Church bids to allay racism fear over Sentamu’s hopes of top job

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu
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SENIOR clergy have moved to allay fears that the Archbishop of York has been the victim of “naked racism” by critics opposed to him becoming the head of the Church of England.

Dr John Sentamu is seen as a front runner to succeed Dr Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

But Dr Sentamu’s former aide, the Rev Arun Arora, claimed the Ugandan-born Archbishop has been targeted by an “anonymous whispering” campaign in an attempt to besmirch his name. Mr Arora, who was the Archbishop’s director of communications up until 2009, said there was a “stark contrast” between the portrayal of Dr Sentamu and the treatment of other bishops.

In an internet blog, he said: “At its best, the besmirching of John Sentamu has revealed that strand of snobbery which views outsiders as lacking class, diplomacy or civility – in other words ‘not one of us’. At worst, it has elicited the naked racism which still bubbles under the surface in our society, and which is exposed when a black man is in line to break the chains of history.”

Dr Sentamu has spoken in the past about his experience of racism but stressed that any abuse came from outside the Church. It emerged in February that North Yorkshire Police had launched a hate crime inquiry into racist emails sent to the Archbishop following controversial comments he made about same-sex marriage. Dr Sentamu said Ministers should not overrule the Bible by allowing same-sex marriage.

The Church of England confirmed it was aware of Mr Arora’s blog, and added: “There is a comprehensive process for selecting the next Archbishop of Canterbury, details of which are available online, and involves an extensive consultation process.”

It was announced this month that Mr Arora will become the new director of communications at Church House in Westminster in the summer. Dr Williams announced last month that he will stand down at the end of the year.