So What Happened to Archbishop John Sentamu?
November 10, 2012 1 Comment
Could it have to do with the colour of his skin?
When I tweeted this morning a certain un-awed wonder at news reports that a middle-aged white dude, Durham bishop Justin Welby, has apparently been tapped as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, one of my Twitter followers snapped quickly back: “Almost all the candidates were middle-aged and white. Should they have gone with [anti-gay Archbishop John] Semantu just because he’s black?” So, too, a British Facebook friend complained about my “prejudice” toward the Church of England. “You wouldn’t have preferred [the bishop of] York, would you?”
Of course, that was not my thinking at all—Twitter’s mere 140 characters creates a certain barrier to nuance.
The “almost all the candidates were middle-aged and white” bit was more to the point, Bishop of York Dr. Semantu being the “only” non-white Church of England bishop who made up the “almost.” The tweeter doubled down on in a follow-up message: “but you’d have to have more non-white bishops in the Church of England to begin with.” Exactly. Or, you’d have to look outside the C of E for archepiscopal “Focus of Unity” of a worldwide communion that may well draw deeply on its colonial English roots, but that’s been coloring richly outside the lines of its WASP lineage for several centuries by now.
Dr. Semantu, well known for his own lack of nuance, promised to be a divisive choice in the global Anglican Communion—if not in the Church of England proper, where he is much admired by the Anglican laity despite, or perhaps because of, periodic fits of ideological and interpersonal pique. Given his much more conservative views on matters like the role of women and homosexuals in the church, an oft-noted “lack of diplomatic skill,” and the fact that at 62 he is older than out-going ABC Rowan Williams, Semantu was dropped from serious consideration early in the recommendation process.
All the enduring contenders, thus, were drawn from the soft, white center of the Church of England, allowing Welby, an affable former oil company executive with a familiar Eton-Cambridge pedigree, to move to the top of the list…
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