Stephen Cottrell Confirmed as 98th Archbishop of York

(Image: Iwan Stone)

In a unique virtual confirmation, Stephen Cottrell replaced Dr John Sentamu in the Church of England’s third most senior role.

In his first service, broadcast online on July 10, Archbishop Cottrell stated that “it is a joy to be in this place where prayers have been said for 1,300 years”. Noting the impact of COVID-19, he was surrounded by local hospital and hospice chaplains. 

On July 9, he took up the ceremonial crozier in front of a select group from the Archbishop’s Leadership Team, Bishopthorpe Palace, and York Minster. In a reversal of tradition, he then continued to the West Door, where he knocked three times on the inside. 

The Right Rev Dr Jonathan Frost, Dean of York, commented that this “is intended to signify the openness of the Church to the world and reflects Archbishop Elect Stephen’s desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the communities it shares”.

Stephen Cottrell was born in Essex, and has previously served as Bishop of Reading (2004-2010) and Bishop of Chelmsford (2010-2020).

A figure who has repeatedly supported same-sex relationships, criticised the lack of diversity within Church leadership, and opposed Trident missile systems, despite disappointing hopes for the first woman archbishop, Cottrell does appear to continue the more progressive approach represented by the leaving John Sentamu. Having fled Idi Amin’s Ugandan regime in 2013, Sentamu broke from tradition with an enthronement ceremony of plumed dancers and bongo drums in 2005.

While having faced criticism in the past for a safeguarding lapse, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team noted his “insight and humility” in the proceedings, with Archbishop of Canturbury Justin Welby expressing hope that it would “strengthen his commitment to safeguarding and ministry”.

Over Zoom at his confirmation, Justin Welby commented: “I’m sad we’re not able to all be together in York Minster to celebrate, yet… I’ll be praying for Archbishop Stephen as he officially begins his new ministry and as we begin that new adventure.”

The message from the Minster is one of optimism, and better times ahead. Despite noting that “this isn’t quite how I imagined it would begin”, Cottrell appears enthusiastic to set out on Archbishop Welby’s vision of a “new Church in a new world”. 

Image credit: Iwan Stone