Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, March 17th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 44 Comments
Stephen Bates has a go at handicapping the Archbishop of Canterbury field:
John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
Bookies’ early favourite, though at 63 would be older than Williams. Loud, self-confident, a relentless self-publicist and ambitious. Originally a refugee from Uganda, where he became a judge and narrowly escaped execution by Idi Amin, he would be the first black archbishop of Canterbury and for that reason a populist choice. Many bishops, though, suspect his intellectual coherence, consistency and judgement. He has come out against the government’s plans for gay marriage – bad timing if he wants to endear himself to ministers – and also wrote what many regard as an over-effusive column, welcoming Rupert Murdoch’s new Sun on Sunday with a “wow!”
Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
Third ranked bishop in the CofE but also older than Williams and decidedly lukewarm about women’s ordination. Probably the most intellectually able bishop, a smooth political operator, a friend of the royal family and a stately, witty episcopal figure well able to rise to state occasions. Early experience as archbishop Robert Runcie’s chaplain (so he knows what the job involves). He is bored by church politics but dealt adroitly with what he saw as the “bloody mess” of St Paul’s Cathedral’s handling of the Occupy protest outside its front doors – bishops do not usually get involved in the daily operation of their cathedrals. Astute and avuncular, he has some inkling of the way the press works from having been once, briefly, church correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.
Graham James, Bishop of Norwich
Probably the current insiders’ choice for archbishop. A safe, cautious selection, though also an Anglo-Catholic, he too was chaplain to Runcie and his successor, George Carey. He is well liked and respected, but would he provide the inspirational leadership or the intellectual agility and self-confidence that the church needs?
Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Bradford
An outside choice, certainly this time and from a slightly (seven years) younger generation than the others. An able communicator and keen blogger, but only recently a diocesan bishop (but so was Carey). Maybe next time round?
The prospect of elevating Sentamu to Lambeth Palace horrifies Riazat Butt.
But the Church of England – and the Anglican Communion – needs someone with a pastoral touch. It needs a man – and it will be a man, because the Church of England is years away from appointing a female bishop let alone a lady archbishop – who can be fair to all points of view rather than imposing absolutes on difficult issues, and someone who can put their personal beliefs aside for the greater good.
Sentamu has come out fighting on the issue of gay marriage and has become the darling of conservatives inside and outside the Church of England. But his views alienate and polarise: there are clergy and parishioners who would love to see same-sex relationships registered in places of worship. An archbishop is not a spokesman or a pundit to be wheeled out to comment on the hot topics of the day. His job, in fact, is an impossible one: to accept that some Anglicans will never agree on the issues of gender or homosexuality while at the same time holding everyone together on common issues such as the Millennium Development Goals and the persecution of minority Christian communities around the world.
Rowan Williams’s strength and weakness was his attempt to be fair to everyone, regardless of his own personal feelings. It was why the traditionalists liked him and the liberals hated him. Rather tellingly, the conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics issued statements praising Williams and his legacy within hours of his retirement hitting the headlines. I’ve yet to receive anything from the liberals.
Sentamu, as Archbishop of Canterbury, would indeed provide the decisiveness and leadership that some crave – but his force of personality would also alienate many others.
The beauty of the Church of England is that it is a broad one. Under John Sentamu, it would become considerably narrower.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that it will matter in the slightest, for the Church of England and for the Anglican Communion, who the next Archbish0p of Canterbury is. The damage inflicted on Anglicanism by the North Americans and their European allies and enablers is too serious and has spread too far.
But for what it’s worth(and considering my Anglican prediction track record, it’s worth very little), I have to think that whoever’s in charge of putting a name before the Queen will find it impossible to resist recommending that John Sentamu gets the job.
Think of it. The public face of a still very important international Christian tradition will, for the first time, be African. How will that look to the world when Sentamu meets the Pope? Sentamu’s conservatism should keep GAFCON on board and might actually boost the chances of the Anglican Church in North America receiving “official” Communion recognition sooner rather than later.
But there’s another reason why I think that changing John Sentamu’s job description to “Primate of All England” would be extremely beneficial. Sentamu’s conservatism and the appalled reaction of the British left to the prospect of his getting the top job suggest, to me anyway, that if the next Archbishop of Canterbury proves to be too traditional for leftist tastes, the “Episcopal Communion” led by the Archbishop of New York will get going sooner rather than later.