Since Rowan Williams announced in March that he was to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury, the bookies' favourite has been John Sentamu.But race has reared its head, embroiling the Church in a row that some insiders say shows the insular snobbery and racism that has been accepted quietly for centuries. Arun Arora, his former aide, suggested Sentamu's chances were being blighted by "naked racism" in an anonymous whispering campaign by those who can't bear a black man to "break the chains of history".
My good friend, CHELLIAH LAITY, a Church of England member from a Tamil Christian background, suggested on her blog recently that the "Anyone But York" campaign was about ageism. I disagreed with her. I think it is about race. But it's a complicated racism. In fact, I wouldn't call it racism (although I have friends and former friends who will regard it is as racism and probably unfriend me from Facebook after reading this post); I would call it culturalism. I know it is playing apart in the debate about the next ABC because I am guilty of it myself. It's not old fashioned racism because many of the people who don't want Sentamu anywhere near the top job are people who were advocating that Tutu should be given the post before Boring George was appointed.
I am going to be 100% truthful here. I do not want Sentamu to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury because he thinks, talks and behaves like a Ugandan.
I would also not someone to lead the English church who thinks, talks and behaves like a Pakistani Christian, or like a Northern Irish old school protestant, or like an old school Afrikaan Christian, or like a Papua New Guinea Christian (a province where women are still not allowed to be ordained as priests). I most certainly wouldn't want the Head of the Family Firm in charge of us and he's as white as the head of the Ku Klux Klan.
I would only be comfortable with an archbishop who is, at least attuned, to modern, English culture. I don't care what nationality that person is (it could be a Ugandan and the Scottish Primus, who I would give the job to tomorrow, is a Northern Irish protestant). I just don't want to be embarrassed too much.