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Church of England Bishops: John Pritchard

It seems safe to assume that Bishop John Pritchard wrote his own biographical note on the diocesan website, which I quote by way of illustration that here is a perfectly serious churchman who wishes us to think he does not take himself too seriously:

John Pritchard was born in Salford (under the shadow of Manchester United floodlights), the son of a clergyman. He was determined not to be ordained himself as there was no money in it and you rarely saw your father. He went to Arnold School, Blackpool and then read Law at St Peter’s College, Oxford. While at Oxford he met his future wife, Wendy, who was doing a Maths degree. His summer job was as a Blackpool tram conductor and he has therefore seen the Illuminations more times than anyone could reasonably want.

Whilst at Oxford John recognised a calling to ordained ministry and he went on to take qualifications in theology at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham. He was ordained in 1972.

The Crockford’s entry is as follows:
+PRITCHARD, The Rt Revd John Lawrence. b 48. St Pet Coll Ox BA70 MA73 Dur Univ MLitt93. Ridley Hall Cam 70. d 72 p 73 c 02. C Birm St Martin 72-76; Asst Dir RE B & W 76-80; Youth Chapl 76-80; P-in-c Wilton 80-88; Dir Past Studies Cranmer Hall Dur 89-93; Warden 93-96; Adn Cant and Can Res Cant Cathl 96-02; Suff Bp Jarrow Dur 02-07; Bp Ox from 07.

He received a Certificate in Pastoral Theology at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He was ordained as a priest in 1972. From 1972 to 1976 he served as a curate at St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham and, from 1976 to 1980, he was Youth Chaplain and Assistant Director of Education in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. In 1980 he became priest in charge of WiltonTaunton. From 1988 he was Director of Pastoral Studies at Cranmer Hall, Durham and, from 1993, the college’s warden. In 1996, he became Archdeacon of Canterbury and a canon residentiary of Canterbury Cathedral. He was consecrated as suffragan Bishop of Jarrow in January 2002.

On 11 December 2006 it was announced that Pritchard would become the 42nd Bishop of Oxford. Having taken office at his confirmation-of-election in London on 23 March 2007, he began his ministry in the diocese on 8 June 2007 after a service of inauguration at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Bishop John entered the House of Lords in 2010. He lists his interests as “education, world development, environment and Camp Ashraf“. He chairs the Church of England’s Board of Education and National Society Council, and became controversial in March this year when launching ‘The Church School of the Future Review‘. The Guardian reported: Pritchard also called for the Christian culture and ethos in Anglican schools to be protected “against a rising tide of strident opposition” and the “onset of so-called ‘aggressive secularism’.” The Humanist Blog reacted predictably:

In some ways, the news is hardly surprising – religion uses religious schools to evangelise shock horror! – but for those atheist or agnostic parents who send their parents to a Church of England school because they don’t really have a choice, an evangelisation push is unlikely to be a welcome development. Church of England schools are often seen as offering a fairly mild religious education but, if the Bishop of Oxford has his way, that could be about to change. And if does, the Church may find that more people start to question why it has control of large numbers of publicly-funded schools.

In 2008, he supported the application by Muslims in Oxford to broadcast the adhan from the minaret of a mosque. As a result, he received hostile comment and letters of complaint. Still, in the words of King Umberto I after a failed assassination attempt by an anarchist, ‘ce sont les risques du métier’ (these are the hazards of the profession).

It makes a change: the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, has reportedly been sent death threats by outraged so-called Christians for supporting local Muslims’ application to broadcast a daily call to prayer from the minaret of their mosque in the city. The application has been strongly opposed by local evangelicals. One of the letters called for the bishop to be beheaded. Stephen Bates, The Guardian, 12 Mar 2008

His wider responsibilities include chairing the Church of England’s Board of Education and being episcopal spokesperson on education in the House of Lords. He is also President of St John’s College, Durham and on the Trustees of Church Army, SPCK and St George’s House, Windsor.


