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Martyn Percy

Martyn William Percy (born 31 July 1962) is a Church of England priest and academic. He has been the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, since October 2014[1] and was previously Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford.

The Very Reverend
Martyn Percy
Dean of Christ Church
Martyn Percy at Christ Church (cropped).jpg
Percy in 2017
Church Church of England
Diocese Oxford
Appointed 4 October 2014
Predecessor Christopher Lewis
Other posts Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon (2004–2014)
Ordination 1990 (deacon)
1991 (priest)
Personal details
Birth name Martyn William Percy
Born (1962-07-31) 31 July 1962 (age 55)
Nationality British
Denomination Anglicanism
Spouse Emma Percy (m. 1989)
Education Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood
Alma mater

Percy teaches in the Faculty of Theology and Religions, and is a Fellow of the Said Business School, University of Oxford. Percy is also Professor of Theological Education at King's College London and Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London. He also serves as a Visiting Professor of the Institute for the Study of Values at the University of Winchester (UK), is a Founding Fellow of the Center for Theologically Engaged Anthropology at the University of Georgia, and has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Hartford Seminary, Connecticut. He is an Emeritus Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, having previously served as an honorary canon. He has also been an Honorary Canon, serving later as Canon Theologian, at Sheffield Cathedral.

Percy's theological outlook is rooted in his long-standing commitment to middle-way Anglicanism. His writings fall into three distinct-but-related groups: ecclesiology; contemporary Christianity, religious movements and sociological trends; and spiritual devotional writings.[2] He has also written extensively about theological education, pastoral and practical theology.

In 2013, The Times Literary Supplement praised Percy for his work towards unity within the Anglican Communion and Church of England, describing him as displaying a "peaceable, polite and restrained" approach whilst "making peace between competing communities of conviction."[3]


Early life and educationEdit

Percy was born on 31 July 1962.[4] He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood, the University of Bristol (BA), the University of Durham (Cert. Counselling), King's College London (PhD, 1993) and the University of Sheffield (MEd). After a short career in publishing (1984–88), he trained for ordination at Durham.

Ordained ministryEdit

Percy was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 1990 and as a priest in 1991.[5] He served as a curate at St Andrew's, Bedford (1990–94), and was then appointed Chaplain and Director of Studies, Christ's College, Cambridge. In 1997 he was appointed as the Founding Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute – a research and consultancy body specialising in faith and society (initially based at Sheffield University, but is now a research centre within Manchester University). He left in 2004 to become principal at Cuddesdon.


Ripon College Cuddesdon developed significantly from 2004, during Percy's tenure as principal: it incorporated the Oxford Ministry Course (OMC) in 2006, and the West of England Ministerial Training Course (WEMTC) in 2011, making it the largest provider of Anglican ordination training in the UK. The college became internationally more active during Percy's period as principal: it works closely with the Anglican Church in Hong Kong and continues to have links with Anglican colleges in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. During Percy's time at Cuddesdon, the college moved from a distinctively liberal catholic ethos and progressively to the broader centre ground of Anglicanism, welcoming ordinands from across the ecclesial spectrum, thereby reclaiming the "non-party" ethos that Bishop Samuel Wilberforce had founded the college with in 1854.

During Percy's tenure, the multi-award-winning Edward King Chapel (which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2013) and a new education centre (Harriet Monsell House) were built. The college also became the first to incorporate a community of Anglican sisters, and to work alongside staff and students offering support in prayer and spirituality, whilst continuing to develop their own ministries of spiritual direction.

Dean of Christ ChurchEdit

It was announced on 7 May 2014 that Percy would become the 45th Dean of Christ Church in Oxford.[6] He was the first dean to be democratically elected by the governing body, and was inducted into the deanship on 4 October 2014. Christ Church is the only academic institution in the world which is also a Cathedral – being the seat of the Bishop of Oxford. In common with other Cathedral Deans, Percy, as Dean of Christ Church, is the senior priest of the Diocese of Oxford.

Percy is also the Patron of St Francis' Children's Society (an Adoption and Fostering Agency with a Roman Catholic foundation), a governor of Christ Church Cathedral School, Westminster School and St Edward's School, Oxford, a trustee of the Grubb Institute, Gladstone's Library (Harwarden) and the Li Tim-Oi Foundation.

