Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Dean of Oxford, Martyn Percy, faces removal from office

Written by: on June 4, 2019

My heart is heavy. I cannot imagine what this week’s author has been through in the past 6 months. I am not sure we will get to meet him in London while we are there. Before I could even get to a review of our author, I found this…

The website churchtimes.co.uk has reported the dean at Oxford faces removal from his position. I quote, “A formal complaint has been made against the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Reverend Dr Martyn Percy. He will have to appear before a tribunal to defend himself and may be removed from office. The Cathedral Chapter and the college’s Governing Body, having seen the evidence presented by the complainants, have agreed that there is a case to answer, which, if proved, could constitute good cause for the removal of the dean from office. It is understood that there is a range of views on the issue in the Chapter. No details of the complaint have been made public, but it is believed to relate to an issue of poor governance raised by Dr Percy, including the setting of senior salaries at Christ Church, among them his own.” [1]

Something does not sit right in my spirit about this. I read further, “It is understood that Dr Percy was given no opportunity to challenge any of the evidence against him. Dr Percy is not talking to the press, but a college insider said: “Chapter and Governing Body did not invite the Dean to give any response to the complaint or put forward any documents of his own before making their decision.” [2]

What must he be going through right now? And his family, how difficult for them this must be! Is this what happens to reformists?

Another website, theguardian.com asserts this, “Reformist dean at Oxford ‘medieval fiefdom’ is being bullied, supporters claim.” [3] It continues, “Christ Church, one of Oxford’s most venerable colleges, was plunged into turmoil last week when its dean was suspended from duties and barred from taking services at his own cathedral after being challenged under archaic and opaque rules.The background, according to his supporters, is the dean’s efforts to modernize the arcane management of the college and reform its pay structures. They say his opponents want to oust him in order to preserve traditional hierarchies and privileges. One supporter said there was “no doubt” the dean was being bullied and intimidated.” [4]

It is my understanding this turmoil has caused Martyn Percy to take significant time off for sick leave, possibly causing him to lose significant weight. Percy, who I believe has presided over the college and the cathedral it contains for four years, is said to be deeply distressed by the complaint, according to friends, as the website telegraph.co.uk reports, “It has been claimed that Dr Percy, the first dean to be democratically elected in the College’s 494-year history, attempted to have members of the College’s salaries committee removed from their post when his request for a pay rise was blocked. The row between the dean and members of the College’s governing body escalated, with both sides exchanging legal letters. This culminated the Dr Percy being relieved from his duties, pending a tribunal which will be conducted later this year by a retired High Court judge. The data is clear – he was low paid by head of house standards or well paid by clerical standards,” a source told The Daily Telegraph. “You can see how it’s all got very bitter. £90,000 does look low – but it’s more than the Arch bishop of Canterbury. His current salary of £90,000 makes him one of the best paid clergymen in the country, but it is lower than the heads of some other Oxford colleges.” [5] That is remarkable, clergy deans are paid lower than other deans?

Wow!  This makes this week’s title either captivating or prophetic, Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy. Ian S. Markham writes, “Martyn does theology, sociology and anthropology not from the vantage point of the preacher in the pulpit or the academic in the ivory tower, but from WITHIN the communities of practice he is addressing—church, society and academy…He is not writing to those communities, but for them.” [6] Could this be in the end what is causing the rift at Oxford—he doesn’t fit in with the traditional?

Chapter 8 of our book is titled, “The Prudent Priest: Exercising ‘Good Sense’ for the Good of the Church”. [7] The author states some themes that this Cohort has discussed, like whether the current model of Pastor as entrepreneur and innovator is the best model, which favors leadership over formation of the virtues of “holiness, charity, hope, faith, and deep spiritual joy”. [8]

Chapter 14 held my attention the best, “Ministry As Occupation: The God Who Occupies Us”. [9] This quote of Percy’s is a beauty, “To put faith in the church and its work in the world, one must inevitably first put faith in the God who forms the church to gather as the body of Christ.” [10]

Most of all, we should pray for Oxford, Dr. Percy, his family, and the alumni of this amazing place, who include 13 British Prime Ministers and several members of royal families, including Kings and Princes.

On a much lighter note, the Christ’s Church website adds to this list the fact the Dean has the curious distinction of being the only living theologian to feature in Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code. [11]


[1] https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/9-november/news/uk/dean-of-oxford-martyn-percy-faces-removal-from-office.

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/17/oxford-bullying-claim-dean-christ-church.

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2019/03/05/oxford-dean-accused-trying-remove-tutors-salary-committee-pay/.

[6] Markham, Ian S., and Joshue Daniel. Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018. Loc 163.

[7] Ibid., Loc 2905.

[8] Ibid., Loc 2929.

[9] Ibid., Loc 5208.

[10] Ibid., Loc 5222.

[11] https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/staff/very-revd-professor-martyn-percy

  • Photo provided by the Guardian in the above article [3]

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

3 responses to “Dean of Oxford, Martyn Percy, faces removal from office”

  1. Mike says:

    Is this a case of “another one bites the dust?” It is almost like watching a ghost busters movie with all the fictional demonic spirits, forces, and powers harassing and undermining good. Yet, the fiction is not fiction, and there are real evil forces, principalities and powers, that wage war against humanity; especially against the likes of Dr. Martyn Percy.
    I am proud of your detective instincts. You “open carry” your theological – critical thinking well my friend!
    I think you could be right, about your comment on reformists. We always ask Why bad things happen to good people, but rarely call out and name the adversary. Nevertheless, nothing goes to waste in God’s economy and I am sure that no matter what the outcome, Percy’s contribution to doing church and planting the Gospel seeds will continue to produce spiritual fruit and create contextual space for the harvest of many souls.
    I think we would welcome him to the Colonial West, right? I bet he would like to go on a hunt with you.
    Jay, your investigative reporting is outstanding. Ministry, sports, and reporting….wonder where that might lead.
    Stand firm,

  2. Kyle Chalko says:

    Jay great post. I dove into some of Percy’s other reaings but I did not stop tolook around his personal life. Im glad you shared and yes it does not sit well in my spirit either. It would be great to get to see him Oxford, but who knows I guess

  3. Gosh Jay, your post was shocking to me when I pulled up our blog page right before I was getting ready to write my blog on Percy’s book. I had no idea about what was going on with him at Christ Church and appreciated you bringing this to our attention. I hope this all gets cleared up and his name gets cleared before we arrive so we can meet this fascinating man. It appears that because he is a rather radical guy in his thinking that some might want to get rid of him and his progressive thinking. Great post once again my friend.

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