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John Sentamu

The Most Revd and Rt Hon
John Sentamu
Archbishop of York
File:John Sentamu.jpg
Sentamu after his Enthronement Service in November 2005.
Province Province of York
Diocese Diocese of York
Installed 30 November 2005[1]
Predecessor David Hope
Other posts Area Bishop of Stepney (1996–2002)
Bishop of Birmingham (2002–2005)
Ordination 1979
Consecration 1996
Personal details
Birth name John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu
Born (1949-06-10) 10 June 1949 (age 71)
Kampala, Uganda
Nationality British[2]
Denomination Anglicanism
Residence Bishopthorpe Palace, Bishopthorpe, York
Parents John and Ruth Walakira[3]
Spouse Margaret (1973–present)[4]
Children One daughter (Grace) and one son (Geoffrey)[5]
Profession formerly law (High Court advocate)
Alma mater Makerere University
Cambridge University
Ridley Hall, Cambridge

John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu (/ˈsɛntəm/;[6] Luganda: [sːéːntámû]; born 10 June 1949) is the 97th Archbishop of York, Metropolitan of the province of York and Primate of England. The position of Archbishop of York is the second most senior clerical position in the Church of England after that of Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England.

Born near Kampala in present-day Uganda, Sentamu studied law at Makerere University before gaining employment as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Uganda. Speaking out against the regime of President Idi Amin, he was briefly imprisoned before fleeing to the United Kingdom in 1974. Here, he devoted himself to Anglicanism, beginning his study of theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge in 1976 and eventually gaining a doctorate in 1984. He studied for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and was ordained in 1979. In 1996 he was consecrated as the area Bishop of Stepney and in 2002 moved to the position of Bishop of Birmingham. In 2005 he was appointed to the position of Archbishop of York.

Sentamu is a traditionalist within the Church of England, generally supporting socially conservative moral positions, publicly criticising multiculturalism and homosexual behaviour. He has also received attention for his vocal criticism of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.


Early life

Sentamu was born in 1949 in a village near Kampala, Uganda, the sixth of 13 children. He studied law (LL.B.) at Makerere University, Kampala, and practised as an advocate of the High Court of Uganda until 1974, being briefly a judge of the High Court. In 1973 he married Margaret.[4] Three weeks after his marriage he incurred the wrath of the dictator Idi Amin and was detained for 90 days. In a speech in 2007, he described how during that time he had been "kicked around like a football and beaten terribly", saying "the temptation to give up hope of release was always present".[7] He fled his home country to arrive as an immigrant in the United Kingdom in 1974.

Education and early ministry

Sentamu studied theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge (BA 1976, MA 1979, PhD 1984). He was baptized at Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge. He trained for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, being ordained a priest in 1979. His doctoral thesis is entitled "Some aspects of soteriology, with particular reference to the thought of J.K. Mozley, from an African perspective".[8] He worked as assistant chaplain at Selwyn College, as chaplain at a remand centre and as curate and vicar in a series of parish appointments.

Sentamu was consecrated in 1996, as Bishop of Stepney, a suffragan see and area bishop in the Diocese of London. It was during this time that he served as advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Enquiry. In 2002 he chaired the Damilola Taylor review. That same year he was appointed Bishop of Birmingham where his ministry, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was praised by "Christians of all backgrounds".[citation needed] Sentamu became President of Youth for Christ in 2004 and President of the YMCA in April 2005.[9]

Archbishop of York

On 17 June 2005 the prime minister's office announced Sentamu's translation to York as the 97th archbishop.[10] He was formally elected by the chapter of York Minster on 21 July,[11] legally confirmed as archbishop at St Mary-le-Bow, London on 5 October,[12] and enthroned at York Minster on 30 November 2005 (the feast of Saint Andrew), at a ceremony with African singing and dancing and contemporary music, with Sentamu himself playing African drums during the service.[1][13] As Archbishop of York, Sentamu sits in the House of Lords[14] and was admitted, as a matter of course, to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.[15]

File:York Easter Sunday 2007.jpg
John Sentamu outside York Minster on Easter Sunday, 2007.

