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Candidates for Cantuar: John Inge


Bishop John was born in 1955 and educated at Kent College followed by a chemistry degree from St. Chads College, Durham. He then taught chemistry at Lancing College in Sussex, to which he later returned as a chaplain. He is married to Denise, and they have two daughters.


He studied at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Yorkshire and was ordained deacon in 1983 and priest in 1984 in the Diocese of Chichester. He became one of the Lords Spiritual in June this year.  He serves on the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) of the General Synod and has served on the Council of Ridley Hall College, Cambridge since 2008. The Crockford’s entry reads as follows:

+INGE, The Rt Revd John Geoffrey. b 55. St Chad’s Coll Dur BSc77 MA94 PhD02 Keble Coll Ox PGCE79. Coll of Resurr Mirfield. d 84 p 85 c 03. Asst Chapl Lancing Coll 84-86; Jun Chapl Harrow Sch 86-89; Sen Chapl 89-90; V Wallsend St Luke Newc 90-96; Can Res Ely Cathl 96-03; Vice-Dean 99-03; Suff Bp Huntingdon 03-07; Bp Worc from 07

Mission and Evangelism

This is a recurring motif in Bishop John’s ministry, which is reinforced by the diocesan website, which has a special tab devoted to the subject:

As a Diocese we are committed to mission in every aspect, seeking to bring the good news of God’s love in Jesus to all who live in our cities, towns and villages, and to make the gospel relevant to their everyday lives. In putting mission first we are currently focusing on three areas of mission:


By so doing, we hope and pray that our churches will display the hallmarks of healthy churches which we have identified as:

  • Worshipping God
  • Working to rid the world of poverty
  • Sharing the gospel
  • Building inclusive communities
  • Helping people to faith
  • Caring for the earth

Other Interests

According to the diocesan website:

Bishop John is fascinated by international affairs and cultural variety and has taken groups to Africa (on seven occasions), India, South America, Russia and the Holy Land. He has also fostered Indian and African links with the Diocese of Ely. He is a longstanding member of the World Development Movement and Amnesty International. Bishop John is a trustee of Common Purpose, an international organisation that helps people in leadership and decision-making positions in the private, public and voluntary sectors to be more effective in their own organisations, in the community and in society as a whole.


I do not know whether this is an interest of Bishop John’s, or whether it is simply an area of diocesan expertise which he inherited. But it is the only diocese I have so far seen to say that ‘help [is offered] for those who feel they may be haunted, cursed or oppressed‘. However, perhaps the reference to ‘this phenomena’  (phenomenon, please!) indicates that he has not focused on this page.


His book A Christian Theology of Place (Ashgate, 2003) was short listed for the Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing. His latest book Living Love: In Conversation with the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (Inspire, 2007) looks at the Christian message contained within the series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith’s.


He is Chairman of the board of The College of Evangelists, which says it ‘exists to recognise and affirm evangelists whose ministry is nationwide or at least beyond the confines of any diocese’. Evangelists as opposed to Evangelicals, presumably.  Mirfield, his alma mater, is generally thought to be High Church.

The chapel of Lancing College is a splendid, soaring building, which dominates the surrounding countryside. I think it is a reasonable inference from his service as chaplain, both here and at Harrow, that Bishop John’s natural habitat is the top of the candle, but other than this circumstantial evidence, can find no proof one way or another.

He voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, as did his suffragan, but his diocese voted overwhelmingly against. All the representatives from Worcester Diocese voted in favour of adjourning the debate to reconsider amendment 5.1.c, the way those in favour of women bishops in general voted.

Leap in the dark assessment

A David to match all those Goliaths?


In trying to find an illustration for this post, I was unable to find one of Bishop John in which he was not smiling.

Not grinning, gently smiling.   Is it too fanciful to read into this what Kenneth Clark called ‘the smile of reason’? Certainly, writing a book about the lessons to be learnt from the ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ indicates a degree of twinkle.


19 comments on this post:

Richard Haggis said...

I wonder if he’s related to the famous “Gloomy Dean” Inge of St. Paul’s? I met him once when he was a canon at Ely and warmed to him a lot – a very nice sense of humour, but with a sardonic wit too. No idea what he’s like on the Issues Of The Day, or managing business, but it’s just possible that the best candidate won’t need to fret too much about those.

07 September 2012 17:53
UKViewer said...

Must admit, I hadn’t heard much about Bishop John before your brief here. I don’t see any problem with an preference for lace and smoke and benediction. In the end, you can find those in many Anglican Cathedrals let alone Parish Churches.

