FaithWorld

Race row rattles Church of England contest to succeed Rowan Williams

May 2, 2012

(Britain's Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, sits near the high altar during the ninth Inauguration of the General Synod at Westminster Abbey, in central London November 23, 2010. REUTERS/Dan Kitwood)

Already split over women bishops and gay rights, the Church of England has stumbled into a damaging race row over who to choose as spiritual leader of the 80-million strong Anglican Communion.

Since Rowan Williams announced in March that he was to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury, the bookies’ favourite has been John Sentamu, the charismatic Archbishop of York – the only black bishop in the mother church of the Anglican Communion.

But race has reared its head, embroiling the Church in a row that some insiders say shows the insular snobbery and racism that has been accepted quietly for centuries.

Abhorrence aside, claims of racism are potentially explosive because African churches make-up an increasingly large chunk of the world’s Anglicans. More than half are from Africa. Sentamu, 62, grew up in Uganda under dictator Idi Amin.

Arun Arora, his former aide, suggested Sentamu’s chances were being blighted by “naked racism” in an anonymous whispering campaign by those who can’t bear a black man to “break the chains of history”.

Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who was brought up in Jamaica and is chaplain to both Queen Elizabeth and the Speaker of the House of Commons, said she had personally experienced “blatant racism” within the Church, though she was aware it was often subtle.

“It is there, we might dress it up and call it different things, but it is there, and it is sad because it is contrary to the Gospel,” she told Reuters.

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