Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 10:35 UK

Profile: Archbishop John Sentamu

Archbishop of York Rt Rev John Sentamu
The Archbishop survived a sickly childhood to become a judge

From the moment he was made Archbishop of York, and as such the Church of England's number two, Dr John Sentamu has proved a master of grand gestures.

His latest, a planned 12,000ft (about 3,660 metres) parachute jump, is to raise money for service personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In December, the clergyman took a pair of scissors to his clerical collar, saying he would not replace it until Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe was out of office.

The 59-year-old said the president had taken people's identity and cut it to pieces, prompting him to do the same.

And in May last year, he wore a hoodie to a church conference to urge people not to judge teenagers by their choice of fashion.

In 2004, as Bishop of Birmingham, he took the unusual step of advertising in the local press, telling readers: "For God's Sake Birmingham, Use Your Vote!".

Three years later, he did the same before local elections in York, warning people against leaving the way open for politicians who offered "bile and discord".

Celebrity Big Brother

His plain speaking, energy and passion have won him friends in Downing Street and also made him a target for TV producers.

But offers to appear on reality show Celebrity Big Brother and panel shows including Have I Got News For You? were turned down.

"We don't do celebrity," his spokesman said.

Dr John Sentamu
The Archbishop says 99% of hoodie-wearers are law-abiding

John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu was born near Kampala, in Uganda, in 1949.

The sixth of 13 children, he was so small that the local bishop was called in to baptise him immediately.

But he survived his birth, a sickly childhood, and a famine.

He studied law at Makerere University and then worked as a barrister, before becoming a judge in the Uganda High Court.

In 1974, his criticism of the Amin regime for its human rights violations led to his arrest and departure from Uganda for the UK.

Route to faith

He studied theology at Cambridge with a view to returning home after his studies.

But when his friend, the Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum, was murdered he vowed to take his place, and was ordained in 1979.

Archbishop Sentamu, who has two grown-up children - and two grown-up foster children - with wife Margaret, served in parishes in Cambridge and London.

During his 13 years as vicar of Holy Trinity Church, in Tulse Hill, south London, he raised 1.6m to restore the church and its organ, and increased the congregation tenfold.

From 1986 to 1992 he served on the Archbishop's Commission for Urban Priority Areas and he was chairman of the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns between 1990 and 1999.

I would like people to share my life, my faith, my hope
Rt Rev John Sentamu

In London, he had special responsibility for evangelism, minority ethnic Anglican concerns, police and community relations, and social justice.

As Bishop of Birmingham (Bishop for Birmingham as he was often called), he was one of only two senior UK Anglican bishops from ethnic minorities, alongside Bishop of Rochester the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

Archbishop Sentamu was an adviser to the inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder, and chaired the inquiry which criticised police methods following the stabbing of Damilola Taylor.

He has often attacked the Church of England for being institutionally racist.

But he has also played down his reputation as an anti-racist campaigner, saying: "Yes, definitely I am black, but what is important is that I have got a living faith in God.

"I would like people to share my life, my faith, my hope.

"That, to me, is the most important."

He has indicated that he would be happy to ordain women bishops if the Church was to change its rules, and has also criticised the way some members of the Church have spoken about gay people.

He became president of the YMCA in April 2005, the same year he became Archbishop of York, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

His interests include music, cooking, reading, athletics, rugby and football.

Print Sponsor

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