Racism campaigner made first black bishop

Arifa Akbar@arifa_akbar
Sunday 01 December 2013 03:22

A Ugandan-born anti-racism campaigner who was an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry was appointed yesterday as the first black bishop to head an Anglican diocese in Britain.

The Right RevJohn Sentamu said he was "delighted and overwhelmed" by his appointment as Bishop of Birmingham – a diocese that is among the most ethnically diverse in the country.

He is one of only two black bishops of the 114 in the Church of England.

Dr Sentamu, 53, who was suffragan Bishop of Stepney in east London, said: "I want to encourage the church to play a full part in an area which is being reborn, and to ensure the spiritual life of the region is as alive and vibrant as its cultural and economic regeneration."

A charismatic campaigner, Dr Sentamu criticised the Church of England at the General Synod in 1999 for its record over race, accusing it of favouring a white educated elite and of lacking "colour and spice" . He was recently appointed to chair a review of the way the Damilola Taylor murder trial was handled by the police and was instrumental in the damning Macpherson report in 2000 which labelled the Metropolitan Police "institutionally racist". In the year after the report was released, Dr Sentamu was himself stopped and searched by police officers while driving near St Paul's Cathedral in London.

Dr Sentamu was born in Kampala in 1949. He studied law and became an assistant to Uganda's Chief Justice. He left the country in 1974, when the dictator Idi Amin was in power. After coming to Britain he was ordained in 1979. He studied at Cambridge and became a vicar in Tulse Hill, south London, in 1983.

He will succeed the Right Rev Mark Santer, 64, who retired in May after 15 years in the post.

The only other black bishop in Britain is the Right Rev Wilfred Wood, Bishop of Croydon in the Southwark diocese. The Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, is the UK's only Asian bishop.

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