Is race playing a factor in the decision making process to replace Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury? it would seem so.

Some of the press reports and quotes coming out are pretty bad. At least one bishop anonmymously compared a Ugandan born Archbishop to a “tribal chief.” And he meant it as a bad thing, in case you were wondering.

Here’s the report from The Vancouver Sun and then I’ll give my ever so brilliant thoughts after:

The early favourite to become the next Archbishop of Canter-bury – spiritual leaders of the world’s Anglicans – is the victim of “naked racism” by critics who are trying to besmirch his name, one of his closest sup-porters said.

The outspoken Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was born in Uganda and is the only black bishop in the Church of England. A former aide, who is about to become the church’s director of communications, said there was a “stark contrast” between the way Sen-tamu was portrayed and the treatment of other bishops.

“At its best, the besmirching of John Sentamu has revealed that strand of snobbery which views outsiders as lacking class, diplomacy or civility – in other words ‘not one of us,'” said Rev. Arun Arora. “At worst, it has elicited the naked racism which still bubbles under the surface in our society, and which is exposed when a black man is in line to break the chains of history.”

Arora’s accusation of an “anonymous whispering” campaign against the archbishop has the potential to be hugely damaging to the church. It recalls the last time the Church sought a new Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2002, when the Michael Nazir-Ali, then Bishop of Rochester, was described as a “Paki Papist” by an unidentified cleric.

Sentamu has spoken in the past about his experience of racism but stressed that any abuse came from outside the church. However, two bishops who spoke to the Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity drew, unprompted, on Sentamu’s African birth in their criticism – one likening the archbishop’s temperament to that of an “African chief.”

He said: “I think Sentamu is clearly going to be a very strong front-runner, although I think there are also the people who are not quite sure that he is suitable in terms of the way he behaves, because he is quite tribal and the African chief thing comes through.

“My preferred candidate would be [the Bishop of] Norwich, who is very level-headed, sensible and would actually do the job well and has a lot more kind of stability. You wouldn’t know where you were with Sentamu, whereas you would with Norwich.”

The second bishop, who is retired, said Sentamu had some “outrageous moments” which had been “balanced” out by Rowan Williams.

He added: “There is some-thing in Sentamu which retains his African views and approach, which can be at one time an asset and another time can be a problem.”

The retired bishop said Sentamu’s African background was apparent in “his understanding around issues of human sexuality.” Sentamu has opposed British government proposals for same-sex marriage.

The Sunday Telegraph gave both bishops the opportunity to put their comments on the record but they declined. Both denied their comments were racist.

Their words will be seized on by supporters of Sentamu, who fear a whispering campaign against him. He was immediate favourite to become Archbishop of Canterbury when Williams announced his departure last month, but is now believed in third place, behind the Bishop of Coventry and the Bishop of Norwich.

You see, it’s actually pretty blatant. Tribal chief? Seriously. Yeah, there’s definitely racism there but it’s not JUST racism. You see what it’s about is actually same sex marriage. The bishops quoted anonymously fear Sentamu’s “African views.” What they’re really saying is that no civilized person can be against same sex marriage. They’re saying traditional marriage is an “African view” while they obviously hold the civilized view that anything goes in sexuality.

I would say that this kind of openly racist talk terribly wounds the Church of England. But at this point, it’s more like desecration of a corpse.