For a week in August 2006, Sentamu camped in York Minster, foregoing food in solidarity with those affected by the Middle East conflict, especially the children and other civilians killed and injured during the 2006 Lebanon War, when cluster bombs were used by Israeli forces.[16][17][18]

On 7 March 2007, Sentamu was installed as the first Chancellor of York St John University. On 1 June 2007 he was appointed as the first Chancellor of the University of Cumbria. He took up the position when the university opened on 1 August 2007.[19] In July 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Chester.[20] On 15 July 2010, Sentamu was presented with an honorary degree from the University of York by the Provost of Vanbrugh College, the Reverend David Efird of the Department of Philosophy,[21] and on 16 July 2010 was presented with an honorary degree from the University of Leeds by the chancellor of the university, Melvyn Bragg.[22]

On 16 July 2007, Sentamu was presented with an honorary degree from the University of Hull by the chancellor of the university, Virginia Bottomley, at Hull City Hall during the graduation ceremony for graduands of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.[23] On 19 July 2007 he was presented with an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters) from the University of Sheffield in recognition of his distinguished career as a scholar and theologian.[24]

In October 2007 Sentamu was awarded the "Yorkshireman of the Year" title by the Black Sheep Brewery. In his acceptance speech he praised the welcome he had received from the people of Yorkshire and made reference to the "African-Yorkshire DNA connection", joking that perhaps his parents had this in mind when they gave him the name "Mugabi", which, spelled backwards, is "Ibagum" ("ee-by-gum", a stock phrase popularly supposed to be used to express shock or disbelief in northern England).[25]


Sentamu has spoken on issues including young people, the family, slavery, and injustice and conflict abroad. In an early TV appearance in 1988 he joined, among others, Ray Honeyford, Ann Dummett and Lurline Champagnie to discuss "Race and the classroom" on After Dark.[26] In November 2005 he sought re-discovery of English pride and cultural identity, stating that zeal for multiculturalism had sometimes "seemed to imply, wrongly for me, 'let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains'."[27] In 2006 he claimed that the BBC was frightened of criticising Islam.[28]

In 2006, Sentamu featured prominently in the British press because of his comments on the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.[29]


Sentamu regrets that many low paid workers should are not paid enough to lift them and their families out of poverty.

The issue is one that strikes to the heart of the moral fabric of our society. For the very first time the majority of households in poverty in Britain have at least one person working. The nature of poverty in Britain is changing dramatically. For millions of hard-pressed people, work is no longer a route out of poverty. (...) Low pay is a scourge on our society, and we all pay for it. Low pay costs the taxpayer between 3.6 and 6 billion pounds a year in tax credits, in-work benefits and lost tax receipts. And as disposable income available to the lowest paid reduces, so too does the demand in the economy.[30]
Once upon a time you couldn't really be living in poverty if you had a regular income, you could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.[31]

Sentamu believes that food poverty is causing malnutrition in the UK, he notes that "last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?" and feels these reports "disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences". [31] Government welfare reform were,

beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment".[31]

Stop and Search

In 2000, Sentamu, then Bishop of Stepney was stopped by a City of London Police officer near St Paul's Cathedral. Sentamu claimed it was the eighth time he had been questioned by police in eight years, and that he was the only Church of England bishop to have been stopped by police in this way.[32] In a 2010 debate in the House of Lords, Sentamu was critical of the standards of "reasonable grounds to suspect" applied by police.[33]

"Chocolate Trinity" comments

One of Sentamu's favourite references is to "The Chocolate Trinity" of God-fearing Quaker capitalists who were involved in developing the chocolate industry:[34][35]

  • George Cadbury: "More than just a sweet man"
  • Joseph Rowntree: "an adventurer to the end of life, forever peering forward, never content with what had been achieved."
  • Joseph Storrs Fry II (J. S. Fry): "the very model of the pre-1860 Quaker, with his plain dress a relic of the past and a reflection of his narrow conservative approach to both religion and business."

Robert Mugabe

File:John Sentamu York City v. AFC Telford United 1.png
Sentamu without a clerical collar, 2009

On 9 December 2007, during a live television interview with Andrew Marr on BBC One, Sentamu made a protest against Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Sentamu ripped off his clerical collar and cut it up stating that:

His protest followed criticism against Mugabe at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon.

