Ex-oil man set to be next leader of world's Anglicans

LONDON Thu Nov 8, 2012 9:08am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - A former oil executive and critic of corporate excess is expected to be named on Friday as the next Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans.

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, is widely tipped in British media to succeed Rowan Williams, capping a meteoric rise up the Church of England hierarchy since quitting the business world and being ordained in 1992.

He has been at Durham for less than a year.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the name would be announced on Friday.

The appointment will follow weeks of speculation that the nominating body assigned to elect the future spiritual leader of the Church of England was split over whether to choose a reformer or a safe pair of hands to maintain the status quo.

Williams has said his successor will need "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros".

The handover takes place at a time when the Church is at a crossroads, with traditionalists and reformers pitted against each other over the issues of same-sex marriage and senior women clergy.

Welby, who is seen as more conservative than the liberal Williams, is widely reported to be against gay marriage but in favor of the ordination of women bishops.

He went to the same elite school, Eton College, as Cameron, London mayor Boris Johnson and Princes William and Harry,

The bespectacled father-of-five suffered a tragedy in 1983, when his daughter was killed in a car accident, an event he described as a "dark time" which brought him and his wife closer to God.

Christina Rees, a religious commentator and a member of the General Synod, the church's governing body, said Welby was well-equipped for the position of archbishop.

"He's known to be a visionary and a strategic leader, he is prepared to take risks, extremely astute," Rees told BBC radio.

Welby has drawn on his financial expertise gained in the oil industry, in which he worked for Enterprise Oil and French company Elf Aquitaine. Since joining the Church, he has served on a government panel investigating banking standards after the Libor interbank interest rate scandal.

Speaking at a conference in Zurich last month, Welby criticized banks as being "exponents of anarchy" and said they should become more socially useful following the financial crisis of recent years.

"Finance can move from being the wreckage of a hubris-induced disaster, to retrieving its basic purpose of enabling human society to flourish effectively," he said then.

As the new archbishop, Welby would earn about 74,000 pounds ($120,000) a year. He would have lodgings in the Old Palace in Canterbury, southeast England, and the historic riverside Lambeth Palace in London.

His tenure would last until retirement at 70 or until he decides to move on.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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