Magazine article The Christian Century

When South Is North

Magazine article The Christian Century

When South Is North

Article excerpt

North is North, and South is South, and never the twain shall meet. Well, actually, they do. In a globalized world, people move freely, carrying ideas and practices with them, and some of the resulting meetings and mergers can be surprising, even bracing.

Witness, for instance, John Sentamu, who in 2005 became the archbishop of the ancient see of York, founded in the year 627. By ancient tradition, York is the second most important see in the Church of England. Sentamu is Ugandan by birth and practiced as a lawyer in that country until he fled persecution under the regime of Idi Amin. Although he was "kicked around like a football" by Amin's thugs, he acknowledges that he was more fortunate than many of his friends, who did not survive. Coming to England, he was ordained an Anglican priest.

From his inauguration as archbishop, Sentamu gave notice that his would be a distinctive voice. On a minor point, he demonstrated a personal skill in African drumming far superior to that of any of his predecessors. He has a lively sense of humor. When visiting Pope Benedict, he brought an appropriate gift for the Bavarian pontiff--a shipment of the Holy Grail beer brewed in his own archdiocese. More seriously, he denounces racism, imperialism and police brutality, and complains that the modern British financial system operates on rules borrowed from Alice in Wonderland.

Phrased like that, Sentamu's views sound no different from those of a conventional left-liberal cleric. But his African background gives him credentials to speak on issues about which native-born English bishops would be far more nervous. Sentamu grew up in a world in which Christianity is no longer associated with imperial expansion, but is rather the familiar faith of ordinary people--a thoroughly African faith. It is, moreover, the deeply rooted and well-beloved religion of many nonwhite British people. He feels no need, then, to apologize for Christian mission, for the "risk-taking and love" of the missionaries who built churches. His parents told him to take every opportunity to laud those efforts, to tell anyone who would listen "how grateful we are for the missionaries who risked their lives to bring the good news of God's salvation to Uganda."

The archbishop wins conservative admirers for his willingness to speak out on the sensitive theme of multiculturalism. Over the past half century, Britain has become a racially and religiously complex society in which official policy demands full recognition and respect for each diverse voice. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.