First Black Archbishop Ordained; New Era Opens for Church of England

The Rt Rev John Sentamu was ordained as the first black archbishop in the Church of England on Wednesday.

In the ceremony with colorful African traditions held in the York Minister, one of the Europe’s finest Gothic cathedral, 56-year-old Sentamu was sworn in as the 97th Archbishop of York, the second most senior position in the Church of England, according to the BBC.

Around 3,000 people witnessed Sentamu taking his oath on a 1,000-year-old manuscript based on a book of the four Gospels written by monks of Canterbury, BBC reported. He also received the anointment from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.

At the service, Sentamu was presented with a silver pastoral staff symbolizing the pastoral care of the diocese and province, BBC’s report added.

The ordination ceremony on Wednesday came more than five months after Sentamu was appointed as the new Archbishop of York with official approval from Queen Elizabeth II. His predecessor the Most Rev. David Hope resigned in February and is now a parish priest in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Upon his appointment, Sentamu made the following statement presenting his vision: "It is imperative that the Church regains her vision and confidence in mission, developing ways that will enable the Church of England to reconnect imaginatively with England."

"It is important that the Church of England’s voice is heard locally, nationally and internationally,” he said, “standing up for justice, bringing Good News to the poor, healing to the broken-hearted, setting at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaiming the death of Christ and his resurrection until he comes again. What an exciting prospect.”

Since the new archbishop’s position was announced, Sentamu has made a number of remarks on racism and social justice having long been at the forefront of efforts to end institutional racism in the U.K. and the Church, sources say.

Archbishop Williams has once commented, "He (Sentamu) is someone who has always combined a passion for sharing the gospel with a keen sense of the problems and challenges of our society, particularly where racism is concerned."

On Wednesday’s ceremony, Sentamu preached his first sermon as the Archbishop of York as saying, "The Church in England must re-discover her self confidence," according to Reuters.

"We are getting richer and richer as a nation but less and less happy," he added. "Having shed an empire, has this great nation and mother of parliamentary democracy also lost a noble vision for the future?"

Before taking up the esteemed position, Sentamu was serving as Bishop of Birmingham since 2002.

Growing up and educated in Uganda, Sentamu was once a barrister and a High Court judge before coming to the U.K. in 1974. He studied theology at Selwyn College Cambridge where he gained a Masters Degree and a Doctorate. He trained for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge – then part of the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges.

In 1979, he was ordained into the priesthood. He has been serving in many parts of England throughout his ministry, mainly in positions of pastoral care.