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Thursday, 19 December 2019

Stephen Cottrell: A bit of an oik from Essex?

The Archbishop of Canterbury with Archbishop of York Designate Stephen Cottrell,  Source: CofE

A bit of an 'oik from Essex' has been nominated as the new Archbishop of York in succession to Dr John Sentamu. Not my description but Stephen Cottrell's description of himself in a Sheffield Diocesan Development Day lecture in 2011.

A gifted communicator, his appointment is understandable given the liberal direction of the Church of England. He had been widely tipped to succeed Richard Chartres as Bishop of London but lost out to former head nurse Dame Sarah Mullally.

A critic of the church for its 'shortcomings' in promoting BAME clergy into senior positions and a supporter of the ordination of women who looks forward to seeing a female archbishop of Canterbury, he can count himself lucky that he has not found himself sidelined like other men, a victim of his own political correctness.

Asked by the Guardian about the issue of same-sex relationships which has "divided the church for more than 20 years", he said there was “absolutely no place for homophobia in our church, and absolutely everyone, regardless of their sexuality, is welcome in our church”.

Christian Concern tweeted differently: "@CottrellStephen has previously shown he has no respect for Biblical truth on human sexuality and marriage."

Cottrell's appointment has caused some controversy, so much so that a spokesperson for the Church of England has issued a Statement on the Archbishop of York designate, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell denying accusations made against him by "a pressure group". He was said to have told clergy that 'if they disagree with the approach the Diocese is taking on matters of human sexuality' they should follow their consciences and leave.

The implication in the statement is that 30 clergy are lying or mistaken.

In June 2019 gafcon uk issued a statement by representatives of conservative evangelical clergy from the Diocese of Chelmsford confirming that “we are used to being told that we don’t belong”.

Christian Today reports the same issues with claims and counter claims in an article "Stephen Cottrell's appointment as Archbishop of York exposes divisions in the Church of England":  One thing is sure Stephen Cottrell's liberal views offend many orthodox Anglicans who have been left out in the cold by a self-styled inclusive church.

 Liberal Bishop Becomes Archbishop of York, No. 2 in Church of England was the headline in the New York Times: "Cottrell has been outspoken in his support for women clergy and has said everyone is welcome in the Church regardless of their sexuality."

Commenting on Bishop Stephen Cottrell's Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod on Saturday 11 March 2017, Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream wrote that Cotterell has given "one of the clearest indications yet of the next stage of major change in the Church of England’s approach to sexual ethics" after he called for “prayers of thanksgiving” for same sex relationships.

Ironically Stephen Cottrell replaced the openly gay priest Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading in 2004 after John was pressured to step down by the then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

One can only speculate on the trajectory of Cottrell's career had Jeffrey John not been persuaded to step down as bishop of Reading but Jeffrey John must have been feeling particularly sick on reading of Cottrell's elevation. More able than many Dr John has played by the rules while lesser clergy have flaunted them. Had he defended the Church's traditional teaching on marriage he would have gained wider support.

By teaming a new, liberal Archbishop of York with an ineffectual Archbishop of Canterbury the Church of England looks destined to stray even further from biblical truth with a further exodus of disaffected Anglicans.

In conclusion, a quote from The Spectator in an article The slow, strange race to be the next Bishop of London by Ysenda Maxtone Graham, author of The Church Hesitant:

"But my money (and other people’s, too) would be on Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford. He was state-educated in Leigh-on-Sea, so can be ‘a bit cor-blimey’, as some have said to me. It’s true that his recent talk in the cathedral to his clergy included the phrases ‘Who gives a toss?’, ‘Flush down the toilet’ and ‘What the bloody hell?’ But he grows on you. He’s a scintillating public communicator, straddles both the Evangelical and the Anglo-Catholic traditions, is self-deprecating, funny, articulate and imaginative. If he’s chosen, we’ll just have to blot out the Chartres voice from our memory: no point in comparing them."

Also mentioned in Ysenda's article is 'the once-tipped June Osborne' who seemed to have been 'shunted into sidings as cathedral dean and may well go no further'.

She did. Swept up by the Church in Wales, again at Jeffrey John's expense.

At least, in Cottrell terms, Dr John is "welcome in our church" which is more than many Anglicans can say.

Postscript [23.12.2019]

From Church Times:

"Bishop Cottrell had 'spoken out — when many others have been silent — about the need for the Church to respect and honour the LGBT+ community'." - Jayne Ozanne, a member of the General Synod and a prominent LGBT campaigner.

"He’s a great teacher and communicator of the faith, he’s rooted in Catholic spirituality, he speaks his mind, and he’s a voice for LGBT inclusion." - Revd Dr Johanna Kershaw, Associate Priest of Outwood, Stanley, and Wrenthorpe, in Wakefield.


  1. Graham's article has the strange expression "straddles both the Evangelical and the Anglo-Catholic traditions". Surely this should read 'strangles' rather than 'straddles'? Or simply 'ignores', 'opposes', or even 'strongly dislikes'

  2. Replies
    1. Recently, we had the reading from Acts 20, and two very poignant verses cropped up: "I know that when I am gone, savage wolves will come among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise who will distort the truth in order to get the disciples to break away and follow them." (vv29-30) Who could have foreseen that those wolves would come wearing mitres? Utterly disgraceful. Why should Satan fear when Anglican bishops do his work for him?

    2. llewellyn the last22 December 2019 at 19:18

      why should we ever have thought otherwise? Jesus and the apostles warned us; but woe to those ...