A former oil executive who went to the same exclusive school as Prime Minister David Cameron will shortly be named Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans, British newspapers said on Thursday. Justin Welby, 56, the Bishop of Durham, who has had a meteoric rise up the Church of England hierarchy since quitting the world of commerce in 1992, will be announced as the next archbishop as early as Friday, the reports said.
The nomination follows weeks of speculation that the Church body assigned to elect the future archbishop was split over choosing a reformer or a safe pair of hands to maintain the status quo. Cameron's spokesman said an announcement would come "soon".
Welby, who went to the same exclusive school, Eton College, as Cameron, London mayor Boris Johnson and Princes William and Harry, has already accepted the position, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Bookmaker William Hill stopped taking bets on the future archbishop after a run of bets on Welby on Tuesday. "In the space of less than an hour we had to cut the odds three times, so took the decision to close the book as we know a decision is already overdue and it seems word may have leaked out," the bookmaker said in a statement Welby will replace left-leaning incumbent Rowan Williams, who has said his successor as head of the global Anglican Communion will need "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros".
Welby is widely reported to be against gay marriage but broadly in favour of the ordination of women bishops, two of the most divisive issues in the communion. The new archbishop will earn about £74,000 ($120,000) a year. He will have lodgings in the Old Palace in Canterbury, southeast England, and the historic riverside Lambeth Palace in London. His tenure will last until retirement at 70 or until he decides to move on.