in a car crash in France in 1983. Six years later, in 1989, after sensing a call from God, Justin stood down from industry to train for ordination.
He took a theology degree at St John’s College, Durham, focussing on business ethics. For 20 years his ministry has blended deep devotion to his parish communities with Church work around the world, especially in areas of conflict.
After being ordained in 1992, he spent 15 years working in Coventry diocese. In 1995 he became rector of St James, Southam, and also the next year St Michael and All Angels, Ufton. He helped revive both parishes. In 2002, he was made a Canon of Coventry Cathedral, where he ran the reconciliation work based there. With Canons Andrew White and Stephen Davis, he worked extensively in the field in Africa and the Middle East. He has a particular interest in Kenya, the DRC and Nigeria, where he was and remains involved in work with groups involved in conflict in the north. In the Niger Delta, he has worked on reconciliation with armed groups. He met with religious and political leaders in Israel and Palestine, and on one trip to Baghdad reopened the Anglican Church with Canon Andrew White, shortly after the allied invasion.
He was installed Dean of Liverpool on 8 December 2007. Liverpool Cathedral is the largest cathedral in England. Its local area, Toxteth, is among the most deprived in north-west Europe. During his deanship, he brought the cathedral into much greater contact with its local community, working with asylum seekers and in partnership with neighbouring churches. The cathedral also hosted events from a TUC rally to royal services. Over his four years, during which he also continued to work on reconciliation and mediation projects overseas, the cathedral’s congregation increased significantly.
On 2 June 2011, he was announced as the new Bishop of Durham, taking over from the Rt Rev Tom Wright. He was enthroned at Durham Cathedral on 26 November, and drew parallels between Liverpool and Durham – noting both the struggles and the enduring spirit of the two places.
An expert on the politics and history of Kenya and Nigeria, he has lectured on reconciliation at the US State Department. In the summer of 2012, he was asked to join the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.
He is married to Caroline, who studied Classics at Cambridge, where they met. They have two sons and three daughters.