Dean of Wells: John Harverd Davies

Press release from Number 10

Dean of Wells: John Harverd Davies

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
First published: 23 August 2016

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Very Reverend John Harverd Davies to the Deanery of the Cathedral Church of St Andrew in Wells.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Very Reverend John Harverd Davies, MA, MPhil, PhD, Dean of Derby, to be appointed to the Deanery of the Cathedral Church of St Andrew in Wells, on the resignation of the Very Reverend John Martin Clarke, BD, MA, on his resignation of 31 December 2015.

Notes for Editors

The Very Reverend Dr John Davies (aged 58) studied at Keble College, Oxford and then at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge for his MPhil, before doing his Doctorate at Lancaster University.

He studied for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge. His first curacy was at Liverpool Parish Church, from 1984 to 1987 and he then moved to Peterborough Parish Church, from 1987 to 1990 and was also Minor Canon at Peterborough Cathedral from 1988 to 1990.

From 1990 to 1994 he was Vicar at St Margaret, Anfield in Liverpool diocese, before taking up the post in 1994 as Chaplain, Fellow and Director of Studies in Theology at Keble College, Oxford where he was until 1999. From 1999 to 2010 he was Vicar of Melbourne, in Derby diocese whilst also serving as Diocesan Director of Ordinands. From 2007 to 2010 he was also Priest-in- Charge of Ticknall, Smisby and Stanton by Bridge in Derby diocese. Since 2010 he has been Dean of Derby.

His interests include foreign travel, hospitality and walking.


  • Laurence Cunnington says:

    “His interests include … walking.”

    On the flat, as well as on hills! This is something of a departure.

  • Is he used to walking with the poor, needy and outcast?

  • Stephen Griffiths says:

    John was a DDO in Derby Diocese when I was exploring my vocation. I really enjoyed my conversations with him and he helped me understand more of the breadth of the Church of England. He’ll be in my prayers as this new chapter begins.

  • Kate says:

    It wasn’t the walking which caught my eye but the other two interests. I’m really sceptical whether a senior member of the Church should indulge themselves in either foreign travel or hospitality to the degree that they are interests rather than, say, doing charitable work.

    I realise that not everyone is called to poverty, self-sacrifice and charity but I don’t believe the church should be promoting anybody who isn’t called to such things. So no criticism attaches to John himself, but I think our sens of priorities when promoting people has become seriously skewed and we are giving greater weight to worldly experience than to Christian virtues.

  • Kate says:

    Actually the Cathedral website gives a bit more;

    “John enjoys speaking and writing. He spoke in a number of cathedrals in autumn 2015, and in 2016 is to be Foundation Lecturer at Winchester University. He is a reviewer for the Church Times newspaper.

    “The Dean is now very much involved in a project to establish a new Derby Cathedral School, a secondary school at the heart of the city. In recent years the Dean has led previous projects to rewire, relight and redecorate the Cathedral. A new sound system, new staging, and new arrangements in the Cathedral Centre have all been introduced in his time at Derby Cathedral.

    “John enjoys a good car, gardening and hospitality.”

    I suspect John does more than the bio from the Prime Minister’s Office suggests. I don’t think that office is doing the church any favours with its write ups.

    And no mention anywhere of a wife (or husband). And about time too. Probably a very decent candidate, ill-served by the various press offices. But still, as a church we are not recognising and rewarding asceticism in our promotions and that seems to me a very big mistake.

  • Fr William says:

    I echo Stephen Griffiths in his comments about John’s work as DDO. He served me extraordinarily well too. He has a sparkling wit, and was well known, and remains fondly remembered, by the inhabitants of Melbourne, just up the road from here. He runs a tight ship and expects discipline. As to asceticism, I don’t agree that it is a sine qua non. I see no reason why Deans should not enjoy some of the good things of life like cars, food and wine. Is there not some hint in Holy Scripture that Our Lord was interested in two of these three?

  • I agree with Fr.William; we don’t need to be wowsers to follow Christ. After all, did he not turn water into the very best wine? I have even heard of stern Presbyterian ministers who would confess to enjoying ‘a wee drappee of the harrrd stuff’ As for cars, I once enjoyed nipping around in my Mazda MX5, taking the Sacrament to the sick.

  • Kate says:

    William there’s a world of difference between enjoying good food when it is offered to us and listing foreign travel or owning a good car as interests. We should enjoy good things but presbyters are shepherds and a key aspect of their role is setting a good example. Who is better as an example, when promotions are considered, someone who gives any excess money they have to the poor and to the church, or someone who indulges themselves with luxuries like foreign travel and fast cars?

    We often talk here as though sex is the biggest issue facing Christians in the West. It isn’t. Wealth is. And almost all Christians – me included – are complicit with each other in making excuses for how much wealth we claim to need, when really it is simply want. The church has a major role to play in pushing back against that trend by making asceticism one of the big factors when considering promotions.

