LESS than a year since he was enthroned as Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby is expected to be named as the new Archbishop of Canterbury today.
Now the search is about to begin for his successor at Auckland Castle.
It was only on November 25 last year that Bishop Welby ceremonially entered the diocese of Durham by walking across the bridge spanning the River Tees at Croft, near Darlington. Since then he has made his mark by publicly attacking greedy bankers, “immoral” money lenders and job losses on Wearside.
The official announcement is expected after it was revealed that the Bishop Justin, 56, would not make a scheduled appearance on last night’s recording of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions at the National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham.
Yesterday he said he was unable to comment on reports of the appointment as he sat on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in London, of which he is a committee member.
When asked if he was to take on the role, he replied: “I am not able to comment, only Lambeth Palace can.”
But Bishop Justin laughed when a police officer at Portcullis House in Westminster congratulated him on the reported appointment, and was cautious not to answer as he raised his hands defensively. It is understood the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England will be announced as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams after the Crown Nominations Commission put his name forward.
Rev Dr Miranda Thelfall-Holmes, vicar of Belmont and Pittington in Durham – who attacked the Church of England and compared it to an “abusive husband” after changes to plans allowing women to be bishops, said: “I am thrilled for the Church of England but gutted for Durham.
“It’s a real shame we have only had him for a year and we were hoping not to see him go. But overall, we are quite excited as it is a good appointment.”
The reported confirmation of the Bishop Justin’s appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the 77 million strong Anglican Communion will be seen as a meteoric rise in the career of the clergyman.
And it will be the first time since the 18th Century since both the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury were Eton-educated.
Bishop Justin worked in the oil industry for 11 years before leaving to train for the Anglican priesthood.
He was first ordained as a deacon in 1992.
Bishop Justin is regarded by observers as being on the evangelical wing of the Church, closely adhering to traditional interpretations of the Bible with a strong emphasis on making the Church outward-looking.
Christina Rees, who sits on the Church of England’s governing body, the General Synod, said Bishop Justin, if he was chosen, would be a “visionary and strategic leader”.
She told BBC News: “He’s known to be wise, collaborative, a man prepared to take risks, someone extremely astute.
“He’s worked in industry and commerce, in the oil business for many years. He’s also known to be personally very warm and a man of prayer.”