Monday, 23 April 2012

Archbishop Sentamu and the Canterbury vacancy

The Telegraph has a report this morning: Archbishop of York to be considered for Canterbury by Jonathan Wynne-Jones and John Bingham.

Dr John Sentamu has repeatedly refused to confirm whether or not he would be throwing his hat into the ring to lead the Church of England when Dr Williams steps down later this year.

But last night it emerged that he had stepped down from the body responsible for the appointment – meaning that he can formally be considered.

It follows mounting speculation that the 62-year old archbishop would not stand as a candidate due to his age and recent bouts of poor health.

The Ugandan-born prelate has also been the target of a whispering campaign since Dr Williams announced his resignation, which some supporters claim is partly motivated by racism within the Church.

His decision to stand aside from the Commission, the group of clergy and churchgoers who secretly choose bishops and archbishops, confirms him as a front-runner for the most senior job in the Church of England…

Yesterday the Sunday Telegraph had reported this: Archbishop of York victim of ‘naked racism’, claims ally by Richard Eden, and Edward Malnick along with this editorial comment: Toxic whispers in the Church.

…People from many different backgrounds have reached high office in the Church in recent years. But these charges are given some credence by the unfortunate phrases employed by two senior churchmen interviewed by one of our reporters. They both referred to Dr Sentamu’s ethnic background in a way which made it appear that they thought it would cause problems were he to become the Church’s primate. One suggested that Dr Sentamu had the temperament of “an African chief”.

It is an unhappy truth that allegations of racism sometimes surface during an appointment process, and can be deployed as a crude form of blackmail: “Pick this candidate, or be branded a racist.” We hope that is not happening here. But the Church of England needs to establish that the process of choosing its most senior prelate is not going to be distorted by corrosive allegations, and also that it is genuinely free of the taint of racism.

The original article by Arun Arora to which reference is made was previously reported here.

Other media reactions today to these reports:

Independent Church plays down racism claim

…A spokesman for the Church of England said: “The blog from Arun Arora quoted in the story is a month old and has already been widely quoted in a range of publications.”

Northern Echo Archbishop says he has never experienced racism

THE Archbishop of York says he has never experienced racism from fellow clergymen, despite comments from a retired bishop that he would be “unsuitable for the church’s top post because he is quite tribal and the African chief thing comes through”.

Dr John Sentamu says he will not comment on speculation following a story in a Sunday newspaper in which two bishops questioned his suitability to be the successor to Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury…

The Yorkshire Post has Church bids to allay racism fear over Sentamu’s hopes of top job.

…The Church of England confirmed it was aware of Mr Arora’s blog, and added: “There is a comprehensive process for selecting the next Archbishop of Canterbury, details of which are available online, and involves an extensive consultation process.”

Daily Mail Is racism damaging Sentamu’s chances of leading the church? Black archbishop ‘is facing offensive smear campaign’

…An aide said: ‘He would like to make it clear that he has never experienced racist views from within the Church – and no one within the Church has made such comments to him publicly or privately before.’

The allegations mean that the race to succeed Dr Rowan Williams as leader of the CofE and the worldwide Anglican Communion has descended into harsh abuse in little more than a month…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 8:49am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

So, to clarify - does this mean that *two* bishops will now be elected to sit on the CNC (in place of the ABC and ABY)?

Posted by: rjb on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 11:32am BST

On the one hand, I have heard criticism of ++John which I felt was very too much - well, not actually racist per se, but the kind of irrelevant stuff which is deeply unpleasant.

ON the other, I have also heard the kind of considered professional criticism which is relevant.

I have also heard praise in both categories.

We pay dearly for the mistakes of the past - for wrongs done, and sinful attitudes held and propagated. We need to try and ensure we are no part of any such in this or any other area.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 12:18pm BST


Looks, at first glance, as if there is some practice of the "dark arts" going on here as they manipulate the vérité.

As far as I know there is no whispering campaign - while I have heard some leading bishops say out loud "ABY - Anyone BUT York" (A play on the acronym for Archbishop of York) and they were not "liberal".

While I have not heard anyone compare Sentamu to an African Chief, he has often been described to me as "imperious" (glad he's not of Japanese extraction), ignorant, unwilling to listen, bossy, arrogant.

A person who worked alongside him and who "likes him a lot" says:
"he is a complex person, both a star performer and extremely shy, and as archbishop has too many advisors, and I agree that many of his pronouncements in the media are almost Careyesque. His autocratic style doesn’t go down well in many quarters." AH. A Telegraph natural?

