John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is our cover boy this week. It’s the Church of
England Synod next week, word is that Rowan Williams will be standing down soon, and Rod Liddle is backing Sentamu as his successor. When planning the headline, I thought about calling him the
‘British Obama’. We didn’t use this, as it’s not a compliment — but if Britain is to have a figure who epitomises our country’s inherent tolerance and open-mindedness I’d pick Sentamu above
anyone else in public life. If he was made Archbishop, I really don’t think there would be an uproar about the fact that he’s black, or even that he came here as an Ugandan asylum seeker and still
speaks with an accent. He’d get stick for his views on gay marriage (which he opposes), and his conservative views (in keeping with George Carey) may yet cost him the job.
It is odd how Africans have become custodians of the conservative tradition in the Church of England, and I think Sentamu would be a brilliant pick now because he is what the Church needs: a
genuinely inspirational figure. He has known hardship, having been beaten up by Idi Amin’s thugs,
and he tore up his dog collar and said he’d not wear it again until Mugabe has gone. His is a gritty Christianity, and he speaks in a way that many non-Christians can understand. There is even a
John Sentamu City Academy set up in his honour in Hull. The Anglican communion is a worldwide one, and needs firm leadership. Sentamu could provide it.
P.S. Alongside Rod’s article we’ve got a list of the runners and riders to succeed Rowan Williams, put together by Jonathan Wynne-Jones with help from the bookies at William Hill.
Here it is for CoffeeHousers benefit:
Richard Chartres, Bishop of London: 6/4
If archbishops were appointed on the basis of looking the part, he would be a shoo-in. With his fastidiously groomed beard and stentorian voice, he offers unrivalled gravitas for the big occasions.
A friend of Prince Charles since their time at Cambridge University, he would no doubt be the establishment choice. But he views women clergy with the same fondness as an unclipped whisker, and the
Church is about to make them bishops.
John Sentamu, Archbishop of York: 7/4
The Ugandan has a common touch, rare among his colleagues, that makes him popular with the media. He is principled and charismatic — the perfect antidote to Williams. He is less well-liked in
the Church, however. Senior clergy use the acronym of his episcopal title, ABY, to mean Anyone But York.
Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry: 6/1
The youngest bishop in the Church is emerging as a likely successor to Rowan Williams despite, or maybe because of, the fact his profile is relatively low. Where Dr Williams’s promotion
deeply divided liberals and evangelicals, Cocksworth’s experience in a city famous for being a centre of reconciliation could be just what the Church craves after years of turbulence. He has
written at length about the challenges facing the modern Church.
Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford: 5/1
Blogs and tweets on everything from Liverpool FC and the Beatles to ecumenical relationships with churches in Germany. A regular on Radio 2’s Pause for Thought, he understands the media and
has shown he is unafraid to take it on. Baines went to a comprehensive and spent most of his ministry in urban parishes. He is from the evangelical wing of the Church, yet liked by liberals, who
regard him as inclusive towards gays.
Tom Wright, Former Bishop of Durham: 8/1
The Church of England lost one of its greatest minds when N.T. Wright returned to academia in 2010. His critics would argue that he never really left the professorial life, given he spent much of
his time as bishop travelling the world to give lectures, but the evangelicals would welcome the return of a heavyweight who shares their conservative views. While widely admired by fellow bishops,
he was not widely liked, being seen as a poor team player.