In December 2008, Sentamu again spoke out against Mugabe, saying "The time has come for Robert Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity, against his countrymen and women and for justice to be done".[37]

Financial crisis

In September 2008, Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spoke out against opportunistic stock market trading. Sentamu compared those who practised short selling of HBOS shares, driving the share prices down, to "bank robbers".[38]

Sexuality and marriage

Sentamu, born in Uganda, said laws being debated in Uganda which would impose the death penalty on homosexuals and on those supporting them were "victimising". He told the BBC that the proposed law "tends to confuse all of homosexual relationships with what you call aggravated stuff and that's the problem" but that the Anglican Communion was committed to recognising that gay people were valued by God.[39] Previously, as area Bishop of Stepney, he was one of four English bishops who refused to sign the Cambridge Accord: an attempt in 1999 to find agreement on affirming certain human rights of homosexuals, notwithstanding differences within the church on the morality of homosexual behaviour.[40] In 2012 he stated his opposition to government plans to legalise same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom, asserting that "Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," and "We've seen dictators [redefine marriage] in different contexts and I don't want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time."[41]

Commenting on Prince William and Kate Middleton's decision to live together before their wedding, Sentamu said that the couple's public commitment to live their lives together today would be more important than their past. He said that he had conducted wedding services for "many cohabiting couples" during his time as a vicar in south London and that, 'We are living at a time where some people, as my daughter used to say, want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow.'[42]

He also said, 'For some people that's where their journeys are. But what is important, actually, is not to simply look at the past because they are going to be standing in the Abbey taking these wonderful vows: "for better for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death us do part."'[42]

In a speech to the House of Lords on 19 November 2007, he opposed elements of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill for seeking to remove a child's "need for a father" in the IVF process. He said: "We are now faced with a Bill which is seeking to formalise the situation where the need for the ultimate male role model – that of the father – is removed in entirety."[43]

Other activities


Sentamu has contributed to The Sun,[44] a high-circulation tabloid newspaper, and in 2012 he contributed to the first edition of the Sun on Sunday. All the income that he derives from journalism goes to St Leonard's Hospice in York, of which he is president.[45]

In September 2007, Sentamu wrote in his column that the parents of the missing Madeleine McCann, were subject to a "whispering campaign" and were entitled to the presumption of innocence.[46]

Public baptisms

On Easter Sunday 2008, Sentamu baptised 20 people by full immersion in a tank of water outside St Michael-le-Belfrey Church in York. Hundreds of people watched the ceremony.[47]

Skydive for the Afghanistan Trust

On 6 June 2008, Sentamu completed a charity skydive from 12,500 feet with a member of the Red Devils parachute team. The dive took place over Langar Airfield in Nottinghamshire, with Sentamu aiming to raise £50,000 for the Afghanistan Trust. Yorkshire businessman Guy Brudenell had challenged Sentamu to do the jump at a charity dinner and Brudenell also took part in the jump on the day.[48] In recognition of what was described as his "pluck", Sentamu was later given honorary membership of the Parachute Regimental Association.[49]

Sentamu and Brudenell managed to raise a sum exceeding £75,000.[50]

Hull Kingston Rovers

On 15 April 2011 Sentamu addressed the crowd at Craven Park before the Engage Super League Rugby League match between Hull Kingston Rovers and Wigan Warriors. He asked the crowd to join him in prayer extolling the virtues of teamwork and harmony in sport. Afterwards he was presented with a Hull KR shirt.


  • Mr John Sentamu (1949–1979)
  • The Revd John Sentamu (1979–1984)
  • The Revd Dr John Sentamu (1984–1993)
  • The Revd Canon Dr John Sentamu (1993–1996)
  • The Rt Revd Dr John Sentamu (1996–2005)
  • The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu (2005—present)


