THE Archbishop of York says he has never experienced racism from fellow clergymen, despite comments from a retired bishop that he would be “unsuitable for the church’s top post because he is quite tribal and the African chief thing comes through”.

Dr John Sentamu says he will not comment on speculation following a story in a Sunday newspaper in which two bishops questioned his suitability to be the successor to Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Sentamu was born in Uganda and is the only black bishop in the Church of England.

He is also a former barrister and judge.

The two senior clergymen spoke to the Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity.

One told the newspaper: “I think Sentamu is clearly going to be a very strong frontrunner, 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 other retired bishop said: “There is something 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 Dr Sentamu’s African background was apparent in his understanding around issues of human sexuality.

The archbishop has opposed Government proposals for same-sex marriage.

One of his former aides, the Reverend Arun Arora, has previously alleged there is an anonymous whispering campaign against Dr Sentamu.

The Rev Arora, a former assistant curate of St Mark’s Church, in Harrogate, wrote on his blog on March 23: “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’. 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.”

Speaking to The Northern Echo yesterday, Dr Sentamu’s office said: “He would like to make it clear that he has never experienced racist views from within the church – and no one within the church has made such comments to him publicly or privately before.

“The Archbishop is getting on working hard in his role as Archbishop of York and won’t be commenting on speculation.”