Archbishop Of Canterbury: How Will Justin Welby Compare To Rowan Williams?

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Justin Welby, the former oil executive who opposes gay marriage, has been confirmed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding Dr Rowan Williams.

Having only been a Bishop for a year, serving in the Church's fourth most senior post in Durham, Welby is said to be just as astonished as everyone else at his meteoric rise up the ranks of the Church.

His appointment and tenure will be studied intensively, particularly for signs that he will be as outspoken on political and social issues as his predecessor.

archbishop of canterbury

Justin Welby is expected to be officially confirmed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday

Whilst the regular Church hot topics of gay marriage, female bishops and the sanctity of the family were oft-debated, Williams was also a vocal commentator on a number of other issues that have traditionally been left to the politicians to deal with.

Last year, in a leader for the New Statesman, Williams launched a scathing attack on the coalition government's austerity measures, slamming "radical, long-term policies for which no one voted".

The article was described as "the most brazen political intervention by a head of the Church of England for more than two decades", referring to Archbishop Runcie's attack on some of Margaret Thatcher's policies back in 1985.

Williams also criticised the greed of banks, called for a Robin Hood tax on transactions and compared bankers to rioters.

He regularly condemned the US-led invasion of Iraq saying that the war meant the West "loses the power of self-criticism and becomes trapped in a self-referential morality,"

Describing the pressures that will face his successor, Williams said: "I think it was put very well by a theologian of the last century (Karl Barth) who said, 'You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.'

"You have to be cross-referencing all the time and saying 'How does the vision of humanity and community that's put before us in the Bible map onto these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?'

rowan williams

Williams caused an outcry last year with his comments on austerity

Whether or not Welby will get stuck in on the same scale as Williams remains to be seen although he has already set a precedent for his position on banking.

In the wake of the Libor scandal, Welby, who also sits in the House of Lords, was one of ten lawmakers that made up an inquiry into banking standards and the Financial Times reports today that he will continue in this position.

Prior to joining the priesthood in 1989, Eton-educated Welby spent 11 years working for French oil company Elf Aquitaine.

George Pitcher, an Anglican priest and former Secretary for Public Affairs to Rowan Williams, believes that Welby's business and financial background is likely to be an asset.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, he said: "I think that the key thing in this is his background and I'm hoping he has the ability to restructure.

"Whereas Rowan is very academic, Justin is a practical, hands-on manager.

"The leadership has found it difficult to address the congregation because of bureaucracy. A talent in industry will allow him to see which jobs are replicated.

"My hope is that he will streamline, which is polite word for sack, some of the management structures."

Nor is Welby afraid of confrontation. He has used his position in the Lords to challenge the both the "sins" of the big banks and those of small-time loan-sharks.

When asked whether he thinks Welby will be as outspoken as Williams, Pitcher says: "He already is. He gets straight to the point.

"Rowan thought very carefully about the implications of what he said and, if you notice, when asked about the Occupy protest camp, for example, (Welby) answered straight away without any hesitation."

For others though, his background is cause for concern. The New Statesman's George Eaton, said: "The Prime Minister, the Mayor of London and, now, the head of the Church are all Eton alumni.

"When was the establishment last so dominated by public school boys?"

Pitcher disagrees: "He's likely to be a thorn in the side of David Cameron I'd expect."

Whatever the future holds for Welby, he could do worse than heed the advice of his predecessor: "I think that it is a job of immense demands and I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros really."

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