Bishop John is a prolific writer, and has had the following books published by SPCK:

Practical Theology in Action (1996/2006), The Intercessions Handbook, (1997/2011), Beginning Again (2001/5), Living the Gospel Stories Today (2001), How to Pray(2002), The Second Intercessions Handbook (2004), Living Easter Through the Year(2005), How to Explain Your Faith (2006), The Life and Work of a Priest (2007), Going to Church: A User’s Guide (2009), Living Jesus (2010),  God Lost and Found (2011)


The Wikipedia entry describes Bishop John as an Open Evangelical. He presumably voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, though his diocese as a whole rejected it.  He voted in favour of  adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by  those in favour of women bishops.

Leap in the dark assessment

Bishop John seems an attractive character who is not afraid of controversy.

8 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

Not to sure of Bishop John’s suitability but I like his writing and suspect that I would like him if I were to meet him.

Not sure that being liked is in his vocabulary, I know that he was widely respected in Canterbury as I often hear favourable comments from people, including my Vicar, who knew him when he was Arch Deacon.

He isn’t afraid to sound off, when he believes that it’s right to do so, but he doesn’t open up unnecessarily. When he speaks it seems pretty sound to me.

A good candidate and one who knows the ropes in Canterbury and would do s good job.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thanks E. You will see I have stopped calling this series ‘Candidates for Cantuar’. For whatever reason, the fact that they attracted such betting odds must indicate, I think, that they are not generally regarded as suitable candidates for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nevertheless – and this rather makes my point for me – they may be perfectly acceptable (even very good) diocesan bishops, whose task is rather different.

16 October 2012 19:25
16 October 2012 18:03
Matthew Caminer said...

I’m pretty sure that Bishop John would have run screaming at the idea that he might take up residence at Lambeth; and I suspect that most of us in Oxford Diocese would have been equally horrified at losing him! How often have we heard that in this series?!

One extra bit of detail on Laura’s as-usual painstaking account, is that Bishop John is now chairman of SPCK – not sure if that is his reward for writing so many excellent books for them!

I was interested, as always, to read the assessment of his churchmanship, precisely because I would have found it hard to put my finger on it, even after seeing him preside, hearing him speak, and coming across him on numerous other occasions since he came to Oxford Diocese. For me, he simply ‘is’, no labels, just him… enabling… motivating… alongside… encouraging. I do have a sneaking suspicion, though, that the benign, smiling exterior and engaging communication style should not be misunderstood; and that underneath is a man of steel: annoying him once too often might perhaps be career limiting.

And finally, because I would say so, wouldn’t I, he is a great support of Anglican Cursillo.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you very much – it is so helpful when someone who actually knows the bishop in question puts a gloss on my necessarily two-dimensional portrait. ‘No label’ is as you can imagine something of a relief, because I was a touch concerned that my method had not produced any evidence of his ‘leanings’, not even the ‘Open Evangelical’ which the author of the Wikipedia entry claims. And the man of steel underneath doesn’t altogether surprise me…

17 October 2012 08:57
16 October 2012 20:31
Matthew Caminer said...

Interesting that Ruth Gledhill, writing in The Times on Saturday seemed to be hinting at +John as a late runner for Lambeth. Her metaphor not mine, since she described +Durham as having “peaked too early”, whatever she means by that!

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for this, Matthew – it would explain why I have had a sudden rush of people looking at this post! Of course, the bishop that really peaked too early was Christopher Cocksworth. I am hopeful that the current flurries are over the second choice (pace Ruth!)

22 October 2012 14:07
22 October 2012 12:32
Dave watts said...

I have read two of John Pritchard’s books…Living Jesus and God lost and found both are full of highlighter pen. He makes sense of the Christian faith and writes in a very honest and accessible way
Hoping he comes to Greenbelt

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for this, Dave. My first impression of John Pritchard was through his intercessions books, which I did not find particularly helpful as I cannot imagine using them in the parish church mid-road mid-candle non-Evangelical world in which I operate. However, when I came to research this article, I realised I had got him wrong and I look forward to learning more about him. I will start with the two you recommend, for which many thanks 🙂

04 January 2013 11:57
04 January 2013 11:35

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