Simon Kelner: Sentamu should reconsider his new Sunday service

Kelner's view

Share

For my sermon this morning, I am returning to the subject of the second most important churchman in Britain, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. You may know that, alongside such luminaries of the spiritual world as Katie Price and Nancy Dell'Olio, the Archbishop appeared as a columnist in the first edition of The Sun to be published on the Sabbath.

It was called "Sentamu's Sunday Service" and it wouldn't be doing the thrust of his column too much of an injustice to say that the Archbishop was suggesting that Rupert Murdoch was doing God's work by publishing "our country's favourite paper" seven days a week. Sentamu's people were quickly on the defensive: their man was merely pointing out that The Sun was Britain's highest-circulation newspaper, and he had not yet decided whether his offering would be a regular fixture.

Not that it should worry a man as close to Godliness as Sentamu, but I was disappointed with both the fact and the substance of his contribution on Sunday: he effectively exhorted his followers to go forth and buy The Sun seven days a week. He is, of course, entitled to his view, and in any case we are used to one or other of our voluble Archbishops on any number of subjects, from gay marriage to celebrity culture, from climate change to sexual politics. But I wonder, as the revelations piled up about The Sun's alleged wholesale corruption of the police and of public officials, whether Sentamu, pictured, had pause for thought, and reflected on whether his breathless interpretation of appearing in the paper as "a fantastic honour" was indeed the expression of a wise man.

My sense of letdown, however, is a little more profound. In 2003, I had the honour (yes, right word) of introducing Sentamu – then the Bishop of Birmingham – before he gave the Longford Lecture, an annual discourse on the subject of crime and punishment. He spoke so eloquently, so passionately, so coherently and the central message of his speech – that restorative justice, a process in which parties to a specific offence, perpetrator and victim, work together on dealing with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future, will create a more harmonious society – was so utterly persuasive that, from my standpoint, it didn't brook argument.

He told the story of how, outside the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, he confronted an angry mob and told them to put their weapons away. "Violence is not the answer," he said. "We don't believe in God," they snarled back. "It doesn't matter," Sentamu replied, "because God believes in you." They didn't have an answer to that.

His speech was moving and illuminating by turn, and it was almost enough to make me turn to religion. And now, fast forward nine years, he's endorsing a newspaper whose idea of rebalancing the justice system is to swing towards retribution rather than restoration, and has an attitude to immigration that doesn't speak of compassion and may not be in sympathy with a man who fled Uganda for the sanctuary of Britain. There is another reason why Sentamu's Sunday Service disappointed me. We were told that the launch of another paper was good news for journalists, given that so many have lost their jobs recently. In which case, why not have columnists doing the columns, and leave the Archbishops to sermonise elsewhere?

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Liberia immigration officers wearing protective gloves inspect the travel documents at a border post with Sierra Leone, 30 July (EPA)  

The Ebola outbreak teaches us an important lesson about aid

Natalie Bennett
Passengers sit and enjoy a quiet train journey in a bygone age  

Why I'm shouting about the tragic demise of the quiet carriage

Simon Kelner
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star