I loved the books by Alexander McCall Smith about the No 1 Detective Agency. Gentle wisdom an a developing country. So, if Bishop John likes them as well good for him.

The Evangelist bit I think is to do with the role of being an Evangelist, taking the church beyond it’s walls and into the community. A role which I have been thinking about much recently. We have a few in Canterbury, and their is some formal training for it available.

In terms of fitness for the role of the ABC, I don’t think that there is really sufficient evidence for me to form a judgement apart from perhaps we could do worse, much worse.

07 September 2012 17:57
Matthew Caminer said...

Thanks for another briefing, Laura…. When are you going to start on overseas bishops? (only joking! … or am I?).

On the deliverance thing, I think that most dioceses offer such a service, but they don’t advertise it – listen to Bishop Dominic of Monmouth on the subject: very grounded and balanced and certainly not seeking to draw attention to this activity.

I assume the overseas connections would be in his favour, but I don’t somehow get the link from being a ‘stinks’ teacher and school chaplain to being a worldwide statesman… But then I guess all ABCs started somewhere.

Lay Anglicana said...

I’m planning to go on until the Crown Nominations Commission make their announcement, which I thought might be some time soon?
To be honest, there is a further purpose in putting up these pieces, which is that most of us not on General Synod get little opportunity to know bishops from other dioceses. It seemed a good moment to gather them all together in this way.

I am fascinated by what you say about ‘deliverance’ – I had no idea that it was generally on offer in the 21st century. I wonder if they offer a service for getting rid of unwanted vicars – Bishop Alan has written two posts on the subject, which are of great interest and have had a warm response.

Dr Barry Morgan is on the list, speaking of overseas bishops, but haven’t we just been there and done that?

Matthew Caminer said...

Two points…. perhaps ‘offering’ was a bit strong, but I think that most dioceses have a strategy for dealing with it if the need should arise…. Interestingly on Radio 4, +Dominic (Monmouth) said a month or so ago that in most cases it is the psychiatrists who are claiming demonic possession, not the exorcists, and that the need for genuine deliverance is extremely rare.

Yes, +Alan’s two blogs on “How to change (NOT get rid of, Laura!) your vicar”, has been very interesting, but is only of real value of it is accompanied by a blog on how to change your congregation since in my growing experience (as a curate’s husband) the congregation is often quick to complain but doesn’t know the half of what the vicar does, and often makes wild but inaccurate assumptions – not relevant to this thread, unless we promote the topic to ‘how to change your bishop!’, where I suspect the same counter-argument might often apply.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, Matthew. I suppose I just have difficulty in imagining a situation where someone who believed their house to be infested by poltergeists regarded the first port of call as their diocesan office. I certainly wouldn’t contact the diocese myself, imagining that I would get no further than being laughed at by the switchboard. On the other hand, if I were in that position, I could of course imagine consulting a priest – it just would not occur to me try to find one via the diocese. Well, obviously if I lived around Worcester, I would. Although if the would-be exorcist does not know that the singular of ‘phenomena’ is ‘phenomenon’, being a pedant I would not have much confidence in his or her exorcising ability.

When I say ‘get rid of’ one’s vicar, it was of course a joke tacked on to the end of a note on ‘deliverance’, about which I was, as you see, incredulous. At the beginning of this blog, we pretty much exhausted the topic of ‘clericalism versus laicism‘, at least for the moment.

Matthew Caminer said...

Ever read the Susan Howatch “Starbridge” novels? The whole topic of exorcism, deliverance etc is dealt with in some depth there. and knowing her she will have consulted widely to be sure of her facts.

I know that at Cuddesdon and I imagine at other theological colleges too, they teach ordinands about deliverance in the context of work on the healing ministry. My understanding is that is is a bit of a case of “in no circumstances try to handle this by yourself but get help” and this is usually channeled through the bishop to the diocesan expert, but, again, the information I have is that it is not something that is generally advertised . But, as the person I consulted on this before adding this post said, “What do you think? Is the Devil on holiday?” So then it comes down to a discussion of our understanding of the Devil, possession etc, which I suspect deserves a completely different thread!

I am a pedant too, but I would hate to think an entire strand of thinking might be dismissed on a piece of language abuse!

08 September 2012 17:32
08 September 2012 16:34
08 September 2012 13:52
07 September 2012 19:49
07 September 2012 18:07

This man seems nice. I think nice matters…just, plain nice, no snippy stuff (I like the ¨top of the candle¨ comment, didn´t know that one). Best to all, it´s pouring rain in Guatemala this afternoon (Britishlike, almost Teatime).

