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Ugandan-born Sentamu becomes England's first African Archbishop

By Matthew Davies
ENS 113005-1

ACNS Rosenthal
Ugandan-born John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu is inaugurated as the 97th Archbishop of York November 30.   (ACNS Rosenthal)

[Episcopal News Service]  Ugandan-born John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu was inaugurated as the 97th Archbishop of York during a colorful and ground-breaking ceremony at York's ancient Minster in Northern England on November 30, making him the first African to hold the position.

"It is my sense that the 97th Archbishop of York, with his commitment to spreading the gospel message, will be a blessing not only to the Church of England but to the Anglican Communion as well," said Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. "My prayers are with him as he begins this new chapter."

"This is a wonderful moment for all of us in the Anglican Communion," said Margaret Larom, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Anglican and Global Relations (AGR). "I am sure John Sentamu's leadership will benefit the wider church in significant ways."

The historic oaths, combined with Anglican choral music, Ugandan praise music, and the seating of the newly installed Archbishop in the cathedra -- the Archiepiscopal seat of York Minster -- were witnessed by more than 2,500 people attending the service, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, senior clergy from the Dioceses of Birmingham, London and York, Primates of the Anglican Communion and bishops of the Church of England.

Bishop Don Taylor, vicar bishop for New York, was also in attendance.

During the sermon, Sentamu, 56, challenged those who are judgmental and moralizing to find friends among the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable, "among the young, among older people, and those in society who are demonized and dehumanized; and stand shoulder to shoulder with them."

After Williams anointed Sentamu with oil, one of the ancient customs of the ceremony, the two archbishops embraced and the congregation burst into applause.

Following the service, which lasted almost three hours, Sentamu proceeded to St. Michael-le-Belfrey Church, located next to the Minster, to visit people who had watched the service on a large screen.

"It's a great day for the Anglican Communion," said Canon James Rosenthal, director of communications for the Anglican Communion Office, after the service. "It shows unequivocally how our fellowship and common heritage can be shared."

As Primate of England and Archbishop of the Province of York, which includes 14 dioceses in the northern half of England, Sentamu is responsible for the pastoral oversight of bishops and clergy in that province, as well as providing support to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He also becomes Diocesan Bishop of York, assisted by Suffragan Bishops in three archdeaconries.

Sentamu will be a leading spokesman on behalf of the Church of England and one of the Presidents of the General Synod, the Church of England's main governing body, and the Archbishop's Council.

He will also assume the roles of chairman and president of various other Church bodies and become patron of more than 200 charities and organizations.

Born and educated in Uganda, Sentamu graduated in Law from Makerere University, Kampala, and is an Advocate of the High Court of Uganda.

After seeking sanctuary in Britain in 1974, he read theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he gained a Master's Degree and a Doctorate. He was appointed Bishop of Stepney in 1996 and Bishop of Birmingham, England, in 2002.

Sentamu succeeds Dr. David Hope, who resigned in February 2005 to become a parish priest in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Larom recalled Sentamu's "sensible and sensitive ministry" to the more than 300 participants who attended G-CODE 2000, the Global Conference on Dynamic Evangelism, a mid-point review of the Decade of Evangelism held in 1995 in Kanuga, North Carolina. "At that time, Sentamu was vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Tulse Hill, London, and already had gained a strong reputation as an evangelist," Larom said.

As a member of the G-CODE planning group, Sentamu had special responsibilities for worship, prayer, and pastoral matters during the conference and "his gifts made a significant contribution to one of the most important Anglican gatherings in recent memory," she added.

"John has utilized well the gifts and talents that God entrusted with him and has made significant differences in lives of various kinds of people," said the Rev. Emmanuel Sserwadda, AGR's interim Africa officer. "He is a listener, a uniter and a reconciler who speaks the truth of the Gospel of Christ. He will be an enormous asset to the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion."

In choosing a new Archbishop of York -- a historic succession that dates back to 627 A.D.-- the Crown Nominations Commission, which oversees the selection process for bishops in the Church of England, sought an Archbishop with a vision for and confidence in mission; a risk taker; an accessible and open-hearted pastor; and someone with a concern for the poor and for social justice.

Furthermore, the newly appointed archbishop is expected to be a clear "focus of unity, a bridge-builder and reconciler in a diverse and multi-faith society," said Bishop Richard Frith of Hull, chair of the York Vacancy in See committee, during the November 30 ceremony.

Sentamu's stated priorities for ministry have been "to seek God's rule of justice, righteousness, peace and love; to be part of God's movement of change, meeting real concerns with real life; to reach out to all by standing at the intersection where human need and God's love meet; being willing to take risks and be vulnerable, the servant of others as Christ was servant of all; and praying constantly, sharing in God's groanings and broken heartedness for his world."

Sentamu is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His interests include music, cooking, reading, athletics, rugby and football.

He is married to Margaret, a senior selection secretary in the Ministry Division of the Archbishops' Council, and they have two grown-up children, Grace and Geoffrey.

The full text of Archbishop Sentamu's sermon can be found online at:

Background information and photographs: http://