But this press stuff all seems a little pat for me. An editorial fit-up. Someone at Telegraph newspapers wants to make him "their boy" - perhaps they want him to write a column for them too! This sort of journalism always leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, oh, yes I see Jonathan WJ is involved ........

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 12:52pm BST

rjb asks about bishops on the CNC.

Yes, the House of Bishops will now elect two bishops to the CNC for this vacancy (if I were a betting man I'd put money on +Leicester as one of them).

Whatever anyone thinks of him (and I like him very much - he's hilarious) this means that 50% of the voting members (the permanent 6 and the two bishops) as well as the two (non-voting) secretaries will have had a close working relationship with him over a number of years. Of course none of us have any idea what this will mean in practice.

It is interesting that by effectively putting his hat in the ring Sentamu has at the same time given up any influence he may now have on the selection.

Posted by: Wilf on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 1:25pm BST

Arun Arora is Sentamu's man, no doubt about it, and this smacks of him cynically playing the race card in order to stifle discussion and intelligent critique.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 1:33pm BST

rjb - if the Archbishop of York chooses not to take up his place on the Commission, the House of Bishops elect two of their number to be members:

I think the process is rather harsh to whoever is Archbishop of York as he is the only bishop who, by deciding whether or not to serve on the Commission, has to publicly indicate whether he is willing to be considered.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 1:38pm BST

++Ebor.'s biggest problem, in my view, would appear to be his supporters (Arun Arora not excepted). If the Guardian is right that a gaggle of Tory back-benchers are lobbying for his appointment on the grounds that they want a 'real' conservative in Lambeth Palace, this would certainly appear rather unsavoury. On the other hand, the Guardian today reports comments from the Archbishop of York about inequality in the UK which suggest that Archbishop John has learned a thing or two from his years as a supporting-act to Archbishop Rowan. Perhaps the enthusiasm for Sentamu on the Tory backbenches will wane?

I can't say I've noticed any great antipathy towards John Sentamu among 'liberals', though I haven't noticed much enthusiasm for him either. There seems, by contrast, to be a pretty broad consensus built around the "Anyone But London" platform, for many good reasons that don't include flagrant racism.

Posted by: rjb on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 1:42pm BST

Aurora's appointment, followed promptly by a concentrated offensive in the Telegraph to paint all and any opposed to Sentamu's election as racist. Seems someone is doing their job. Those who make off-the-record "African chief" comments do not help, though you can safely bet that these snippets were very selectively winnowed from longer, more nuanced interviews.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 2:10pm BST

There seems a consensus amongst TA observers and commentators that this is a put up job.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 5:50pm BST

If John Sentamu had not painted himself into a corner as far as the subject of human sexuality, people might be more inclined to see him as a candidate for the See of Canterbury. His very narrow views on human sexuality and the glbt community make it impossible for many of us to see him as a "serious" candidate. I believe it would be a very serious mistake to push for this man's appointment to Canterbury as Archbishop. This man's views are so divisive and political that it would be difficult to accept his candidacy as anything other than a dark and nefarious "back room" deal. I hope the British Press shines a bright light on the candidates for Archbishop of Canterbury. We need transparency here. Any "deals" that pre-choose the wrong person need to be exposed.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 5:53pm BST

A lot of the debate about the age of the candidates is predicated on a Lambeth Conference in 2018 - but why? What makes that the best way forward? It was a Victorian solution to a Victorian problem - is there any reason for continuing, other than "we've always done it that way?"

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 6:19pm BST

I can't help but notice I'm seeing some tactics similar to those of the State of Israel {hear me out}

Israeli government reps suggest/imply/ACCUSE that ANY criticism of the State of Israel is "anti-Semitic."

...and HERE, Sentamu's colleagues/PR reps suggest/imply/DECLARE that any criticism of Sentamu is "racist."

I reject this framing. I want to hear the arguments For or Against, on their own merits (as Sentamu himself should be evaluated).

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 7:36pm BST

Oh – as usual – bother.

Posted by: Dan BD on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 8:36pm BST

I have a difficulty with an ABC who has gratuitously referred to this country's democratically elected Prime Minister (I didn't vote for him) as being like a dictator as well as giving some very diffuse ramblings on same sex marriage make me question if he can comport himself - even as York he's very much on the edge, let alone Canterbury. Which of course is a shame because he has done good things in other ways.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 8:52pm BST

"Hast though not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not?" - 1K1 v.11b.

Posted by: Andrew on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 10:47pm BST

What is John's position on the Covenant?

Posted by: Susannah on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 1:35am BST

Wonderful word of scripture -thank you Andrew.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 1:11pm BST
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