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Durham my primary focus, says Bishop
THE Bishop of Durham last night ruled himself out of the running to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Right Reverend Justin Welby, 56, who became the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England last September, had been tipped as a contender for the role when Dr Rowan Williams steps down in December.
But in a statement issued to The Northern Echo after a Sunday newspaper ran an article about his family history in which he was described as the “would-be Archbishop”, he said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury business is typical speculation and almost every bishop has been listed at some point or another.
“Let’s be clear, I have been here for less than a year, and don’t have the experience or the desire for the role. Bishop of Durham is the best job in the Church of England.”
The bishop’s statement has been welcomed by North-East MPs, who are keen for him to continue serving communities in the region.
Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “He has the makings of being a great Bishop of Durham. I am very glad that he has chosen to stay in the North-East for the time being and to carry on with his development at Durham Cathedral. It is good news.”
North-West Durham MP Pat Glass said Bishop Welby has clearly made an attempt to get to know the region.
She said: “I have met him a couple of times and he speaks up for the North-East.
“He has spoken up against the Government on occasion in support of the region.
“The fact he has ruled himself out is good news for us.”
The Mail on Sunday reported details of the extraordinary life of his late businessman father, Gavin Welby.
The newspaper said he became an executive for a company that survived the alcohol ban in Prohibition America by selling communion wine.
Bishop Welby, who has guest edited The Northern Echo and is patron of its Foundation for Jobs campaign, said: “You can’t be responsible for the things your parents got up to.
“This is a matter of public record, but I understand that it makes interesting reading.
“I knew that my father went to the US in 1929 with £5 in his pocket and that he had sold whiskey. When you look at the dates, bootlegging is fairly obvious.
“Most of these stories have come out in the past couple of years, and for me have been interesting, but really are private.
However, I do see they make for an unusual story.
“For me, the references made in the piece about me being a contender to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t helpful.
“I have only been the Bishop of Durham for a few months. That is my delight and my primary focus. And that comes without any bootlegging of the communion wine as well.”