New Archbishop of Canterbury: Who is Rev Justin Welby?

Chris Parsons

When the the Right Reverend Justin Welby is confirmed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury tomorrow, it will be an announcement which has been months in the making.

The current Bishop of Durham has been the favoured candidate to succeed Dr Rowan Williams for some time, despite the Church of England drawing out the decision making process since March.

While clergymen may have delayed in reaching their verdict, for many of those who have worked closely with Dr Welby, he is a natural choice as the leader of the Church of England.

As well as fronting the Church of England in Britain, Dr Welby's role will also see him leading more than 80 million Christians in 160 countries as head of the Anglican Communion.

The 56-year-old has a fascinating background and family, having turned his back on a successful career in the oil industry 20 years ago to become a priest.

Yahoo! News UK takes a look at the self-deprecating former oil executive hoping to bring his business brain into the role as the Church's most senior bishop.

Born in London in 1956, Justin Portal Welby was educated at Eton and read law at Trinity College Cambridge during formative years in a colourful family.

His father, Gavin Welby, made a living as a whisky bootlegger in 1920s Prohibition America, before at one stage dating Vanessa Redgrave.

Meanwhile his mother, Jane Gillian (nee Portal), had once been a private secretary to none other than Winston Churchill.

Dr Welby's early career gave no clue as to his future position as the head of the Church of England.

He worked as a financial director in the oil business and was group treasurer for FTSE 100 oil exploration group Enterprise Oil Plc before his drastic career change.

After 11 years working in the oil business, Dr Welby quit the industry in 1992 to pursue a career as an Anglican priest.

The father-of-five, himself happily married for 30 years, took a degree in theology, later explaining that he was "unable to get away from a sense of God calling".

His decision to join the church was also made in part due to personal tragedy.

In 1983, a car crash claimed the life of his seven-month old daughter Johanna - a tragedy which he said was a "very dark time for Caroline (his wife) and myself", but one which "bought us closer to God".

Recalling the moment Dr Welby turned his back on the oil industry, his former boss at Enterprise Oil, Sir Graham Hearne, told the Guardian: "I said to him, 'Oh, Justin, that's very bad news. Why would you leave us? Which company has stolen you?'

"And he said, 'Don't worry about it. It's the Lord!' And he explained. And I of course was not happy to see him go but I understood fully the reasons.

"I think I knew he had faith, but he didn't push it in your face at all."

Dr Welby was rector at St James Church in Southam, Warwickshire from 1995 until 2002, before moving on to roles at Coventry Cathedral and as the Dean of Liverpool in 2007.

Dr Welby was consecrated as Bishop of Durham - the fifth most senior Church of England bishop - last October, in what has been a rapid ascent through the CofE heirachy.

But Rev John Armstrong, who took over when Dr Welby left one of his earliest church posts in Southam, believes his predecessor has the required skills to be a success as the new Archbishop.

Rev Armstrong told Yahoo! News UK: "His faith made him the sort of person he is today, but he had gifts which were applicable both in the oil industry and working in the Church.

"He is good at communicating with people and getting them to communicate with each other, and that will work in his favour in his new role.

"He certainly did a good job here and was instrumental in bringing this Church a lot more alive than it was before."

Although said to be an opponent of same sex marriage and the appointment of gay bishops, Dr Welby is not said to be aggressive in his beliefs.

His more understated approach, as well as his business expertise, are likely to endear him to Church leaders more than the conservative thinking of other frontrunners such as the Archbishop of York, the Right Reverend John Sentamu.

Dr Welby's ability to listen to opponents' point of view will also be key in his new role.

Last summer as Bishop of Durham, he was called on to defuse tensions over a vote on women bishops.

Even on homosexuality, where he was defended the Church's right to oppose same sex marriage, he was keen to accommodate opposing views.

Other former colleagues of Dr Welby have described him as an "enthusiastic, hands-on vicar" who is also "very, very likeable".

Perhaps it is his ability to engage with the ethics of the City that is the clincher, however.

His work on the parliamentary commission on banking standards was an obvious extension to his previous published works, most of which have been about the rights and wrongs of finance and management.

Welby promises to be a chief executive with a conscience, to boot. But it is his political brain that matters most.

He is a healer of wounds, not an aggravator — a skill he will have need of during his time in Lambeth Palace.

From there he will take charge not just of the Church of England but also the schism-hit worldwide Anglican communion.

A tough job for a man whose working life once confined him to whizzing through slides in corporate boardroom presentations.