Former archbishop quits as Christian Aid chair over handling of historic child sex abuse allegations

The chair of Christian Aid the Rev’d John Sentamu has stepped down amid allegations he failed to act on a claim of child sex abuse against a colleague made a decade ago while he was the Archbishop of York.

Sentamu joined the charity as chair in November 2021 following his retirement as Archbishop of York the previous year.

But he has resigned as chair and trustee amid concerns over the way he handled historic allegations of abuse against the victim, who was 16 at the time.

In a resignation letter to trustees Sentamu said that recent events could “become a distraction from the vital work of Christian Aid”.

It is alleged that he had failed to act on a claim made in 2013 by the victim to senior members of the church including Sentamu.

The alleged abuser Reverend Trevor Devanikkam took his own life before he was due to appear in court.

Sentamu had also been honorary assistant bishop in the Newcastle Diocese but was last month told by the Bishop of Newcastle, Helen-Ann Hartley, to step back from active ministry.

The church’s lead safeguarding bishop Joanne Grenfell had said: “The Church should be ashamed that a vulnerable 16-year-old in its care was let down by the Church and abused by someone in a position of trust. We are truly sorry for the abuse he suffered and for our failure to respond well.”

Christian Aid’s vice chair Maggie Swinson will lead the charity’s board on an interim basis while a new chair is recruited.

“Given recent events, we understand the reasons for his resignation,” said Christian Aid chief executive Patrick Watt.

“During his tenure Sentamu gave generously of his time, as he steered the organisation through a change of Chief Executive, and a review of its strategy. He has played a critical role in our campaigning on climate justice, and on a just peace for Ukraine, and has brought Christian Aid’s work to the attention of new audiences.

“Sentamu recently visited Sierra Leone where he saw first-hand the work of Christian Aid’s partners and met with government and religious leaders to discuss our programmes to strengthen women’s political participation, support livelihoods, and promote community peacebuilding. His visit reinforced our relationships in the country, and inspired staff and partners.”

    Share Story:

Recent Stories

How is the food and agricultural crisis affecting charity investment portfolios?
Charity Times editor, Lauren Weymouth, is joined by Jeneiv Shah, portfolio manager at Sarasin & Partners to discuss how the current pressures placed on agriculture and the wider food system is affecting charity investment portfolios.