Mark Oakley

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Mark Oakley
Dean of St John's College, Cambridge
DioceseDiocese of Ely
In office2018–present
PredecessorDuncan Dormor
Other postsArchdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe (2005–2008)
Canon Treasurer of St Paul's (2010–2013)
Canon Chancellor of St Paul's (2013–2018)
Ordination1993 (deacon)
1994 (priest)
by David Hope
Personal details
Birth nameMark David Oakley
Born (1968-09-28) 28 September 1968 (age 51)
EducationShrewsbury School
Alma materKing's College London
St Stephen's House, Oxford

Mark David Oakley (born 28 September 1968) is a British Church of England priest. He is Dean of St John's College, Cambridge, and a former residentiary canon of St Paul's Cathedral (London).

Early life[edit]

Oakley was born on 28 September 1968 in Shrewsbury and was educated at Shrewsbury School, where he was awarded a Rank Foundation[1] Leadership Award, 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 David Hope.


Oakley served as assistant curate of St John's Wood Church from 1993 to 1996. He was then asked by Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, to serve as his chaplain, which he did from 1996 to 2000. He was made a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to Elizabeth II in 1996. In 2000, he became Rector of St Paul's, Covent Garden.

In 2005, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, appointed Oakley as 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 Grosvenor Chapel, 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, as a residentiary canon, initially as Canon Treasurer. In 2013, he became Canon Chancellor; in that role he was responsible for educational work and engagement with the arts.

Oakley resigned from St Paul's Cathedral to become Dean of St John's College, Cambridge, from Michaelmas 2018.


Oakley wrote a popular book called The Collage of God[2] 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" [3] 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."[citation needed] Oakley spoke at the Greenbelt Festival in 2013 on the same theme. He preached in 2017 at St-Martin-in-the-Fields in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales: [4]

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] While he was at the Actors' Church he was widely appreciated by the theatre community for his understanding and appreciation of its work.[citation needed] 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.[5] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote in 2004 that Oakley's thinking and approach is in the tradition of Westcott.[6] A more recent article by Oakley in the Church Times, entitled "An Issue! An Issue! We all Fall Down",[7] 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."[citation needed]

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'.

In 2018 the Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, asked Oakley to be a judge of the 2018 Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry.

Other interests[edit]

Oakley is a Trustee of the Civil Liberties Trust (Liberty), Patron of Tell MAMA and an ambassador for Stop Hate UK. He received one of the first National Hate Crime Awards in 2016. He is a visiting lecturer in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at King's College London and was appointed a visiting scholar of Sarum College in 2017. He was also President of the Shropshire Horticultural Society, when it held Shrewsbury Flower Show for 2014.[8]


  1. ^ "The Rank Foundation". The Rank Foundation. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  2. ^ Mark Oakley, The Collage of God, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2001.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "A service to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967". St Martin-in-the-Fields. 29 July 2017.
  5. ^ Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Lecture 2002. Spiritual Society, Secular Church? Private Prayer and Public Religion. ( Westminster Abbey and Keble College Oxford, May 2002.
  6. ^ Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2004, p.83
  7. ^ Church Times, 28 March 2008
  8. ^ "A faith made stronger". Shropshire Star. 28 May 2016. pp. 20, 61.Special Report by Shirley Tart.