John Sentamu

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Religious figures and leaders

The pectoral cross Sentamu is seen here wearing is decorated with images and words associated with Oscar Romero.
The pectoral cross Sentamu is seen here wearing is decorated with images and words associated with Oscar Romero.

John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, PhD, (born 10 June 1949) is the 97th Archbishop of York, Metropolitan of the province of York, and Primate of England. He is the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the first member of an ethnic minority to serve as an archbishop in the Church of England.


John Sentamu was born in 1949 in a village near Kampala, Uganda, the sixth of thirteen children. He was educated for the law at Makerere University, Kampala, and practised as an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. Sentamu was appointed a High Court judge in 1973 at the age of 24 by the newly-ascendent Idi Amin; his judicial independence earned the dictator's ire, however, and he suffered threats and physical violence before fleeing to the United Kingdom in 1974.

He read theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge ( BA 1976, MA MPhil 1979, PhD 1984), and trained for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, being ordained a priest in 1979. He worked as assistant chaplain at Selwyn College, as chaplain at a remand centre, and as curate, priest and vicar in a series of parish appointments before his consecration in 1996 as Bishop of Stepney (a suffragan 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".

On 17 June 2005 the Prime Minister's office announced his translation to York as the 97th Archbishop . He was formally elected by the Canons of York Minster on 21 June, legally installed as Archbishop in London on 5 October, 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 the Archbishop himself playing African drums during the service .


In an interview a week before his enthronement he, among other things, called for a rediscovery of English pride and cultural identity, warning 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'." (The Times amongst others) Just as at Birmingham, Sentamu has expressed a desire to be known informally as Archbishop for York (rather than of).

Early in 2006, Archbishop Sentamu was featured prominently in the British press for his comments on what he saw as injustices over the treatment of alleged prisoners of war in Guantanamo Bay.

For a week, starting August 14, 2006, Archbishop Sentamu camped in York Minster, foregoing food in solidarity with those impacted by the Middle East conflict.

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

  • 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."

(See and also his Ebor Lecture in York Minster ( 13 September 2006).

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