Justin Welby, the Eton-educated Bishop of Durham and a former oil executive, is to be named the new Archbishop of Canterbury to succeed Rowan Williams who steps down next month after 10 years in office to take up a position at Cambridge University.
A formal announcement is expected on Friday, according to media reports quoting Downing Street.
The Crown Nominations Committee was reported to have forwarded his name to Prime Minister David Cameron after an unusually long drawn out selection process.
Other contenders included Dr. John Sentamu, the Uganda-born Archbishop of York; John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford; and Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich.
Bishop Welby, 56, who became a bishop only a year ago, was described an “outstanding candidate” to lead the world’s 77 million Anglicans at a time when it is deeply divided over women clergy and gay marriage.
Though thought to be a conservative on the issue of gay marriage, he is said to “absolutely in favour of women bishops” while protecting the position of traditionalists in the Church. He has been praised for his efforts to build unity between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
“He’s particularly concerned about the plight of the poor and the moral obligations of the City (London’s financial centre) — so the government can expect him to be just as outspoken as Rowan Williams,” said the BBC.
He has spoken in the House of Lords against the “sins” of the banking industry in the wake of the financial crisis.
Educated at Eton and Cambridge University, he was ordained in 1992 and served as Dean of Liverpool in 2007 before becoming Bishop of Durham in 2011. He gave up a lucrative career in the oil industry in the 1980s after “feeling” a call to the priesthood following the death of his daughter in a car crash.
Bishop Welby will be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. His appointment was described by some as a “break with the past”.
“While his predecessors have drawn on distinguished careers as academics or clerics, his experience is of the world of Mammon as much as God,” said The Daily Telegraph.
Dr. Williams, when asked what qualities he expected his successor to have, quoted the theologian Karl Barth: “You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.”
He said he should be able to communicate his message clearly.
“Somebody who likes reading the Bible and likes reading newspapers would be a good start,” he said.