  • Kate, there is a signifcant instance where Jesus criticises the critics of his own feasting disciples; “Why should my disciples fast while the Bridegroon is still with them”. I suspect the critical Pharisees were more disciplinary with other than with themselves. Only those of us who are truly ascetical should ever expect others to be like them – or, perhaps rather; like Jesus.

  • Father David says:

    How come the appointment of the next Dean of Wells is attracting more comments than the retirement of the Archbishop of Wales? At the time of writing
    + Barry’s ecclesiastical departure hasn’t gleaned a single word of comment. Surely someone on the other side of Offa’s Dyke would like to say something about the retirement of their spiritual leader after so many years of service in the Walian section of the Lord’s Vineyard?

  • Fr William says:

    Kate – there is much to discuss but this is not the forum and anyway there are more cosmic concerns. Top of my head briefly: (1) 39 articles number 26. (2) there are many different ways of exercising priesthood, pastoring being only one. (3) I live in the real world with dependants and retirement considerations and I make the decisions I think are appropriate about what I do with my money. and (4) I don’t think I want to be a member of your sect. If that means I am doomed to hell, so be it. Heaven for climate, hell for society (Mark Twain).

  • Rod Gillis says:

    @ Kate, “I’m really sceptical whether a senior member of the Church should indulge themselves in either foreign travel or hospitality to the degree that they are interests rather than, say, doing charitable work.”

    A rather moralistic verdict, don’t you find?

    For a Thinking Anglicans thread, this one appears rather jejune.

  • Kate says:

    William, without using the words I think you have hit the nail on the head. We have career clerics for whom it is about a regular monthly income, a house, pension and the like. I struggle to see much difference between a professionalised priesthood and the money changers Jesus drove from the temple. Your mileage may differ.

    Nor would I describe my views dismissively as a sect. Pope Francis lives in a 50m² apartment. Why should any priest, Anglican or Catholic, have more? Pope Francis has also said that priests need to live lives much closer to those lived by the poor and homeless. You clearly dislike my views but since on this issue I seem to be keeping company with the Pope, I think I am very much on trend.

    Ron Smith makes my points with admirable clarity, saying

    “Only those of us who are truly ascetical should ever expect others to be like them – or, perhaps rather; like Jesus.”

    How can the church teach on wealth and poverty without being hypocritical unless ordinands are visible examples of model behaviour?

  • Mary Clara says:

    I am shocked at Kate’s judgmental attitude. Neither foreign travel nor hospitality is necessarily self-indulgent or inappropriate for a Christian leader.

    The newly-appointed Dean did not say that he was fond of indulging in luxury cruises to exotic locales! One can travel to other countries on mission or to do volunteer work, to carry out professional duties, to help build international, ecumenical, and cross-cultural relationships, or in order to develop greater understanding of the life circumstances and cultural contexts in which other people live. Journeys of these kinds would surely help to equip a person to provide better leadership in the church. I can’t think why anyone would object to such an interest.

    As for hospitality, again, why would anyone jump to the conclusion that this refers to a self-indulgent activity inappropriate for a Christian clergyman?? Hospitality is a virtuous activity which Jews and Christians are exhorted to practice (just start with Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18 and carry on from there). It is an attitude and an orientation toward both our fellow human beings, the creation, and the divine. We are meant to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide listening space for the voices that are otherwise unheard, and create space in our hearts to welcome the Christ child and receive the Holy Spirit. Every meal we serve can be not only nourishment to our family and guests but a welcoming of Christ in our midst. Every Eucharistic table is a hospitality table. In our parish, the main Sunday service is followed by what we call the hospitality hour, a time in which (having been fed at Christ’s table) we take turns welcoming and feeding each other, greeting both longtime friends and newcomers and building up our community life. If you think ‘hospitality’ is just a secular, consumerist, indulgent hobby, Kate, I suggest you google ‘theology of hospitality’ and begin familiarizing yourself with the deep roots of this aspect of our faith.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    “Pope Francis lives in a 50m² apartment.”

    Where do the grand kids stay when they come to visit ‘poppy’? Oh..wait…

  • Kate says:

    “One can travel to other countries on mission or to do volunteer work, to carry out professional duties, to help build international, ecumenical, and cross-cultural relationships…”

    With the UK now being such a multi-cultural society and with such a need for mission in the UK with falling numbers attending church, you have hardly failed to justify foreign travel as an interest. Your points on hospitality are much more relevant but I was aware of them already. Had the interests stated been walking, hospitality and (say) book reading clubs that would have painted a very different picture than foreign travel and hospitality. You can’t unpick it and consider each interest separately, the impression is a gestalt of the combination of interests.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Every morning I say my prayers, one of which includes, ” Vouchsafe O Lord thy church Pension plan, where thy portfolio is over-weighted balance it, for the sake of thy humble pensioners. amen.”

  • Mary Clara says:

    Kate, book-reading clubs? Really? That sounds much too frivolous an interest for a man of God. Surely he ought to be confining himself to his sparsely-furnished cell, reading devotional literature in solitude rather than frittering away time in clubs?

    Seriously, the more you try to justify your prejudices here the less convincing your arguments become.

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