Archbishop Jonathan Blake
Jonathan Blake was born in 1956. He survived an air flight emergency in his childhood. Having graduated from Durham, where he opened one of the first fair trade shops, he smuggled bibles and equipment into eastern Europe for oppressed Christian communities, was tear gassed in Teheran, seized by machine gun toting guards in Kabul before working with Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. He lived alongside the destitute, escaped an attempt on his life and raised over £20,000 to support the poor, including the Howrah TB Hospital. He went about barefoot and carried sick children from the streets for treatment. He was ordained in 1981 and ministered as an Anglican cleric for the next 12 years.
During this time he slept on the streets to highlight the plight of the homeless, took Mass in rags to remember the poor, caused controversy by writing that workers at armament’s factories had ‘blood on their hands’, organised an inter-faith and international ‘peace’ bus for young people to Auschwitz and onto Moscow, travelled to Kenya, Pakistan and Switzerland to promote peace and justice and secured NHS funding for one of the first inter-faith hospital chapels.
In 1990 he wrote a biblical quotation on the Houses of Parliament, during a peaceful protest at the bombing of the Iraqi conscripts during the first Gulf War. He was arrested and charged and appealed to the High Court.
In 1994 he relinquished his office within the Church of England to pioneer the provision of Christian ministry independent of any denomination. In the following six years he baptised over 1000 children in homes, gardens and community centres around the UK. He hit the headlines with a baptism on the top of Mount Snowdon and in a circus ring; with a wedding underwater and over the Internet.
He was the first cleric to advertise his willingness to provide marriage ceremonies for the LGBT community, which resulted in him performing hundreds across the UK and abroad.
In 1999 his book, ‘For God’s Sake Don’t Go To Church’ was published, and he nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of Canterbury cathedral, was arrested but not charged.
In 2000 he co-founded the Society for Independent Christian Ministry and was consecrated a bishop. The following year he co-founded the Open Episcopal Church.
In 2001 he conducted the first gay wedding on prime time TV, on Richard and Judy's 'This Morning' Show and subsequently sued Associated Newspapers for defamation.
He co-consecrated the first women bishop for England in 2003, Professor Elizabeth Stuart.
He helped the homeless, providing accommodation for them, including using his own home. He took Holy Communion to the sex workers in Soho and food packages and hot water bottles to the street dwellers.
In 2006 he was elected Presiding Archbishop of the Open Episcopal Church
In 2007 he consecrated the first woman bishop for Wales.
The Open Episcopal Church has grown under his archiepiscopate, attracting clergy from the Anglican church and other denominations, ordaining gay and lesbian clergy and making the sacraments of baptism and communion available to all, even posting the consecrated elements of Holy Communion to people across the world.
In 2008 he was arrested for taking his children onto the roof for a school reading competition. He was released without charge when it was shown that he had used safety harnesses. However the police mistreatment he suffered led him to take out a private prosecution against the arresting officer for assault and found a campaign group ‘When No One’s Watching, to advise people about how to protect themselves against police malpractice. He also became an Independent Custody Visitor under the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, regularly inspecting the local police cells to check on the welfare of the detainees.
In 2009, he came to international attention when he was asked to conduct the wedding blessing of the celebrity star Jade Goody.
In 2012 he consecrated the first woman bishop for Scotland.
In 2013 he was invited to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister as a long standing campaigner for equal marriage.
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