UK: Mugabe critic and former Archbishop of York told to step down from Church
The former Archbishop of York has been forced to step down from his Church of England role after a review into how he handled a child sex abuse allegation.
Lord John Sentamu, a bitter critic of now-late Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, has already rejected the report’s findings which said he failed to act on a claim made by a victim.
He had been an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newcastle.
The Bishop of Newcastle has asked him to step back from active ministry “until both the findings and his response can be explored further”.
Back in 2007, the then Archbishop of York cut up his clerical collar and said he will not replace it until Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is out of office. Dr John Sentamu made the symbolic protest gesture live on BBC TV saying Mugabe had “taken people’s identity” and “cut it to pieces”, prompting him to do the same.
“As an Anglican this is what I wear to identify myself, that I’m a clergyman. Do you know what Mugabe has done? He’s taken people’s identity and literally, if you don’t mind, cut it to pieces.
“This is what he’s actually done to a lot of – and in the end there’s nothing. So, as far as I’m concerned, from now on I’m not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone.”
Ten years later, he put the collar back on live on TV after Mugabe was toppled by the 2017 military coup.
“I promised then when Mugabe goes I will put my collar on, so I have no choice but to put it back on after Mugabe has gone,” he said at the time. “But the new president has got to remember something more now than simply stitching up a thing will work.”
Meanwhile, the Church has apologised to retired vicar Matthew Ineson, who was 16 when he was abused in the 1980s and has waived his legal right to anonymity.
His abuser, the Reverend Trevor Devamanikkam, killed himself before he was due to appear in court.
In 2013, Mr Ineson told senior clergy about the abuse, including Lord Sentamu who was then Archbishop of York.
Devamanikkam was charged with six serious sexual offences in May 2017. He was found dead the day before he was due to appear at court in Bradford.
*‘Hold to account’*
On Thursday, an independent review commissioned by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England found Lord Sentamu should have sought advice when the victim made his disclosure.
On Saturday, the Diocese of Newcastle released a statement which said in light of the findings the Bishop of Newcastle Helen-Ann Hartley “required Lord Sentamu… to step back from active ministry until both the findings and his response can be explored further”.
It added: “The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, is fully supportive of this decision.
“The Diocese of Newcastle remains committed to the highest standards of safeguarding which seeks always to place victims and survivors at the heart of this vital work.”
The Church of England’s lead bishop for safeguarding, Joanne Grenfell, told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme those within the organisation needed to be answerable to each other.
“We all have a bigger, moral duty when it comes to a safeguarding matter to really look at it, to refer it, to ask questions, to hold each other to account, to be curious about how things have concluded,” she said.
“Because of that moral imperative, I think all of us today with good training would know that we need to act differently.”
Lord Sentamu of Lindisfarne was commissioned as honorary assistant bishop for Newcastle in June 2021, a year after he stood down as archbishop.