Church, John

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ca. 1783-?

British clergyman

Church was a foundling, discovered on the steps of St. John's Church Clerkenwell, (hence his name) or St. Andrew's Church Holborn as a young toddler, barely able to walk. He was sent to the Foundling Hospital until he was nine, when he was indentured to a gilder, in an attempt to stop his sexual experimentation with the other boys.

In 1801 he married (his wife died in 1813, having borne him six children), but he was already beginning a life as a preacher. However he was actively and openly gay, and his sexual relationships with his male congregants led to him being hounded from a number of churches. He soon became involved in gay taverns and brothels in London, but continued to preach at the same time. He is recorded as having officiated at homosexual marriages at The White Swan, Vere Street, and his correspondence shows he was quite possibly an originator of Christian gay pride. He was tried a number of time for homosexual offences and served time in prison.

He disappears from the public record in 1824; nothing is known of him after that date. He is remembered as probably the first openly gay ordained Christian minister in England.


Norton, Rictor. "Rev. John Church, England's First Gay Minister." Available at:


Uk/great Britain
18th Century
19th Century
Sexuality: Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transsexuals
Birth Identity Disputed or Deliberately Concealed
Exile or Persecution (religious, Political or Social)
Criminal Convictions, Imprisonment
Pre-school Years
Foundlings and Feral Children
Others ("Strangers")
Institutional Care
Tracing Impossible or Birth Family Extinct
Related Topics
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