The Archbishop, Justin Welby, issued a statement Friday saying that DNA tests had proved that his father was not Gavin Welby, an alcoholic who died nearly 40 years ago, but the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne.
"This comes as a complete surprise," Welby wrote.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion
, which includes Episcopal and Anglican churches in more than 165 countries.
His mother, Jane Williams, issued a statement as well, saying she vaguely remembered a sexual foray with Browne.
"Although my recollection of events is patchy, I now recognize that during the days leading up to my very sudden marriage, and fueled by a large amount of alcohol on both sides, I went to bed with Anthony Montague Browne," Williams said.
"It appears that the precautions taken at the time didn't work, and my wonderful son was conceived as a result of this liaison."
The discovery was made following DNA tests prompted by an investigation by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper
Welby, who bears an extraordinary resemblance to Browne, said there have been worse revelations in his life than this one.
"I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes," he said.