I'll Get England Back in Church Vows Our First Black Archbishop

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

BRITAIN'S first black Anglican archbishop vowed yesterday to restore the Church of England as a 'spiritual home' for the nation.

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Reverend Dr John Sentamu, was speaking after his appointment as Archbishop of York, the Church's second highest position.

Dr Sentamu, 56, said his new post was 'an exciting prospect' and called for the Church to 'reconnect' with the people of the country.

He acknowledged the Church had gone through a 'trough' but said it needed to regain its 'vision and confidence'.

His admission that the church has lost touch with many of its flock contrasts sharply with the public confidence of many Anglican leaders.

He replaces the much respected Dr David Hope, who stirred controversy when he left in February to become a parish priest in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. In his parting statement, Dr Hope said he would be 'hard-pressed' to call Britain a Christian country any longer.

Dr Sentamu also broke with church convention by praising missionaries who brought Christianity to his homeland, Uganda.

He marked his first public appearance after his appointment by thanking the missionaries, saying: 'How grateful we are for the missionaries and martyrs who risked their lives to bring the good news to my native country.

'It is because of that missionary endeavour that I am standing in front of you.' Born in 1949 near Kampala, in Uganda, the sixth of 13 children, he studied law at Makerere University and became a barrister before working as a judge in the Uganda high court.

But his criticism of the Idi Amin dictatorship led to his arrest and after being jailed and beaten, he fled in 1974 to train as a priest at Cambridge.

After his ordination in 1979, he served as assistant chaplain at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and from 1979 to 1982 he was chaplain at HM Remand Centre Latchmere House and curate of St Andrew's Ham in Southwark, South London.

More senior posts in South London churches followed and in 1996 he won a junior episcopal job as Bishop of Stepney, and then a senior diocesan position as Bishop of Birmingham in Dr Sentamu and his wife Margaret, a Church House official, have been married for 32 years. …