The murmurs of disquiet have been growing in insistence for weeks, but now they have burst into the open. A clamour of voices is calling for a new leader of the Church of England who will stand up against the attacks on Christian culture. Step forward John Sentamu, the Archbishop of Canterbury-in-waiting.
The contrast between the charismatic Archbishop of York and Rowan Williams, the cerebral and prevaricating occupant of Lambeth Palace, sprang into sharp relief last week. As MPs and the public rallied to Sentamu’s withering attack on British Airways for banning an employee from openly wearing a cross at work, Williams chose to travel with BA for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican.
The BA controversy, which culminated in the airline’s decision to reconsider its policy, was only the latest occasion when Williams has been accused of muddle and appeasement while Sentamu, who ranks second in the church hierarchy, offered a clear and unapologetic message of principle.
What? From a Christian cleric? A clear an unapologetic message of principle?!
With his trademark gap-toothed grin and staccato enunciation of quaint English, the Ugandan-born archbishop is credited with having an electrifying effect on faithless, post-Christian Britain. He offers the moral certainties of Africa where he learnt under Idi Amin’s cruel regime to cherish the values most of us take for granted. Hence such headlines as: “Could this man save the Church of England?”
His campaign against political correctness has addressed the shame so many educated English people feel for their culture, history and religion. He experienced no such feelings as a boy in Africa, listening to the Queen’s coronation on the radio. His family always checked their purchases for a “Made in Britain” stamp. Indeed, he has called for a proper celebration of St George’s Day. …
Sentamu has now confounded his critics by catching the mood of the country. His mission, he has said, is to reconcile England with its Christian tradition. “Christianity is the very soil of this place. Look at what you did in the past, remember what you did.”
He senses that people are becoming “excited” by Christianity again: “There are huge crowds. Among the young, what is happening is amazing. There is a hunger for belonging, for believing. There is a hunger and slowly it is being fed.”
Crazy, man. The BBC ain’t gonna like that.