On 21 March 2013 Justin Welby will ascend the throne of St Augustine in Canterbury Cathedral as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, as announced by Prime Minister David Cameron. This historic seat goes back more than 1,400 years, with a colourful history of widely celebrated archbishops such as Thomas Becket.
Bishop Welby will take over from the current archbishop, Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Douglas Williams, who was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 27 February 2003. He will step down at the end of 2012 to become the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Armed with a Twitter account, a background in the oil industry and a position as an elected member of the Parliamentary commission on banking standards, Justin Welby looks set to bring some modernity into the Church of England. He even had the British bookmakers in a flurry as they hedged their bets on the deemed ‘unconventional’ candidate.
Not all will agree that he is the ‘contemporary’ candidate as he still holds strict views on issues such as gay marriage but it is clear that he will deliver a breath of fresh air to the role. He has experienced a spectacular rise through the throngs of the Church of England since joined the clergy in the late 1980s. From his studies at St John’s College in Durham to being elected as the most senior leader of the Church of England, 23 years seems to have flown by for this 56-year-old father of six.
As Archbishop of Canterbury, his most central role will be as Bishop of the diocese of Canterbury, but he will also gain power and influence as the pastoral leader of the Church of England through teaching and oversight, and promoting and guiding the communion of the world-wide Anglican Church. He will now be the head of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide as their spiritual leader.
Justin Welby will renounce his current title as the Bishop of Durham at the end of the year ready to fully immerse himself in his new home, his new diocese and his new role.
Other notable Archbishops of Canterbury throughout the ages:
2003-2012: Rowan Williams – The first Welshman to be selected for the role in at least 1,000 years.
1945- 1961: Geoffrey Francis Fisher – Crowned the current Queen, Elizabeth II, in 1953.
1942-1944: William Temple – Shortest serving Archbishop of Canterbury who died after a mere two years in the role.
1903-1928: Randall Davidson – First Archbishop of Canterbury to retire (all others previously had died in the post) and longest serving Archbishop since the Reformation.
1533-1535: Thomas Cranmer – Compiled the first English Book of Common Prayer and was later excommunicated by Rome and burned at the stake for heresy and treason.
1366-1368: Simon de Langham – Only Archbishop to leave the post and be re-elected.
1348: John de Ufford – Appointed in 1348 but died of the Black Plague before being able to assume his role.
1173: Roger de Bailleul – First electee to decline the role of Archbishop of Canterbury.
1162-1170: Thomas Becket – Murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 and made a saint in 1173.