Monday, 23 April 2012

More analyses of Sentamu and the vacancy at Canterbury

Updated Tuesday morning

Two substantial comment articles on Archbishop Sentamu as a candidate for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury have appeared during the day:

George Pitcher wrote If Dr John Sentamu isn’t made Archbishop of Canterbury, it won’t be because he’s black.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the race card was played as candidates jostle for best position to succeed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.

It comes from Arun Arora, who has served as Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu’s chief spin doctor and is about to take the top PR post at Church House, which houses the Church of England’s civil service.

He says that Dr Sentamu, who is from Uganda, is the victim of criticism that amounts, at worst, to ‘naked racism which still bubbles under the surface in our society, and which is exposed when a black man is in line to break the chains of history.’ Rev Arora cites an Oxford don calling Dr Sentamu ‘brutish’ as an example of this latent racism…

…I’m probably as close as anyone to Church gossip about the runners and riders for Canterbury and I’ve not heard a single racial slur, directed at Dr Sentamu or anyone else.

If anything, the situation has been rather the reverse. My impression is that those who have had criticisms or reservations of Dr Sentamu’s candidacy have largely kept them to themselves over the past couple of years, precisely because they fear that they may have been accused of racism if they expressed them. Political correctness has served Dr Sentamu well.

Lately, it’s true that some of his critics have concluded that their views are as valid and innocent as if he were a white man. And so I’ve heard these words: Capricious, impulsive, vain with the media and quick to temper (as well, I might add, as words such as prophetic, inspirational, generous and kind). None of these words has anything to do with Dr Sentamu’s ethnicity.

For what it’s worth, my feeling is that the moment has passed for John Sentamu and Canterbury. He celebrates his 63rd birthday in about seven weeks’ time, meaning that he would be pushing compulsory retirement age by the next Lambeth Conference in 2018. He’s not been blessed with the best of good health lately and, most importantly, I really don’t think he wants it anymore. We really shouldn’t have another Archbishop of Canterbury who doesn’t want to be…

Andrew Brown wrote The fight to become the new archbishop of Canterbury is getting dirty.

…The style that people object to is autocratic, and prelatical. The idea that God blesses success, and that might therefore shows forth righteousness, is embedded in a lot of African religious culture. Sentamu’s younger brother, for example, is a hugely successful “Prosperity gospel” preacher in Kampala, with a mansion, a Mercedes, and a church where journalists are searched on entry. Authority, in such a church, is fawned on sooner than questioned.

There’s nothing essentially African about this. For one thing it is the opposite of Desmond Tutu’s manner; for another, it was the natural behaviour of archbishops of Canterbury up until about the retirement of Geoffrey Fisher, in 1961. But it hasn’t worked in England since then. It suited all the instincts of George Carey, but without an audience prepared to suspend its disbelief, he just looked pompous and absurd. The Church of England has never suffered from a lack of leadership. What it has quite run out of now is followership.

Carey has now emerged as one of Sentamu’s backers. Orotund to the last, he told the Times that “I am quite appalled. If there is a besmirching campaign then it is abhorrent and I, for one, will challenge this”.

Carey’s memoirs revealed his angry hurt at the sneers of metropolitan smoothies who couldn’t understand the obstacles that he had overcome or admire him for doing so. Sentamu and Arora both in their different ways share this sense of exclusion and hostile distrust of the establishment…

…But as a journalist I dislike people who cannot decently conceal their ambition to manipulate the press. When “sources close to the archbishop” told the Telegraph that “he has only stepped down [from the committee choosing the archbishop of Canterbury] as he did not want to be seen to be influencing the appointment”, I wonder what kind of idiots the “sources” takes us for.


This analysis by Paul Vallely was published much earlier in the month, but is highly relevant: Dr John Sentamu: Next stop Canterbury?

…The big question is whether his style is suited to coping with the polarised camps in the Church. “He’s established a court at Bishopthorpe,” said one senior insider. “He’s trebled the staff, which has caused unease among senior churchmen at the amount of money he’s spending. But he lacks the diplomatic skills to be Archbishop of Canterbury. He’s autocratic and doesn’t like to be contradicted. He has a temper. His senior staff of bishops and archdeacons in the Diocese of York haven’t found him an easy man to work with, or for. He’d be a disaster managing Anglicanism’s factions.”

All that has not been lost on the powers at Lambeth Palace, which is run more like a chief exec’s office in a major corporation. There the Archbishop of Canterbury has so much in his diary set by the formularies of diocese, nation and international Anglican Communion that the incumbent has nowhere near the scope to follow his own agenda as York does. Lambeth officials have been leaking their fear of a Dr Sentamu succession.

