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Church must live with history of ‘saints and slave-traders’, archbishop says

UK News | Published:

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made the comments during a virtual service to confirm the election of the new Archbishop of York.

The 98th Archbishop of York, Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell, takes up the historic Braganza crozier at York Minster (Peter Byrne/PA)

Being a Christian in the Church of England means living with “baggage” which includes “saints and slave-traders”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Justin Welby said the Church has an inheritance “to be reformed, to be repented of, to be imitated” during a virtual service on Thursday for the Confirmation of Election of Stephen Cottrell as the 98th holder Archbishop of York.

The archbishop also acknowledged that the “ravages of the coronavirus” have shaken the foundations of our society to their core.

In his address following the formal election ceremony, Mr Welby said: “Living as a Christian requires us to live not only in fellowship with Christians around the world but, also, with the Church throughout time, in practice that draws us into traditional and inherited patterns.

The new Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell (Danny Lawson/PA)
The new Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell (Danny Lawson/PA)

“With the Church of England we know that some of those bring baggage.

“We find saints and slave-traders, the proud and prelatical, with the humble servant of the people.

“They are part of us, of our inheritance, to be reformed, to be repented of, to be imitated.”

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The archbishop told those watching online: “We gather together during a time of uncertainty when many are suffering, many are fearful and the foundations of our society have been shaken to their core by the ravages of the coronavirus.

“The whole church is committed to pray for all those who have been affected and continue to be affected by this pandemic; Jesus told us to keep on praying and not to lose heart.”

Referring to the unusual circumstances of the service, Mr Welby said: “Even though this ministry begins today in a digital environment, it will be earthed in the world that Christ came to save.”

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Mr Cottrell, who has been Bishop of Chelmsford, succeeded Dr John Sentamu as the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, after the legal proceedings were completed during the service, which has been adapted due to the pandemic.

Following the election ceremony, the new archbishop undertook the custom of knocking three times on the west door of the Minster with the Braganza crozier, his staff of office, before it is thrown open. This is normally part of the now-deferred enthronement service.

Mr Cottrell told PA Media he was looking forward to when he could join a “big old service” in the Minster but said he was happy to “wait patiently” for that day to come.

Asked about the pandemic, he said: “Almost everybody I know, nobody says they want to be back to normal.

The 98th Archbishop of York, Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell, takes up the historic Braganza crozier (Peter Byrne/PA)
The 98th Archbishop of York, Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell, takes up the historic Braganza crozier (Peter Byrne/PA)

“We want this to end but we don’t want to be back to normal.

“I think we want a better world and I suppose I’m not going to apologise for being a bit of an idealist.

“I think we can build a better world, a fairer world, a more just world, a world where status and privilege don’t count so much, where everybody has an equal opportunity.”

He said is was “hugely exciting” to take up the role, if a bit daunting.

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