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…