The Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England, has accepted the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, it was reported last night.
Sources are said to have confirmed that the Rt Rev Justin Welby will be announced as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams tomorrow, after the Crown Nominations Commission put his name forward to Downing Street.
The news came just hours after it was revealed that the Rt Rev Welby, 56, had pulled out of tomorrow’s recording of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions.
Bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes also fuelled speculation about an imminent announcement when they stopped taking bets on the identity of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
Confirmation of the Rt Rev Welby’s appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the 77 million strong Anglican Communion would cap a meteoric rise in the career of the clergyman, who is due to mark the first anniversary of his enthronement as Bishop of Durham later this month.
The Eton-educated bishop worked in the oil industry for 11 years before leaving to train for the Anglican priesthood. He was first ordained as a deacon in 1992.
“I was unable to get away from a sense of God calling,” he said.
A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman declined to comment.
A Downing Street spokesman refused to confirm or deny the appointment. He said: “An announcement will be made in due course.”
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, and the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford, have previously been mentioned as possible candidates to succeed Rowan Williams, who announced in March that he would be standing down at the end of the year.
At the time, Dr Williams said: “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.”