Lay Anglicana said...

Hello, Leonardo, nice to hear from you! Interesting that the one comment so far from someone who has met him, Revd Richard Haggis, says he does have a nice sardonic wit and dry sense of humour, so perhaps my leap in the dark scored a point on this one.

Susan S. Hedges said...

Yes, that top of the candle was a new one to me too!

08 September 2012 23:39
07 September 2012 20:34
07 September 2012 20:27
Kate ardern said...

Very interesting! Methinks +John is a bit of a dark horse in that he’s got a lot of experience, has worked outside the church, well-versed in international & political issues, has a keen sense of mission but would appeal across the broad spectrum of the Church of England. Being trained at Mirfield is a plus in my book. Laura, you don’t mention his position on the Covenant & women Bishops – if he ‘s sound in those respects then I like the cut of his jib & as another commented – we could do a lot worse.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for the reminder, Kate. I have now added that he voted in favour of the Covenant, and also in favour of adjourning the debate on women bishops to reconsider 5.1.c. He is relatively senior in that he is one of the 26 bishops in the House of Lords (whereas Nick Baines, for example, is not).

07 September 2012 22:20
07 September 2012 20:57
Ivor Stolliday said...

+John is an old family friend. He celebrated at our wedding and visits when they are in the area. Denise is a published writer too, with lovely work on Thomas Traherne. John is a remarkable, gentle and inspiring person. He would be my candidate – and he has a strong following from those who know him. But who would wish that awful job on a friend?

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you very much for this, Ivor. I am glad that ‘remarkable, gentle and inspiring’ is exactly what shone through the papers that I have seen. You feel he is like Brighton rock – the same stamp all the way through no matter how you slice it.

It has been an awful job, but I don’t think it is necessarily an awful job. Look at the way two US Presidents handled their job. Jimmy Carter ran himself into the ground with overwork, trying to keep on top of it all. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, chose a good team, knew how to travel round the country smiling a lot and radiating bonhomie and spent his afternoons on the sofa watching television. Irrespective of your politics, Reagan was surely the better President.

I do see room here for someone who can smile the smile of reason and rise above it all. I had the privilege of watching Mother Teresa in action – in addition to her known qualities, she was a consummate politician. Whenever anyone came to her with a problem, she would smile her beatific smile and say, Oh I can see that problem is going to need someone really gifted to solve it. Aren’t we lucky that God has put you in just the right place to do it! From what you say, Bishop John is just the man to run the archiepiscopate with a modified version of that approach!

08 September 2012 08:44
Chris Fewings said...

Even a tenuous link with Thomas Traherne should be counted unto him as righteousness!

For giving me desire
An eager thirst, a burning ardent flame,
A virgin infant flame,
A love with which into the world I came,
An inwardly heavenly love
Which in my soul did work and move
And ever, ever me inflame…

10 September 2012 09:56
08 September 2012 07:45
Ivor Stolliday said...

…and don’t forget his time at Wallsend -on – Tyne. You won’t find many parishes with more problems, and John was a great success.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, this is useful further information. Reading his biographical details, I had wondered whether Wallsend – his first parish, and one imagines considerably rougher than Lancing or Harrow – had been a shock to the system. It does not altogether surprise me that he was a great success, given his other qualities (and perhaps boys’ boarding schools provide a wider range of tough problems than one imagines when one sees them in Sunday attire as choirboys!)

08 September 2012 08:48
08 September 2012 07:46
Eva McIntyre said...

My intial response is a childish ‘you can’t have him, he’s ours!’ but that was my response when the CofE elected our Welsh Archbishop when I was ministering in North Wales!

He’d be excellent but I wonder what the job would do to him? (I suppose that’s true of all the possible candidates, though). He’s gentle, funny, intelligent and wise. He has excellent diplomacy skills and is incredibly patient. You mention his stance on the covenant, which I think was about solidarity with the Archbishops, he was incredibly gracious in defeat and is capable of serious humility.

He’d be excellent at either Canterbury or York.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for commenting, Eva. I’m afraid the more I hear about Bishop John, the more I become convinced that he could do the job, by doing it differently. If you were to try to be Archbishop of Canterbury without running the world at the same time, I think it might work, and Bishop John seems just the man to pull this off. Sorry about that!

08 September 2012 10:31
08 September 2012 10:15

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