Welby replaces Williams as new Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop Justin Welby is the new head of the Anglican Church, Downing Street has confirmed.

The news followed a recommendation by the Crown Nominations Commission that Welby, who has only served as the Bishop of Durham for 12 months, should succeed Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Fifty-six-year-old Welby is thought to have beaten challengers like John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, to the appointment because of his unusual background as an oil executive.

He worked for French firm Elf Aquitaine before acting as treasurer for Enterprise Oil in London, gaining valuable financial management experience, before resigning to study for the priesthood in 1992.

Welby is married and has six children, one of which died in infancy. He is a member of the banking standards commission and has been asked to continue his membership by chairman Andrew Tyrie.

"Justin is making an outstanding contribution to our work," the Conservative MP said.

"He is a man of the cloth with considerable experience of industry and finance… I very much hope that he would feel able to remain a member of the Commission until the completion of its work."

Williams will not be missed by No 10, after he proved a surprisingly political archbishop in his decade in the job. In June he attacked David Cameron's 'big society' as "aspirational waffle", having announced his intention to stand down at the end of the year back in March.

Earlier this week bookmakers William Hill suspended betting following what it called a "sustained gamble" on Welby.

Its spokesperson Graham Sharpe said if Welby's appointment is confirmed it would be "left wondering whether anything is sacred as this race always seems to end with a betting coup!"