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|The Reverend Canon
|Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral|
|Church||Church of England|
|Diocese||Diocese of London|
|In office||June 2010 – present (Canon)
January 2013 – present (Chancellor)
|Predecessor||Giles Fraser (as Chancellor)|
|Other posts||Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe (2005–2008)
Canon Treasurer of St Paul's (2010–2013)
by David Hope
|Birth name||Mark David Oakley|
|Born||28 September 1968|
|Alma mater||King's College London
St Stephen's House, Oxford
Mark David Oakley (born 28 September 1968) is a British Church of England priest. He is Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, London. He was the Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe, an archdeaconry in the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe of the Church of England, from 2005 to 2008. As a residentiary canon of St Paul's Cathedral he carries particular responsibility for the educational work and engagement with the arts in one of the most famous churches in the world. He was appointed a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to the Queen in 1996. He is a visiting lecturer in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at King's College London. A strong advocate for human rights, he is a trustee of the Civil Liberties Trust (Liberty), a patron of the Tell MAMA project and an ambassador for the charity Stop Hate UK. In 2016, he was awarded one of the first National Hate Crime Awards for Community Volunteer Upstander. In 2017 Oakley was appointed a Visiting Scholar of Sarum College.
Oakley was born on 28 September 1968 in Shrewsbury and was educated at Shrewsbury School and King's College London, before going to St Stephen's House, Oxford, where he studied for ordination in the Church of England. He was ordained a deacon (1993) and a priest (1994) by Bishop David Hope.
Work and thought
Oakley served as assistant curate of St John's Wood Church from 1993 to 1996. He was then asked by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, to serve as his chaplain, which he did from 1996 to 2000. He was made a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to Queen Elizabeth II in 1996. In 2000, he became Rector of St Paul's, Covent Garden, which is also known as the "Actors' Church".
In 2005, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, appointed Oakley as the Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe and chaplain of St Alban's Church in Copenhagen. The archdeaconry comprises eight countries (Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Germany) in which there are many Church of England chaplaincies serving the international Anglican community.
In 2008, he was appointed priest-in-charge of the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair, London, by the Bishop of London. He was also appointed an examining chaplain and bishops' advisor. In June 2010 he was appointed to St Paul's Cathedral, London, first as canon treasurer (see above).
Oakley wrote a popular book called The Collage of God in 2001 which received a number of positive reviews. The book was republished by Canterbury Press in 2012. He has also edited a book of John Donne's poetry and compiled a wedding anthology. In 2015, he published an anthology of readings for funerals for SPCK. He edited 'A Good Year' with contributions by bishops on the liturgical year (SPCK 2016). He has contributed several essays to various books and reviews in theological papers and journals. He also regularly broadcasts.
Oakley wrote the introduction for the reissue of Jeffrey John's book Permanent, Faithful, Stable. The book argues for Christian acceptance of same-sex marriage. He has called John "the best bishop we never had"  and adds that "It is essential that the Church embraces its gay and lesbian members fully as part of God's diversity and celebrates their permanent, faithful and stable relationships with prayer, affirmation and words of blessing." Oakley spoke at the Greenbelt Festival in 2013 on the same theme.
Oakley is known for his interest in the ways literature and poetry explore theological themes and for his preaching, which is often both entertaining and noticeably rooted in his Anglicanism.[clarification needed] Whilst he was at the Actors' Church he was widely appreciated by the theatre community for his understanding and appreciation of its work. His initiative of having a series of sermons which explored plays that were currently showing in London, to which the actors and production team of each play came and took part in conversation, is an example of the way Oakley tries to open a dialogue between people of faith and the work of the artistic community. A lecture given by him at Westminster Abbey and Keble College, Oxford, in 2002 argued that the church in its search to be relevant was ironically becoming too secular for the British public and that it should be the deeper human resonances that the church seeks to identify, explore and dialogue with. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote in 2004 that Oakley's thinking and approach is in the tradition of Westcott. A more recent article by Oakley in the Church Times, entitled "An Issue! An Issue! We all Fall Down",  argues for the renewal of theological generosity in the Anglican spirit. In 2010, the former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, wrote a poem dedicated to Oakley entitled "In Winter" and said of him that: "It's extremely unusual to meet anyone who isn't a specialist who has such a subtle feeling for language as he does". Motion has since added that he believes Oakley to be "the best sermoniser I've ever heard. And he's funny, and he knows a lot, and he's lived."
In August 2016 Oakley published 'The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry' (Canterbury Press) of which the Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, wrote 'this beautiful and wise meditation centred around the soul language of poetry opens new windows in the shared house of both poetry and belief'. Rowan Williams has commented 'Some writers have the gift of simply letting you know you can trust them. Mark Oakley has this gift in abundance: in this book we read in his company a succession of very diverse poems; we listen to his honest, careful, demanding reflections on them; and we recognise that this is a deeply authentic voice that can be relied on not to give us either clichés or indulgent ramblings. A very moving book, opening all kinds of doors into a more compassionate, more truthful understanding'. The poet Imtiaz Dharker has said of the book: 'Even believing in poetry, he still leaves space for unease and uncertainties, because he of all people recognises that ‘there is no/ Road that is right entirely’. In doing so he illuminates the way for those who think they know the territory as well as for those who may be wary of it. Dipping in to this book, the spirit is cleansed in the sparkle of language'.
- Mark Oakley, The Collage of God, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2001.
- Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Lecture 2002. Spiritual Society, Secular Church? Private Prayer and Public Religion. (http://www.actorschurch.org/sharedassets/doc/ericabbo.pdf) Westminster Abbey and Keble College Oxford, May 2002.
- Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2004, p.83
- Church Times, 28 March 2008
- "A faith made stronger". Shropshire Star. 28 May 2016. pp. 20,61.Special Report by Shirley Tart.