It's not a career path followed by many. On Friday, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, a former oil executive, was confirmed as the next archbishop of Canterbury, and as such will become head of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.
Although Welby has been a bishop for just less than a year, his experience beyond the pulpit may be what has given him the edge over his rivals for the top job.
He will take over from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has headed the church for more than a decade, in March.
Welby faces the challenge of holding together an increasingly fractured Communion as it wrestles with the issues of homosexuality and women bishops, as well as tensions between the shrinking Western provinces of the Anglican Communion, including the United States and United Kingdom, and the exploding growth of the provinces in the Global South, many of them in Africa and Asia.
These questions over homosexuality and the ordination of women caused public tension and deep division within the Anglican Communion during Williams' tenure, and that pattern looks set to continue.
Welby's appointment may reflect a desire for compromise within the church, as he is in favor of women bishops but against gay marriage -- positions that put him in line with the bulk of mainstream opinion within the Church of England, which is expected to vote on allowing women bishops later this month.
He voiced those views again in a news conference to announce his appointment, and in an interview with CNN. While he supports the Church of England's opposition to gay marriage, Welby stressed that homophobia was unacceptable and that he would "listen attentively" to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LBGT, community.
Gay marriage is "a very, very major issue in the life of the church, but it's not what defines the church, and there are obviously very tough differences of opinion," he told CNN.
He also said that he was "very much an advocate" of women bishops and that it looked likely the Synod would approve their ordination.
Welby described his nomination as "both astonishing and exciting," adding that he had never expected to be in this position.
"It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including the Church of England, has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths," he said.
Colin Blakely, editor of The Church of England Newspaper, told CNN he believed Welby was a good choice for the role.
"He's very unusual -- this is the first time we have had a bishop, or archbishop even, who's come into the church with this level of experience in the world of commerce," he said.
"I think it's an unconventional choice because looking at the state of the church, the divisions within the Anglican Communion, the challenges that are facing the Church of England -- well, this is a new person who brings something different to the table."
Welby, who went to Eton College, one of Britain's most exclusive schools, before studying law and history at Cambridge University, worked in senior management within the oil industry for 11 years, based both in Paris and London.
He was ordained in 1992 and since then has risen rapidly through the ranks of the Church of England.
While at Coventry Cathedral, he helped run its reconciliation ministry -- working extensively in areas of civil war or other violent disturbance. Five years ago, he became dean of Liverpool, during which time he continued to work overseas on reconciliation projects.
Welby was enthroned as bishop of Durham, a diocese in northern England, in November of last year.
He was been outspoken on questions about business ethics and finance, and as a member of the House of Lords was appointed to a parliamentary inquiry into banking ethics this summer after the Libor-rigging scandal. He is expected to keep his place on the inquiry after his new appointment, according to the UK's Financial Times newspaper.
His theological dissertation, published two decades ago, was titled, "Can Companies Sin?" -- and in the years since, he has been a vocal critic of payday loan firms, among others, according to reports.
Welby told CNN he had enjoyed working in the oil industry at the time, but what he had seen then and since, particularly in the Niger Delta, had informed his criticism of the world of commerce.
This includes an awareness of issues around pollution, poor handling of communities and the "wealth that comes from under people's ground not benefiting them the way it should," he said.
Welby spoke of a passion for Nigeria, which he has visited numerous times, and of its complicated ethnic, religious and economic mix, which he described as a "potent cocktail."
He also mentioned the great pressure faced by Christians in northern Nigeria as they come under attack by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, and the difficult social situations of many in Africa.
Welby's exposure to the realities of the business world, as well as his experience in mediation and as Williams' special envoy to Africa, are likely to help in his new role.