British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Friday that 56-year-old Justin Welby was being promoted to the post after only a year’s experience as the Bishop of Durham.
He will replace Rowan Williams, who will officially step down next month following 10 years of service to take a position at Cambridge University.
Cameron’s official Twitter feed said, “Downing Street is pleased to announce the appointment of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.”
The appointment had been officially approved by Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England as well as the British head of state.
Welby would be enthroned as archbishop on March 21 in Canterbury Cathedral, in southeastern England, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s official office said in a statement.
“To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting,” Welby told the media at a press conference.
He added, “It is something I never expected, and the last few weeks have been a very strange experience, to put it mildly.”
“It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including the Church of England has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths.”
Welby worked in the oil industry in the 1970s and 1980s — first for Elf Aquitaine in Paris and then as treasurer for oil exploration firm Enterprise Oil in London.
He quit that job to study theology at Durham and was ordained as a priest in 1992.