New Archbishop warns PM it is job of Church to ‘hold politicians to account’
Stephen Cottrell, the current Bishop of Chelmsford, will become Archbishop of York in June 2020.
The incoming Archbishop of York has warned Boris Johnson that it is the Church of England’s job to “hold the politicians to account” on their promises.
Stephen Cottrell, the current Bishop of Chelmsford, responded to the Prime Minister’s promise he would lead a “one-nation” government in the General Election campaign, something he reiterated in his Downing Street victory speech.
Bishop Cottrell said the country has been “defined” by how it voted in the 2016 EU referendum, but it is about to “enter into a new chapter in our life together” by leaving the European Union.
The married father-of-three 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.”
“One-nation” Torysim is a socially-inclusive form of Conservatism dating back to former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, who described Britain as “two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy”.
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, who will take on his new role in June 2020, 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.
— The Church of England (@churchofengland) December 17, 2019
“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.