There is another problem. The Anglican Communion gathers every 10 years at the Lambeth Conference. At the next, in 2018, John Sentamu will be just months from compulsory retirement at age 70 and unable to implement the programme the decennial conference decides. But the younger generation – Stephen Cottrell, Nick Baines, Stephen Croft and Stephen Conway, bishops of Chelmsford, Bradford, Sheffield and Ely respectively – are not seen as quite ready, according to someone with close contacts inside the Crown Nominations Commission which makes the decision.

That said, all bishops under the age of 66 have been told to get their CVs up to date and send them off to the CNC. Insiders there are tipping James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, as a more judicious option than the volatile Dr Sentamu. But it is the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James – “very competent and a safe pair of hands” – who is the real favourite…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 10:21pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Both Pitcher and Brown have got some good journalistic copy here. It must be difficult for Sentamu to read it all.

...but whoever gets the job eventually will have to put up with even worse. You'd think that nobody would touch the role even with the proverbial 'barge pole'. Yet there's no shortage of candidates, even if the growing list doesn't contain any really promising or exciting names.

It's ironic that Rowan Williams was the clear and unstoppable front runner ten years ago, and look what the task and the press have done to him.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 10:54pm BST

Will Dr. Rowan Williams also ¨step down¨ from the Crown Nominating Commission? If so then the Anglican World, and more importantly the Church of England, will be safer from the bias, exclusion/backroom deals, and unwholesome scolding-lectures that make honorable members cry.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 11:26pm BST

Williams isn't looking as bad as some have suggested in light of the alternatives.

Posted by: ruidh on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 12:13am BST

George Carey - "I am quite appalled. If there is a besmirching campaign then it is abhorrent." That's a bit rich coming from, in other matters, the one who may be called the Besmircher in Chief, since stepping down from Augustine's throne. No one more than his immediate predecessor has helped to make Rowan's life hell by not learning the art of keepin his trap shut. Carey's constant comments with regard to Rowan's plelature are on a par with the unhelpful advice Dr. Ramsey constantly received from Fisher.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 5:37am BST

"Capricious, impulsive, vain" - words used to describe + Sentamu Ebor. Oh dear, is this yet another sign of decline in the standard of prelate in the Established Church? Time was when viewing the Orpen portrait at Bishopthorpe in the presence of Bishop Henson - Archbishop Lang said that they say it makes me look "Proud, pompous and prelatical".

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 5:57am BST

Leonardo, the outgoing archbishop has no role in the selection of his successor. He is replaced on the CNC by a lay person as chair, to be appointed by the Prime Minister. Expect an announcement shortly...

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 8:17am BST

My understanding (from random reading) is that there is technically nothing requiring that the next ABC be from the United Kingdom.

Does anyone know what / where the list of must-have qualifications are?

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 9:02am BST

Andrew Brown - 'The Church of England has never suffered from a lack of leadership. What it has quite run out of now is followership'.

Indeed. Some of us have grown up and started to think for ourselves. Always a dangerous time for a Church.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 9:41am BST

Let me on expand Simon's comment above.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is actually replaced by two people. One is the lay chair, who becomes an additional member of the CNC. But in addition the House of Bishops elects a bishop to sit on the CNC in place of the ABC, as the central membership always includes two (arch)bishops.

In this particular case the House will elect two bishops, the second one to replace the Archbishop of York who has decided not to take up his place on the CNC.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 10:19am BST

And don't forget Hensley Henson's brilliant riposte -

"And to which of those epithets does Your Grace take exception?"

Posted by: JeremyP on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 10:31am BST

and,Fr David, Bishop Hensley Henson who was there, added " and to which of those epithets does your grace take exception". those were the days!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 10:36am BST

You may remember, Fr David, Henson's reported reply to Archbishop Laing: "To which of those epithets does Your Grace take exception?" Lang, of course, was all those things. Though back in the 1930s archbishops didn't have to deal with irreverent hacks and bloggers raking over their personal attributes, speculating about their sexuality (not irrelevant in Lang's case), and generally reminding them just how pompous and prelatical they were. Who'd be an Archbishop, eh?

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 12:43pm BST

James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool -- finally a name that makes spiritually/emotionally healthy and plain good sense (for everyone) doubt the most extreme ¨Evangelical¨ contingent at Church will find him unsuitable because he is wholesome, welcoming, fair, self-searching/open-minded and reasonable--qualities that Dr. Williams seemed to once of had.