  1. ^ a b "First black Archbishop enthroned". BBC News. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 12 August 2006. 
  2. ^ "Defining Britishness". Los Angeles Times. 23 April 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Notable Biography". Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Vallely, Paul (7 April 2012). "Dr John Sentamu: Next stop Canterbury?". The Independent. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Holmes, Tara. "Breaking the mould". BBC. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Archbishop tells his captivity story in call to free Alan Johnson at the Wayback Machine (archived 26 September 2007), Retrieved 11 January 2009
  8. ^ University of Cambridge library catalogue[dead link]
  9. ^ "Biography". The Archbishop of York. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "New Archbishop of York appointed". BBC News. 17 June 2005. Retrieved 12 August 2006. 
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 57706. p. 9331. 19 July 2005. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  12. ^ Church of England – Sentamu: Confirmation as Archbishop of York (Accessed 15 July 2013)
  13. ^ Jeffery, Simon (17 June 2005). "First black Church of England archbishop appointed". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 August 2006. 
  14. ^ They Work For You
  15. ^ "Debrett's People of Today – John Sentamu York". 6 October 1949. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  16. ^ "Anglican archbishop's solidarity fast". The Irish Times. 12 August 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2006. 
  17. ^ "John Sentamu to fast". BBC News. 12 August 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2006. [dead link]
  18. ^ Bates, Stephen (17 August 2006). "Inside is a strange place to pitch a tent…". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 17 August 2006. 
  19. ^ "Archbishop becomes new chancellor". BBC News. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  20. ^ "Twelve of the University of Chester’s recent triumphs". 13 July 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  21. ^ "Archbishop John Sentamu receives an honorary degree". BBC News. 15 July 2010. 
  22. ^ "John Sentamu – John Sentamu – University of Leeds". 16 July 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  23. ^ The University of Hull[dead link]
  24. ^ "Archbishop of York awarded honorary degree". University of Sheffield. 23 July 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2007. 
  25. ^ "Speech by the Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu on accepting the Yorkshire Man of the Year Award". The Diocese of York. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2007. [dead link]
  26. ^ List of After Dark editions, accessed 20 September 2012
  27. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (30 November 2005). "Multiculturalism has betrayed the English, Archbishop says". The Times (UK). Retrieved 12 August 2006. 
  28. ^ Petre, Jonathan (15 November 2006). "BBC frightened of criticising Islam, says archbishop". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 24 March 2007. 
  29. ^ Herbert, Ian; Russell, Ben (18 February 2006). "The Americans are breaking international law...". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  30. ^ Dr John Sentamu: For millions of people, work is no longer a way out of povertyMaking Work Pay
  31. ^ a b c Archbishop attacks UK food poverty
  32. ^ Dodd, Vikram (24 January 2000). "Black bishop 'demeaned' by police search". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  33. ^ "Volume No. 720 - 27 July 2010 : Column 1278". Hansard. Houses of Parliament. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  34. ^ Bishop’s lecture notes on York Diocese website.
  35. ^ His Ebor Lecture in York Minster (13 September 2006).
  36. ^ "Archbishop makes Zimbabwe protest". BBC News. 9 December 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2007. 
  37. ^ "Archbishop urges Mugabe overthrow.". BBC News. 6 December 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  38. ^ "Archbishops attack City practices". BBC News. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  39. ^ Archbishop of York condemns Ugandan anti-gay bill BBC
  40. ^ "Cambridge Accord (with UK signatories and refusals to sign)". Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  41. ^ Beckford, Martin (27 January 2012). "Don't legalise gay marriage, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu warns David Cameron". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  42. ^ a b "Archbishop backs William and Kate's decision to live together before marriage". The Telegraph. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  43. ^ "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill". Press release containing text of speech (Archbishop of York's press office). 19 November 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  44. ^ Walker, Tim (28 February 2012). "John Sentamu’s Sunday service may be short". The Sun. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  45. ^ Walker, Tim (28 February 2012). "John Sentamu's Sunday service may be short". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  46. ^ "We must have faith for Maddie". Press release of article originally written for The Sun newspaper (Archbishop of York's press office). 4 July 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  47. ^ "Archbishop leads outdoor baptisms". BBC News. 23 March 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  48. ^ "Archbishop skydives for soldiers". BBC News. 6 June 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2008. 
  49. ^ "Paras recognise Dr John’s pluck". The Press. Newsquest Media Group. 21 February 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009. 
  50. ^ Beckford, Martin (6 June 2008). "Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, performs skydive". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 June 2008. 

External links

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Mark Santer
Bishop of Birmingham
Succeeded by
David Urquhart
Preceded by
David Hope
Archbishop of York
(Primate of England)

2005 – present
Order of precedence in England and Wales
Preceded by
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
as Lord Chancellor
The Lord Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
as Prime Minister

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