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Cottrell becomes Archbishop of York in online confirmation of election

09 July 2020


The Archbishop of York outside York Minster after the confirmation of his election

The Archbishop of York outside York Minster after the confirmation of his election

THE election of the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell as Archbishop of York was confirmed today, in an hour-long Zoom service incorporating the legal proceedings, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the virtual presence of the Bishops of London, Durham, Carlisle, Manchester, Blackburn, and Winchester.

In normal circumstances, the enthronement of the Archbishop would mark the effective start of the new ministry, but Archbishop Welby emphasised: “Even though this ministry today begins in a digital environment, it will be earthed in the world that Christ came to save.”

He later remarked in his address that the ceremony combined “the best of Anglican liturgy and pomp with something that closely replicates a work of Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s also an occasion which contains something of a hospital pass.”

The Archbishop-Elect affirmed his calling before the Vicar-General, Provincial Registrar, Proctor, and Advocate undertook the legal process, using a modernised and adapted version of the wording. Bishop Cottrell had to acknowledge his presence and identify himself on screen; exhibits and signatures were held up to camera when required, and, with the Bible in his right hand, he took the Oath.

Inevitably, it had so far been a rather tense and colourless process, despite the opening prayer and the hymn “Ye that know the Lord is gracious”, from an invisible York Minster choir. But the aerial video footage of York Minster which accompanied the choir’s recording of Duruflé’s Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, which preceded the Charge, gave it a sense of place and lifted it up into something holier.

church of englandThe Archbishop (top left image) turns away to write his signature, which he then holds up to the camera. The Zoom ceremony was signed (bottom right image) rather than subtitled

Individual bishops, clergy, and lay people delivered the sections of the Charge, which outlined every aspect of the Archbishop’s mission. They were filmed against familiar backgrounds: the Angel of the North, the Tees Transporter Bridge; offices, gardens, the streets of York, the Humber estuary. It had a strong and joyful flavour of the region, and the contributors were clear and passionate.

The newly confirmed Archbishop smiled broadly as he accepted the Charge. There was a second recorded hymn, “I heard the voice of Jesus say”, from the choir of St Martin-in-the Fields, before the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, gave the New Testament reading from Colossians 3, taken up by Archbishop Welby in his address.

He paid tribute to Archbishop Cottrell’s fluency in speaking: “To hear you speak about Jesus is to be in the presence of someone who communicates the love of Christ so much. It is intimidating. It is also a privilege and a pleasure. The Archbishop of York speaks a lot — it is almost a definition of any new Archbishop: someone who has to speak while they are working out what to say,” he said.

Living as a Christian, Archbishop Welby said, “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 traditions and inherited patterns. With the Church of England, we know some of those bring baggage. Saints and slave traders. The proud and prelatical with the humble servant of the people. They are part of us, our inheritance, to be reformed, to be repented of, to be imitated. We are one in Christ not by our choice but by the sovereign and gracious act of God.”

He told Archbishop Cottrell, “As Primate of England, you translate the Church of God to the people of England and the people of England to the Church of God. You interpret the history, you interpret the times and bring them into relationship with the Church of today.

“It will fall to you to do so more and more for the whole Church of England, and yet to retain and develop the relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury, whoever that may be. God has called the two Primates to be different in the one mission of God.”

He continued: “In this year, we have learned to adapt to new circumstances. Our safety and security is in returning to the constant presence of Jesus Christ. . . We are to be those who go out, yet we must unlearn the too often historic arrogance of the Church of England and find a way for Church and disciples together to be clothed in humility, love, and forgiveness as the world carries on its noisy passage around us. Look at so-called Christian Twitter feeds to see the scale of that task.”

Prayers were led by the Dean of York, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, and the new Archbishop gave the blessing. There is as yet no date for the enthronement.

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