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Former oil executive to lead the world's Anglicans

THE next Archbishop of Canterbury will be officially introduced today, and the expectation is that the new leader of the world's Anglicans will be former oil company executive Justin Welby (below).

Rising to speak in the House of Lords for the first time less than six months ago, Justin Welby admitted he was astonished to be there at all.

But his enthronement as Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior role in the Church of England, which came as such a surprise, would prove to be just one step in a rapid rise.

The choice of the 56-year-old to lead the world's 77 million Anglicans marks a decisive break with the past for the church.

While his predecessors have drawn on long careers as academics or clerics, his experience is of the world of mammon as much as that of theology.

A former oil executive, he gave up a highly paid career after feeling a "call" to the priesthood in the late 1980s.

"Something in me just said 'this is what you should be doing'," he recently explained.


He was later able to draw on years of experience in oil exploration in troubled areas of west Africa, when his ministry led him to work in conflict resolution in the violent Niger Delta, where he narrowly avoided being shot dead.

At a time when the church is grappling with the aftermath of the banking crisis, he combines -- almost uniquely -- an understanding of the working of the City with that of life in the inner city, gleaned as a parish priest and Dean of Liverpool.

He has used his seat in the Lords as a platform to challenge the "sins" of the multi-billion pound banks as much as the small-scale payday "loan sharks" he has seen at work in the North East.

Although educated at Eton and Cambridge and even a member of a Pall Mall club, the married father of five (a sixth child died in a car crash) is seen as far from an establishment figure.

Theologically, he is unashamedly part of the evangelical strand of the church. But while he has, for example, publicly criticised the coalition's plans for gay marriage, he is not without support among liberals, some of whom believe he will prove a pragmatic and flexible archbishop. (© Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent