UPDATE: Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday that former oil executive 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.
Cameron welcomed the selection of Welby, who was chosen by a church commission and formally approved by Queen Elizabeth II.
"The Church of England plays an important role in our society, not just as the established church, but in the provision of education, help for the deprived, and in furthering social justice," Cameron said. "I look forward to working with the Archbishop in all of these areas and I wish him success in his new role."
EARLIER REPORT: Prime Minister David Cameron's office says it will shortly announce the name of the next archbishop of Canterbury.
Government and church officials declined Thursday to confirm speculation about the choice. But The Times of London and The Daily Telegraph report that it is Justin Welby, the bishop of Durham. He would succeed Rowan Williams as head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
The decision will be announced Friday morning.
Betting agencies Ladbrokes and William Hill stopped taking bets on the new archbishop this week after a flurry of wagers on Welby.
If it is Welby, it will mark a rapid rise through the church after only one year's experience as a bishop. The 56-year-old Welby had worked in the oil industry.