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Obituary: The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill

17 December 2021

Correspondents write:

THE Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill was a deeply humble man, who never dreamt of celebrating his own achieve­­­ments. Since the announce­ment of his death on 1 November, former colleagues and friends have paid tribute to him as a man of “great humility and integrity”, “a kind and gentle ambassador of the gospel”, who “modelled such humble and gentle leadership”. Those close to him also remember his wry humour and jokes from conversation and his sermons.

Jonathan was never the loudest person in the room, but was deeply caring, and always took time to listen to people. This helped him to understand the communities around him and taught him how to serve them, and to help them to grow. He had a profound sense of mission, and his quiet, selfless dedication made others want to support him.

Jonathan always welcomed new­comers to his churches. His ser­mons, accompanied by his own simple illustrations, made you feel as if he were speaking directly to you. He reached out to different groups in the community and gained their support: families, young people, those struggling with faith, and those without faith.

He was a great encourager of others and delighted in working with so many different people and families. Throughout his ministry, he built strong teams and enabled the talents and personalities around him to shine.

His desire to share the gospel led him to plant new churches and extend church buildings to accom­modate growing numbers to make Church more welcoming and acces­­s­ible to all. This commitment to growth helped him to complete new church-building projects in both Folkestone and Canterbury in the 1980s and 1990s.

Jonathan also cared for the lost and lonely. He fed and gave shelter to the homeless from his own kitchen and churches, and worked with local organisations and char­ities to extend this mission further. He took time to listen and pray with people when they needed it most, and helped the destitute to get back on their feet.

Jonathan had a degree in modern languages and continued to reach out to people in his post as Bishop to the Old Catholics of Europe. He enjoyed speaking to people in their own language, and loved visiting churches in different countries and continents, where he often made life-long friends.

Jonathan was passionate about social justice and creating positive change. He fully endorsed the ordina­tion of women, and was de­­lighted to be part of the service for the ordination of women in Can­­ter­bury in 1994. He deliberately pro­moted women to important posts within the church organi­sation.

Jonathan started his ministry as a curate at All Saints’, Marple, and then at Holy Trinity, Folkestone, where he had respon­si­bility for St George’s. He was Vicar of St Mary Bredin, in Can­terbury, and a tutor at the Canterbury School of Ministry from 1983 to 1996. He served as Rural Dean of Canter­­bury from 1988 to 1994, and was appointed an Hon. Canon of Canter­bury Ca­­thed­­­ral in 1992.

He was consecrated bishop for the suf­­fragan see of South­ampton in 1996, was trans­lated to Lichfield in 2003, and served until his retirement in 2015. During this time, he wrote Lead­ing a Local Church in the Age of the Spirit (SPCK, 2003), based on his experi­ence of ministry.

Jonathan suffered from Parkinson’s at the end of his life, but con­tinued to sup­port charities locally and internationally. He felt passion­ately about family and im­­proving the lives of others, and he en­­cour­­aged others to follow their passions, too.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Michael Gled­hill died on 1 November, aged 72.

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