(CANTERBURY, England) — A new head of the worldwide Anglican Church has been announced. After two days of speculation, according to Religion News Service, British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed in a statement that 56-year-old Justin Welby, a former oil executive, had been appointed to lead the 77 million-member church.
As the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Welby, a fast-rising priest with only a year of experience as a bishop, will have to deal with two issues now dividing his church. Same-sex marriage and the ordination of women as bishops have weighed on the church, but at a news conference Friday, Welby said he is “utterly optimistic” regarding the Church of England’s future, RNS reports.
On gay marriage, Welby affirmed his opposition, but says he is willing speak out against exclusion and homophobia, and give more attention to his thoughts about the issue.
As for women being ordained as bishops, RNS reports the church could see a female bishop as soon as 2014 under Welby’s leadership. A vote, in which the archbishop is expected to move favorably, is planned for later this month in London, the Religion News Service reports.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN