Judge who fled Amin becomes first black archbishop in C of E

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The Independent Online

A former Ugandan high court judge who fled to Britain to escape Idi Amin's regime has become the Church of England's first black archbishop.

A former Ugandan high court judge who fled to Britain to escape Idi Amin's regime has become the Church of England's first black archbishop.

John Sentamu, who once declared that the Church's organisational culture was "glued together by the culture that is monochrome; that is white", will move from his role as Bishop of Birmingham to the church's second most senior role - Archbishop of York.

The appointment of a cleric who has spent years campaigning for better representation of ethnic minorities in the church will delight the millions of Anglicans in Africa. Only 92 of 11,000 clergy in the Church of England are from ethnic minorities.

Dr Sentamu has first-hand knowledge of life as a black man in Britain, having been stopped and searched by police six times in eight years while Bishop of Stepney. He was an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry from 1997 to 1999 and part of the independent investigation into the death of the south London schoolboy Damilola Taylor.

In his acceptance speech Dr Sentamu hailed the example of British missionaries who brought the Christian faith to his homeland. He urged the church to make its voice heard "locally, nationally and internationally".

Dr Sentamu, 56, who was appointed by the Prime Minister from a shortlist submitted by church leaders, was nominated last week by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for a seat on a panel to help resolve disputes over the church's attitude towards homosexuality.

"What I hope is that when people violently disagree with one another in the same family, they will find a language for living together and ways of talking to one another," he said yesterday. But he stood by the Lambeth Resolution of 1998, which rejects homosexual practice as "incompatible with scripture" and rules out gay marriage in church.

The Rt Rev Dr John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu fell foul of the Ugandan regime after ignoring an order to deliver a not guilty verdict, instead jailing one of Amin's cousins for five years. He was arrested and beaten by an Amin hit squad, and almost died. He later left for England where he has shown no fear of the British establishment, delivering damning indictments on subjects as diverse as law and order and foreign policy.

He has been equally vocal in support of campaigns to rid areas of his Birmingham diocese of gun and other violent crime, particularly after the deaths of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare in 2003. During the police investigation to find their killers he gave out his home telephone number for witnesses to get in touch. He led church-wide protests against the Iraq conflict in 2003, denouncing the British and US-led invasion as having "no moral basis".

Dr Sentamu is in favour of ordaining women. Looking ahead to next month's General Synod, at which fierce debate is expected over the issue of female bishops, he said: "I hope that, should we move towards ordaining women to the episcopate, those who oppose ... will still be made to feel that they belong to this particular church, and I am sure that arrangements can be made to make that possible."

The father-of-two, who was educated at Cambridge University, is known as a committed clergyman who combines an interest in social issues with a passion for the gospel and his ministry.