Former Southam vicar favourite for top church job

Wednesday 31 October 2012 Updated: 07/11 08:35

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Buy photos » Canterbury tales - The Very Reverend Justin Welby, the current Bishop of Durham, is favourite for the role of next Archbishop of Canterbury. (s)

A FORMER Southam vicar is favourite to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Very Reverend Justin Welby - the current Bishop of Durham - is on a five-man shortlist to replace Dr Rowan Williams when he steps down at the end of the year from the top job in the Church of England. The one time oil executive spent seven years as Rector of Southam and four years in charge of Warwick and Stratford hospitals.

No firm date has been set by the Crown Nominations Commission which will name a successor to current Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Williams, although the 16 members have said they expect to present the name of their preferred candidate, and a second choice to the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron in the soon.

Mr Welby took over as Rector of Southam in 1995 just three years after being ordained.

Before that he worked for 11 years in the oil industry for French company Elf Aquitaine and then oil exploration group Enterprise Oil PLC before retiring in 1987 after having a calling from God.

During his time in Southam he saw the congregation incresae from 60 to around 180, and led an extensive drive to make the church more outward-looking. He also oversaw the restoration of the town's St James Church.

The 56-year-old father of five joined the South Warwickshire General Hospitals NHS Trust as a non-executive director in 1998 and two years later became chairman. He also served as a parent governor and chair of governors at Southam College.

In 2002 Mr Welby was appointed canon residentiary of Coventry Cathedral and the co-director for International Ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation.

He went onto serve as Dean of Liverpool in 2007 and last year was appointed Bishop of Durham in what he described as a homecoming, having trained for the priesthood at St John's College, Durham University for three years.

Mr Welby was also recently appointed to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards to help to investigate the Libor rate-fixing scandal, a move that is thought to have increased his chances of taking the top job.

Also understood to be on the shortlist are Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Norwich Graham James; the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and Bishop of Liverpool James Jones.

Dr Williams will become Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge when he steps down after ten years as the principal leader of the Church of England.

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