New Archbishop warns it is job of Church to ‘hold politicians to account’
The next Archbishop of York has warned the Government that it is the Church of England’s job to “hold the politicians to account” on their one nation promises.
Stephen Cottrell, the current Bishop of Chelmsford, will take on the role in June 2020, despite speculation it would go to a woman.
Speaking after his announcement on Tuesday, the married father-of-three said the country has been “defined… by how we voted one day in June,” but is about to “enter into a new chapter in our life together” by leaving the European Union.
He added: “The Prime Minister has spoken this week about being one nation, I both want to support that wholeheartedly and I also want to hold the Government to account, that is the job of the church.
“So we’re not just one nation, we’re also one humanity and it’s reminding our politicians of those truths.”
Bishop Cottrell described “the last few years” as “not… terribly healthy”, and said: “There’s a job to do, which is to hold the politicians to account, to scrutinise what’s going on in our nation but also to be out there serving the needs of the poor and the marginalised, and being a voice for them.
“That’s the kind of Church I want to be part of and I want to help, with others, to build that kind of Church.”
Bishop Cottrell has been vocal in calling for tolerance and understanding in the national debate since the Brexit vote and subsequent elections.
In August, he was among the signatories to an open letter to the Government from the Church calling on it not to leave the EU without a deal.
The 61-year-old said he was “humbled and excited” by the prospect of becoming the 98th Archbishop of York, and pledged the church should welcome “absolutely everyone, regardless of their sexuality,” adding “there is absolutely no place for homophobia in the Church”.
The National Secular Society (NSS) pointed out that the Archbishop blocked an amendment that would have made it easier for the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages.
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “The appointment of Stephen Cottrell to the second most senior position in the Church of England is a reminder that our established church retains social attitudes which are out of touch with the views of the British people.
“This anti-gay institution shouldn’t lead our national ceremonies, have seats in our legislature or run state-funded schools. It should be disestablished so church and state can go their separate ways.
“That the announcement was made by the Prime Minister’s Office highlights again the lack of separation between church and state which holds the United Kingdom back from being a beacon of equality and religious freedom for all.”
Bishop Cottrell was ordained as a deacon in 1984 and as a priest in 1985.
The Tottenham Hotspur supporter is described on his website as a keen writer, with interests in reading, cooking and music.
The role of Archbishop of York itself dates back to St Paulinus in 627AD.