A new archbishop

The news that the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, is set to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury emerged in a messy way this week. It seems that the bookmakers' announcement that they had stopped taking bets triggered commentators and speculators to "call it for Welby". At the time of writing, it's still not been confirmed.

It might not have been news that was broken through official channels but, as far as we're concerned, it's very good news indeed. The Bishop of Durham is inexperienced as a diocesan bishop, having served for only a year, but he brings a lot of very significant experience from his work in the oil industry for a decade.

It will be a unique asset for the Church to have an archbishop who has been so recently involved with industry. The world of work, for most people in employment, is utterly demanding. It will be helpful for the Gospel to be served by someone who understands the pressures under which many are labouring, and the problem of worklessness for millions more.

At St Mary's, we're near the end of a series of services in which we've brought together insights from scripture with church members' experiences of work. It's been affirming, challenging and valuable.

As a well-paid executive, Justin Welby could have anticipated a lucrative career. Instead, he followed a call from God into ordained ministry, serving in two West Midlands parishes and at Coventry Cathedral. He joined Liverpool Cathedral as its Dean before the move to Durham last year.

The list of attributes that an archbishop needs is impossibly comprehensive and mostly contradictory. We can't hope to have a person of enormous academic depth and an adept deal-maker. Prayerfulness and a quiet spirit are hard to match with media presence and the jolly personality that's called for at countless functions. It's a quite impossible job.

But if the role of Archbishop of Canterbury is huge and sometimes lofty it is also incredibly significant at a practical level. Our nation needs, as our church needs, someone who can speak clearly about the common good. We will do very well if we can hear from someone who knows what business and money are actually for, who can keep the needs of the poorest on the same agenda as the priorities of the wealthiest and who can speak naturally about the Kingdom of God.

There are pressing internal issues too. We need to finally make the long-overdue arrangements under which women can become bishops. We're still struggling to make gay and lesbian people welcome in our churches. It seems that while the world is moving on from these debates, the Church is lagging nervously and fretfully.

But ultimately, the task of the next archbishop will be missional. He'll need to bring confidence to the engagement of the Church in debates in which the world is very much struggling. On matters of money - the way it's made and shared - and on the vision of the society which we're building, we need the light of the Gospel more than ever. The next archbishop has our prayers and full support as he comes to the task.