LONDON A former oil executive with experience in conflict resolution has been chosen to lead a global Anglican Communion riven by sharply divided views on gay people and their place in the church.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday that Justin Welby, 56, a fast-rising priest with only a year’s experience as a bishop, had been picked to succeed Rowan Williams as archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans.
Welby, the 105th holder of a post that stretches back to the 6th century, will take over after Williams retires in December.
Welby said he felt privileged, and astonished, to be chosen to lead the church at “a time of spiritual hunger.”
“It’s something I never expected,” Welby told reporters, saying he had been “overwhelmed and surprised” to be offered the job.
“My initial reaction was ‘Oh no,”’ he said.
Welby said he supported the ordination of women as bishops, and indicated his thinking on same-sex marriage — which he has opposed — was evolving.
“We must have no truck with any form of homophobia in any part of the church,” he said, adding that he planned to “listen to the voice of the LGBT communities and examine my own thinking.”