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Mark David Oakley 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 also appointed a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to the Queen in 1996.
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 rhought
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 (1996–2000). 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. He has contributed several essays to various books and reviews in several 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 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 in 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, recently wrote 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".
- 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.