Other rolesEdit

Percy has also undertaken a number of roles in public life, specialising in media and consumer affairs. He has served as a Director and Council member of the Advertising Standards Authority (1999–2006). He was previously an Advisor on the 'Faith Zone' for the New Millennium Experience Company and the Millennium Dome in London (1999). From 2006–2008, he was a member of the Theology and Religious Studies Panel for the HEFCE Research Assessment Exercise. He has also recently served as a member of the Independent Complaints Panel for the Portman Group, the self-regulating body for the alcoholic drinks industry. He has served as Commissioner for the Direct Marketing Authority (2008–2014), and currently serves as an Advisor to the British Board of Film Classification. He was the elected Chair of the Cuddesdon and Denton Parish Council from 2007–2014.


Percy's theology is generally considered to represent the liberal tradition in the Church of England.[7][8][9] His viewpoints typically argue for the "middle ground" between evangelical and catholic positions, and appeals to Anglican comprehensiveness, the tradition of respecting theological differences.[10] Percy's main interlocutors in his writings comprise a trinity of American theologians: Daniel W. Hardy, Urban T. Holmes III, and James F. Hopewell. Percy is a proponent of "generous orthodoxy", and argues for a theological approach that copes with "serious forms of dispute and threat[s] of schism".[11][12]

Percy has adopted a progressive outlook on a number of social issues, such as LGBTQ rights and the ordination of women.[13][14] However his writings affirm orthodox Christian positions on the incarnation, atonement, resurrection and ascension; he has consistently defended the historicity of Jesus’ healing and nature miracles.[15] Noted for his work on fundamentalism and revivalism, for which he engages with sociology and anthropology, he was described in the academic journal Theology, by Nigel Rooms, as the British theologian who is the closest to being a "missionary anthropologist."[16]

In 2002, Percy co-founded the Society for the Study of Anglicanism with Tom Hughson, which meets annually at the American Academy of Religion and is now in a full partnership with Virginia Theological Seminary. Percy has served as Chair of Committee (the oversight body) for Cliff College – a Methodist bible college in the evangelical-charismatic tradition – and also works with a number of other evangelical groups. He is a vice-president of Modern Church[17] and has been a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford since 2004. From 2014 he has also taught for the Said Business School and for the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford.

Percy has been a regular contributor to The Guardian, BBC Radio Four, and the BBC World Service.


Anglican unityEdit

Percy has spoken and written about the threat of schism in the Anglican Communion, arguing that churches should embrace the diversity of belief that exists, rather than allowing such divisions to result in separation.[18] In anticipation of the October 2003 Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting, which took place in the wake of the ordination of Gene Robinson as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, the Communion's first openly gay bishop, he wrote of the need for a "slight loosening of the ties", in order to avoid a divorce. Illustrating this, he described Anglicanism as an "archipelago – a connection of provincial islands that shares doctrinal, liturgical and cultural aspects", as opposed to being "one vast, catholic continent."[19] He made similar remarks following Jeffrey John's withdrawal as Bishop of Reading, in July 2003, suggesting that the debate on gay rights should instead be shifted towards reflecting on the "more central gospel themes."[20]

Church leadershipEdit

Percy has been critical of Justin Welby's leadership as Archbishop of Canterbury, in particular his "managerial" style.[21] Percy described Welby's plans to send senior clergy on leadership courses, contained in the 2014 report of the Lord Green Steering Group,[22] as showing a poor judgment of the church's priorities and lacking in theological understanding.[23] He went on to say that Welby's targets for efficiency and growth were not reflective of the Christian mission, given that Jesus "didn't spend a lot of time going on about success."[24]

In August 2016, Percy renewed his criticism of Welby, describing the direction he was leading the Church of England as being "driven by mission-minded middle managers" that alienated congregations and the wider British public. He also raised further concerns about plans to divert funding away from traditional rural parishes and towards evangelical inner-city churches, warning that "it will take more to save the Church of England than a blend of the latest management theory."[25] Percy has also commented on an emerging theological anaemia among bishops in the Church of England, and highlighted the weaknesses and risks this poses for Anglican polity.[26]

