This article was originally published in Edition (10) of Prayer Magazine,  Apr-Jun 2007.

The Archbishop of York John Sentamu states that homosexual acts fall short of the glory of God and require repentance.

It’s about time that someone spoke some sense. In a country where political correctness has ‘gone mad’, the Church of England’s number two appears to be one of the few voices of sanity.

2007 is the year when churches could be forced to employ homosexuals, and gay couples could adopt form Christian orphanges without protest, but Rev John Sentamu is determined to resurrect righteousness and Christianity in the UK.

His message in a recent interview paints the picture: ‘When I was in Uganda, everything that was British was the best. If you went to a shop to buy a ruler, you looked for the one that said “Made in Britain”. But now this country disbelieves in itself in an amazing way’.

His views are very strong, but if this Ugandan is going to represent  the 72% of Britons who described themselves as Christians in the last census, then he had better have some guts and determination about him.

Jesus said that a man who is not offended because of him will be blessed, and Rev Sentamu doesn’t appear too concerned who he offends.

His views change for no one, no matter how important they are, as his comments in The Independent newspaper show.

‘I have criticised George Bush for many of his policies and I was firmly against the invasion of Iraq. I do not think Iraq qualifies as a “just war” on the principles laid down by Thomas Aquinas, nor do I think it was legal under International law.

‘Ultimately, as Tony Blair himself has recognised, both men will be called to account for their actions, and they will be judged, not by me, but by God. As for those Iraqi Salafi Jidadists who are hell bent on murdering their countrymen and women, they too will have to face the Great Judge for their atrocious acts of brutality’.

Raised in Africa, John Tucker Mugambi Sentamu was born into Uganda’s Buffalo clan on 10th June 1949. After giving his heart to Jesus aged 10, he says he felt an immediate call into the ministry and began preaching when he was 17.

After studying at Cambridge in the 1970s and 1980s, he started to climb the Church of England ladder, and became area Bishop of Stephney in 1996 and the Bishop of Birmingham in 2002, before being elected as the Archbishop of York in July 2005.

An expert in law, he has worked on inquiries into the killings of Stephen Lawrence and Damilola Taylor, and is a member of the House of Lords and a Privy Councillor.

Whether his views and strict stance on sin would ever land him the top Church of England role is another matter, but the message of Jesus continues to burn in Rev Semantu’s heart, and grace and forgiveness are the focus of many of his sermons.

He states ‘Sin is sin. Sin is love that turns on itself; a tendency like a weight in a bowling bowl, to turn away from God. In the letter of James it is clear tat if you break one command of God you fall short of the whole lot.

‘Jesus summed up the law as loving God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength; love also your neighbour as yourself. Judged by God’s ideal I am chief sinner of all. However, I am amazed and renewed by God’s forgiveness which is his miracle in me.

‘My path is open to God because Jesus Christ, who was without sin, died for my disconnectedness with God. He has set me free. I am forgiven. There is nothing I can do to make God love me less. That is the amazing nature of grace. Jesus Christ shed his blood for me and therefore I don’t need to shed my own or anyone else’s’.

Rev Sentamu believes that Christians across the UK need to take responsibility for the state of the nation, and he believes the binge drinking culture is spiritual impoverishment.

‘Material poverty, moral and spiritual poverty engender different kinds of despair which are linked by the sense of hopelessness, insecurity and uncertainty which are manifested in binge drinking and general excess. There is also a lack of experience of God, for which Christians must take some responsibility in making Jesus so unattractive. Binge drinking is a poor contrast to the experience of being in the presence of God and being exposed to the joy and wonder of the infinite. What the birth of Jesus Christ is all about is forgiveness for past sins, new life for the present and hope for the futre’.

Add on: ‘I’m NOT a celebrity’

The Archbishop of York insists he doesn’t want to known as a celebrity, despite increased media attention after he allowed his own image to be projected onto the side of the York Minster.

Dr John Sentamu allowed the projected image as an advertisement for the Church of England’s first ever online advent calendar. ‘Being a “celebrity” is certainly something I never crave or desire,’ he says. Behind each window on the calendar is a picture of a person and what Christmas means to them – from taxi drivers and footballers to Archbishops.

‘The launch was supposed to be lighthearted and fun, the opposite of an ego-expanding exercise. I was behind the first window and as such it was my picture and my quote that were projected onto the side of the Minster’.

The Archbishop has often been critical of ‘celebrity lifestyles’, and he reveals he doesn’t watch reality TV shows such as ‘Big Brother’ or ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here’. ‘I think that celebrity can become a form of idolatry and people live their lives vicariously through the rich and famous rather than attending to their own lives’.

Add On: Pitching the Tent.

Rev John  Sentamu certainly practises what he preaches. Last August, the Archbishop of York shaved his head and moved into a tent in York Minster to pray and fast for peace in the middle east.

He gave uo a family holiday in Salzburg, Austria, to sleep rough in an act he described as a ‘public witness’.

He led prayers every hour, and said his actions mirrored those of countless numbers of people caught up in the conflict between Isreal and Lebanon, who were having to sleep rough and go without proper food.

He said, ‘This act is a rallying all to people of all faiths and none, to encourage them to feel that there is something that can be done.

The UN has a role, diplomacy has a role and our government has a role to play in bringing this conflict to an end. But we as people also have  a role to play in showing our common humanity with all those who are suffering’.

Life hasn’t been easy for Dr Sentamu since his appointment as the Archbishop of York.

In a recent interview he reveals how he has received several racist letters, some smeared with excrement, since the election as the Church of England’s deputy head in 2005. But despite the hurt, he insists he doesn’t believe England is a racist country, and says he doesn’t know whether the letter writers are fellow Anglicans or not because the abusive documents are anonymous.

He says, ‘It has been terrible. Some of it has been awful’.

Asked if he feels angry about the hate letters, he says, ‘Yes, particularly when they had human excrement in them. I don’t want to  have those sorts of things and I say “Why do people do this?”.

But Dr Sentamu says he follows the example of Christ and prays for those who persecute him. He hopes that he will not simply be known as the ‘black Archbishop’, but rather as a leader who will show the world the ay to God’s love, grace and mercy.

 

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