Brave Bishops and turbulent priests

I’m a great fan of Archbishop John Sentamu, who recently did a parachute jump in aid of the Afghanistan Trust. That’s after tearing up his dog collar in protest at the state of Zimbabwe. When John was Bishop of Stepney (our local Bishop for Islington), he came to conduct a confirmation service, then left the chancel steps to play the African drums during the hymns. He also chaired the local EC1 New Deal regeneration project; when blocked by a government official who kept saying, “I have to answer to my boss”, the Bishop responded, “I think you’ll find he answers to mine….”. He was also my brother’s bishop in Birmingham, where he baptised my younger niece and god-daughter Miriam (who is also an extremely feisty character).

Michael Lewis, the Bishop of Cyprus & the Gulf, is less high profile; he has been visiting Baghdad and appealing for the release of British hostages held there.

Back in Britain, Bishop Richard Holloway is taking to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival, in the role of St Thomas Beckett (hat-tip: Mandrake in the Daily Telegraph). Before he went to Edinburgh, Richard was briefly my vicar in Oxford. He has always been courageously liberal, particularly on gay rights.

We take it for granted that, unlike Beckett, today’s turbulent priests can speak out without threat; in Britain at least. It’s a decade since Bishop Juan Gerardi was murdered in Guatemala, nearly 30 years since the murder of Archbiship Oscar Romero in El Salvador.

I get angry when people lazily label Christianity as repressive or illiberal, when in fact there are Christian leaders in every generation, and all over the world, speaking out for human rights and social justice.


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