LGBTQ rightsEdit

In an essay published in December 2015, Percy outlined his views on homosexuality, questioning the teaching that it is sinful and unnatural. Regarding the controversy surrounding the issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion, he noted that the church's position has alienated an increasingly progressive country, particularly the younger generation of Christians in Britain; [27] he also called on Justin Welby to formally apologise for the church's role in introducing homophobic teachings to cultures across the British Empire, during the 19th century:[28]

In 41 of the 53 countries within the British Commonwealth, homosexual conduct is still regarded as a serious crime. This categorisation and legal stigmatisation of homosexuality was largely 'made in England' in the nineteenth century, and imposed on cultures and emerging countries and that had not been, hitherto, homophobic. This is one of England's less wholesome exports. The Archbishop of Canterbury could begin the Primates' meeting by accepting responsibility for the part the Church of England has played in perpetrating this discrimination and the subsequent injustices – and publicly repenting of them.[29]

Just days before the commencement of the January 2016 Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting, Percy joined with over 100 other senior Anglicans, including Alan Wilson (Bishop of Buckingham) and David Ison (Dean of St Paul's),[30] in calling on Archbishops Welby and Sentamu to acknowledge the failings of the Anglican Communion in its treatment of LGBTQ people.[31] Following the decision of the Primates to penalise the US Episcopal Church, for voting to redefine marriage at its 2015 General Convention, Percy expressed his disappointment. He went on to say that the meeting's statement regarding this action, "had nothing to say about LGBT Christians, and that's a lost opportunity."[32]

Party politicsEdit

In the wake of the United Kingdom EU membership referendum in June 2016, Percy has argued that a national "failure of liberal values" was made evident by the result.[33] He has also suggested the need for a more "broad church" approach to British party politics, potentially in the form of a new centre-left party that is "authentically rooted in modern, progressive socialism, and equally true to modern, progressive, democratic liberal values".[34]

Women bishopsEdit

Following the General Synod's narrow rejection of a motion to legalise the ordination of women as bishops in November 2012, Percy wrote in The Daily Telegraph, criticising church leaders for failing to create sufficient consensus about the issue. He described the view of opponents to the motion as maintaining a "conceit of modern times" by their fundamentalist rejection of diversity. He also voiced the need for the church to be "transformed by the renewal of our minds" in its approach to the inclusion of women in the Anglican Communion, by moving towards a "new future."[35] In February 2017 he suggested that Bishop Philip North either decline his nomination to the Diocese of Sheffield, or renounce the views of The Society (a conservative Anglo-catholic body which does not recognize or receive the ministry of ordained women, or men ordained by women bishops).[36] North later declined the nomination to the See of Sheffield. [37] In March 2017, while talking about differences in the Church of England over women bishops and referring to discussion of such disagreements as "mutual flourishing", Percy stated on BBC Radio 4 that "mutual flourishing does not mean that you accord equal status to discriminatory views". When asked whether his own stated position demonstrated a form of "liberal intolerance", he replied "I don't think you can honestly say that to be (resistant to) discrimination is a form of intolerance."[38]

Personal lifeEdit

Percy has the distinction of being the only living theologian mentioned and quoted in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code (chapter 55), where Sir Leigh Teabing (played by Ian McKellen in the 2006 film adaption) says, "Everything you need to know about the Bible can be summed up by the great canon doctor Martyn Percy: 'The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.' "[39]

Percy is married to Emma Percy, who is chaplain and fellow at Trinity College, Oxford, and together they have two sons. He is a member of the Labour Party, a teetotaler and a lifelong supporter of Everton Football Club. His hobbies include playing squash, cinema and listening to jazz.

