It's just a few hours after the announcement that Rowan Williams is to retire as the Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year and The BBC has already decided that John Sentamu is his most likely successor. Although the Archbishop of York is diplomatically keeping stum today, and will no doubt remain silent about the issue until the new boss is announced, locals in Bishopthorpe have told newsmen that Sentamu has, in the past when asked directly, said he might get the Canterbury job eventually. He is almost certainly not averse to the idea.

I find the thought of Sentamu as Archbishop of Canterbury a very boring concept. His would be a crowdpleasing (as in the Daily Mail crowd) but intellectually embarrassing reign. However, he might make the Church of England a more attractive proposition for those who want certainty and to be told what to think. He might even slow down the church's rapid decline in membership. The evangelicals would see him as a good thing and the charismatics would probably get their bongos out and start dancing in the street. I doubt that the Anglo-Catholics would have too much of a problem with them (their prejudice is against women not black people - in fact, Anglo-Catholics have done more than any other group in the Church of England to fight against racism throughout the world). It will be the liberals and the easily embarrassed broad church parties that will find Sentamu living at Lambeth a bit of a problem. I feel particularly sorry for the liberals' predicament. Sentamu was once the British Government's favourite black Englishman and his role on commissions tackling racism in my country was extremely great. He was a liberal hero and they would flock to see him whenever he gave a lecture in town. Unfortunately, like far too many people who have suffered oppression Sentamu has problems seeing the oppression of other groups of people. He is also very African in his view of life. So the liberals have a big problem. Do they support him because he is black and his appointment would be a huge step forward in their bid to get equality of opportunity for all people in Britain, or do they condemn him as a homophobe and risk being accused of racism or, at the least, hypocrisy (failing to practice what they preach).

Personally, at this moment in time the appointment of Sentamu as Archbishop of Canterbury does not scare me. It will only scare the crap out of me if the remaining dioceses vote in favour of the Anglican Covenant. If this instrument of control is not adopted than it doesn't matter too much who is at the top as the synodical processes of the Church of England will continue as they are now and change can happen with or without the Archbishop of Canterbury's support, they can happen even if the Archbishop is set against them. But if the Covenant is adopted, change will only ever stand a chance of happening if the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time wants it to happen. This is because the quangoesque committees and suchlike at the top of the Anglican Communion will pretty much be in control of everything except the most mundane local decisions.

So, don't panic, yet. Don't pack your bags and buy one way tickets to the USA until we get all the results of the Covenant vote in at the end of April. And do be careful. If the Covenant is accepted by the majority of the dioceses, don't get crushed in the rush of "thinking Anglicans" leaving the sinking ship.



  1. Very thoughtful, MP.

    Le Sigh: if the CofE “just wanted a black ABC”, I can think of a half-dozen TEC bishops of African descent who would be OUTSTANDING. :-/