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Bishop of Newcastle does ‘not feel able’ to grant Sentamu permission to officiate

27 July 2023

Former Archbishop of York ‘unable to apologise’ for response to safeguarding review

Diocese of York

Lord Sentamu, pictured in 2018, with bishops of the Northern Province

Lord Sentamu, pictured in 2018, with bishops of the Northern Province

THE Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, has — with “extreme disappointment” and “sadness” — declined to grant Lord Sentamu permission to officiate (PTO) in her diocese, because he refuses to apologise for his written response to a church safeguarding review in which he was criticised.

In May, Dr Hartley suspended a former Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, from active ministry in the diocese of Newcastle, where he is an honorary assistant bishop, after he rejected a review that found that he had failed to act on a non-recent disclosure of abuse while he was at Bishopthorpe (News, 19 May). The review concerned the abuse perpetrated by a priest, the late Trevor Devamanikkam (News, 11 May).

Lord Sentamu wrote that the review “demonstrated a lack of necessary understanding regarding the operation of dispersed authority in the Church of England” and that “Safeguarding is very important but it does not trump Church Law.”

In a statement, on Thursday, Dr Hartley said that the diocesan safeguarding adviser and the National Safeguarding Team (NCT) had since met Lord Sentamu and had “concluded that he would respond appropriately today to any disclosures made to him in the diocese of Newcastle and in his wider ministry”.

Dr Hartley, however, met him on Tuesday, after which, she writes, “my concern remains that his public statement, following the Learning Lessons Review, is inconsistent with the tone and culture I expect around safeguarding in Newcastle Diocese, and has had a significant impact on survivors and undermined public confidence. It is for these reasons that I have asked Lord Sentamu to reflect on his words, and in particular the impact of them, and to offer an apology.”

She continued: “I am extremely disappointed that Lord Sentamu feels unable to make an apology at this time, and it is with sadness that I do not feel able to grant him my Permission to Officiate within the diocese of Newcastle, or delegate authority to him. My door remains open, and the matter is in his hands.”

The current Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, had been kept informed of this, she said, “and remains supportive of my decision and continues himself to pray that a way forward may be found. The diocese of Newcastle remains committed to the highest standards of safeguarding which seek always to place victims and survivors at the heart of this vital work.”

One month after his original suspension from ministry, Lord Sentamu resigned as the chair of Christian Aid. Greenbelt Festival also withdrew its invitation to him to speak at its event next month (News, 2 June).

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