Published worksEdit


  1. ^ "New Dean installed at Christ Church". Diocese of Oxford. 6 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Simon Coleman (2016). Abby Day, ed. "Locating the Church". Contemporary issues in the Worldwide Communion. Ashgate. pp. 213–228. 
  3. ^ Peter Cornwell (25 October 2013). "Quiet, please". Times Literary Supplement. p. 29. 
  4. ^ Percy, The Very Revd Professor Martyn William. Who's Who (December 2013 online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. Retrieved 7 May 2014.   
  5. ^ "Martyn William Percy" . Crockford's Clerical Directory (online ed.). Church House Publishing. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Deanery of Christ Church, Oxford: Reverend Canon Professor Martyn Percy". GOV.UK. Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Mark Vasey-Saunders (2015). The Scandal of Evangelicals and Homosexuality: English Evangelical Texts, 1960–2010. Ashgate Publishing. 
  8. ^ Walton, Andy (11 February 2016). "Evangelical college stands by decision to invite liberal professor to preach". Christian Today. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  9. ^ Percy, Martyn (February 2010). "Why Liberal Churches are Growing?" (pdf). Affirming Liberalism. The prayer then, for all liberals in the third Millennium, is that we will continue to recover and rediscover the graciously liberal God 
  10. ^ Martyn Percy (2013). Anglicanism: Confidence, Commitment and Communion. Ashgate. 
  11. ^ Martyn Percy (2013). Thirty-Nine New Articles: An Anglican Landscape of Faith. Canterbury Press. 
  12. ^ Gavin D'Costa web (June 2008). "Engaging with Contemporary Culture article". International Journal of Public Theology, Vol. 2, issue 3. p. 162. 
  13. ^ Mark Vasey-Saunders (2015). The Scandal of Evangelicals and Homosexuality: English Evangelical Texts, 1960–2010. Ashgate Publishing. 
  14. ^ Walton, Andy (11 February 2016). "Evangelical college stands by decision to invite liberal professor to preach". Christian Today. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  15. ^ Martyn Percy (1997). Power and the Church: Ecclesiology in an Age of Transition. Cassell. 
  16. ^ Nigel Rooms (2012). "Deep listening: A call for missionary anthropology" (PDF). Theology. Sage Publications. 115 (2): 99–108. 
  17. ^ "Who we are". Modern Church. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  18. ^ Martyn Percy (4 November 2006). "Face to faith". The Guardian. 
  19. ^ Martyn Percy (11 October 2003). "Breaking up is hard to do". The Guardian. 
  20. ^ Martyn Percy (12 July 2003). "Call off the canon fire". The Guardian. 
  21. ^ Martyn Percy (2017). The Future of Shapes of Anglicanism: Currents, Contours, Charts. Routledge Publishing. 
  22. ^ "Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A New Approach" (PDF). Church of England. September 2014. 
  23. ^ Barney Thompson (17 December 2014). "Church of England management courses overlook God, say critics". Financial Times. 
  24. ^ Mark Greaves. "God's management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation". The Spectatordate=18 July 2015. 
  25. ^ Harriet Sherwood (13 August 2016). "Top cleric says Church of England risks becoming a 'suburban sect'". The Guardian. 
  26. ^ "95 New Theses". ArchbishopCranmer. 3 January 2017. 
  27. ^ Martyn Percy (2017). The Future of Shapes of Anglicanism: Currents, Contours, Charts. Routledge Publishing. 
  28. ^ Nick Duffy (20 December 2015). "Archbishop of Canterbury 'should apologise' for Church homophobia". PinkNews. 
  29. ^ Martyn Percy (15 December 2015). "Sex, Sense and Non-Sense for Anglicans". Modern Church. p. 4. 
  30. ^ "Published Signatories". Open Letter to Archbishops – Jan 2016. 7 January 2016. 
  31. ^ "'Repent' call to Church over gay Christian treatment". BBC News. 10 January 2016. 
  32. ^ Harriet Sherwood; Rowena Mason (15 January 2016). "Chris Bryant quits Church of England over its views on homosexuality". The Guardian. 
  33. ^ Greg Garrett (7 July 2016). "Brexit Reminds Us: We Need "Liberal Values"". Huffington Post. 
  34. ^ Kieran Bohan (30 June 2016). "After Brexit - Can we find a broad and middle way? Senior cleric calls for new social-progressive political party". Modern Church. 
  35. ^ Martyn Percy (21 November 2012). "Women bishops: a failure of leadership". Daily Telegraph. 
  36. ^ Martyn Percy. Modern Church  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^ Harriet Sherwood.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^ "Sunday programme, 12 March 2017". BBC Radio Four website. Retrieved 12 March 2017. 
  39. ^ "How the Church is deciphering The Code". Church Times. 2 November 2006. 

External linksEdit

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Christopher Lewis
Dean of Christ Church
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Clarke
Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon
Succeeded by
Humphrey Southern