My Christmas wish
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Date: 15 December, 2005

Rt Rev Dr John Sentamu.
Photo: Jeff Jones/Diocese of Birmingham

'Replace emptiness with hope.'



EXCLUSIVE: The Church of England has its first black Archbishop, the Rt Rev Dr John Sentamu. On his enthronement, the new Archbishop of York spoke of the need for revolution and dramatic change. During his hectic schedule, Dr Sentamu found time to talk to Susan Roberts. Surefish also publishes some of his quotes in preparation for much more of the same!

The Rt Rev Dr John Sentamu has made a habit of speaking out boldly – from his early days in Uganda to his sermon on his enthronement at York Minister in November 2005.

Born near Kampala, Uganda, in 1949, he studied law, became a barrister and then a judge who showed great courage during the regime of the former dictator Idi Amin.

He left the country in 1974 after his criticism of the Amin regime led to his arrest. He studied theology at Cambridge, hoping at some stage to return. But in 1977 after his friend, Janani Luwum, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda was murdered – allegedly by Amin himself – he decided to take holy orders.

He was ordained in 1979 and served a parish priest in Cambridge and London. He became Bishop of Stepney in 1996, then Bishop of Birmingham 2002. He sat as an adviser on the judicial inquiry into the bungled police investigation of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1997-99, then chaired the enquiry that criticised police methods following the fatal stabbing of black schoolboy Damilola Taylor in 2002.

How will you celebrate Christmas?
First of all I shall be going to church and I hope everyone will do that. I’m preaching twice in York, at St Michael-le-Belfrey, where there is to be a Baptism by total immersion, and at York Minster. Then I’ll go home to cook lunch for the family and we shall watch the Queen’s broadcast, as we always do.

If you could choose one aspect of life to change in this country this Christmas - what would it be?
Replace emptiness with hope.

Church pews are empty and morale is low. You urge reform – but the difficulties in bringing about change are huge in a body as diverse and complex as the Church of England. How exactly can change be brought about? How can much-needed self confidence be rebuilt in a society that is apparently becoming ever more secular?
Return to where Jesus started: 12 people spent time with Him and came to believe that with God, all things are possible.

What small steps can a committed Christian take – practically, to bring about change?
Find another Christian, make friends, start praying together, build up one another’s confidence; then share your faith with others and care for your neighbours.


Over nearly a decade in the public eye, Dr Sentamu has made a habit of saying what he thinks. Here’s a selection:

'No one is born a racist. Racism is caught, learnt, taught, imitated and then practised.'
July 1999, at the General Synod meeting in York, presenting his report Agenda for Action for the Church of England

'There is no moral basis at present for a military invasion of Iraq. There is little appetite for war from people in this country, in this diocese or in this city.'
February 2003, on an anti-war protest in Birmingham

“I want to start with an old African proverb: "When a tiny toe is hurt, the whole body stoops down to tend that toe"’. Right now the community needs to be that body and help bring about justice after such a brutal, senseless murder.'
January 2003, after the killing of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare outside a hairdresser’s salon in Aston. Sentamu was on the scene the next day, led a vigil in memory of the girls and helped pull the community together again by having his hair cut in the salon when it reopened

'Our need for 'monsters' must not drive a system of justice.'
June 2003, on the government’s approach to criminal justice when giving the Lord Longford Lecture on Penal Reform. Dr Sentamu said the system was too tough and based on vengeance rather than reconciliation

'For God's sake Birmingham, use your vote!'
April 2004, in local press advertising to encourage people to vote in local and Euro elections. He feared extremist groups could win seats through voter apathy

'I am still going to buy myself a Rover 75. I believe it is a well-designed and well-made car that will serve me for many years to come. I would urge others to support the company in whatever way they can.'
April 2005, as closure threatened MG Rover’s Longbridge plant

'Che Guevara once said, "If our revolution isn’t aimed at changing people then I’m not interested." The trouble with virtually all forms of revolution and modernising strategies is that they change everything – except the human heart. And until that is changed corporately, nothing is significantly different in the long run.'
November 2005, preaching at York Minister Cathedral on his enthronement as Archbishop of York

Steve Tomkins offer three cheers about Sentamu’s appointment here.


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