The thought of humility, self-searching dignity AND a less stubborn ¨first among equals¨ at Lambeth Palace is exciting. Imagine, the Archbishop of Canterbury without the snearing, hard-headed, arched eye brows and fits/tantrums of pomposity. Imagine, rejuvenating and welcoming sermons that the least, and most, amongst us can ALL understand and be inspired by...ALL sinners, ALL the time.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 2:03pm BST

Paul Vallely's piece suggests that Sentamu might be quite a good pick.

George Pitcher's "Ten Media Tips for the Church" in the Church Times last October suggested that the Lambeth Palace insiders - with their desire for an Archbishop would wouldn't rock their boat - should no longer be allowed to fill his diary up for him. If they are frightened of Sentamu taking just that line, George Pitcher would say that was a good thing.

Rowan Williams' softly softly approach of appeasement and conciliation has done nothing to satisfy GAFCON’s appetite for self-aggrandisement, at the expense of Canterbury and the old churches of the United Kingdom and North America - which the GAFCON Chairman yesterday referred to as "dwindling enclaves of those who have been left behind by the tide of history".

Maybe a forthright Archbishop of Canterbury who will not accept insults and attacks as meekly as Williams would be worth a try. A lot of GAFCON rhetoric characterises Canterbury as colonialist and lacking the vigour of churches planted in the East African revival. This line would hardly work against an Archbishop with his own roots in Uganda.

I don't think Sentamu's more robust and impatient approach would succeed. I suspect it would just blow relations between Canterbury and GAFCON up completely. But would that be much worse than the present state of not-so-civil war?

For me, the main objection to Sentamu is not so much that he is illiberal, although he is. It is that, whenever I have heard him interviewed, he responds very poorly to questioning and falls back on party lines which he does not seem able to rationalise or defend coherently. This would not make him an effective Archbishop of Canterbury, the role being one which has very little power, and depends mostly on powers of persuasion.

Sentamu has already been strongly associated with attempts to impose top down archiepiscopal solutions to the women bishops legislation, which failed humiliatingly, and the Anglican Covenant, which has also failed in England. These seem to confirm that he lacks the skills required to make a successful Archbishop of Canterbury in the synodically governed Church of England of the 21st century.

But he wouldn't be in post long. And most people now see the tenure of the highly intelligent and relatively open minded Rowan Williams as a failure. Where Sentamu would have a big advantage over Rowan Williams is that he likes publicity and has a much better common touch, as evidenced by his regular column in the Sun newspaper. No doubt the press would chew him up and spit him out in the end, but they do that with every Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 6:26pm BST

It's amazing how much campaigning is done for an office where open campaigning is probably considered beyond good taste, not kosher, bad form, etc.
I guess the Holy Spirit needs a little nudge from the proper sorts of people.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 7:20pm BST

What about the Bishop of Truro- moderate Catholic,
theologian, experience both in parish work and ordination training - a Suffragan Bishop and then a Diocesan one - and young enough to continue after the next Lambeth Conference.

Posted by: Jean Mary Mayland on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 10:59am BST

That last post is an amazing commendation for this forum; see

Posted by: John Waldsax on Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 9:04am BST

And, Jean...what about Steven Croft Bishop of Sheffield....not unlike Truro ( parish experience, ran a theological college etc) and a sensible moderate evangelical. He also has a track record in mission.
It seems to me that one of the first things the Commission will have to decide is whether to go for someone over 60....Sentamu, Jones,James or the younger generation Cocksworth, Croft, or possibly the Bishops of Chelmsford and perhaps Truro.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 11:26am BST

Jones or James, both sound good to me, but then, I'm only an old colonial.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 11:10am BST

and perhaps I should have added ,has strong roots in the north of England. It might be good to have someone with first hand experience of what I recently heard described by an academic as "England's East Germany rather than London /Oxbridge and the Home Counties.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 12:23pm BST

I am more than a little astonished to find myself in agreement with Jean Mary Mayland and her endorsement of the Bishop of Truro as the next Cantuar. Of course, if this unlikely preferment came about, this wouldn't be the first time a massive leap had been made from Truro to Canterbury in that Edward White Benson made such a move in 1883.
One of his sons - A C Benson was Master of Magdalene College Cambridge (1915-1925). Now that self same college is fortunate enough to be gaining not merely an Archbishop of Canterbury's son as Master but no less than the Archbishop himself.
How fortunate we are to be living in this "Land of Hope and Glory". May Rowan be blessed with many years of future happiness at Cambridge - he certainly deserves it following ten years of trials and tribulations at Canterbury!

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 30 April 2012 at 7:36am BST
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