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St John’s Dean of Chapel to lead Anglican mission agency

The Reverend Duncan Dormor, who is currently Dean of Chapel at St John’s College, is to become Chief Executive Officer of United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) – a global Christian charity that works in close partnership with local communities and churches.

It means that he will be leaving St John’s, where he has worked and taught for almost 20 years, at the end of 2017.

Founded in 1701, USPG is an Anglican mission agency, which enables local churches in more than 30 countries to transform people’s lives for the better. It supports a huge range of initiatives, among them projects that improve healthcare, tackle poverty, give children access to education, challenge discrimination, and help to tackle gender-based violence and empower women. USPG helps people regardless of their beliefs or background.

Duncan joined St John’s in 1998, initially as Chaplain, before becoming Dean of Chapel in 2002. In that role, he has had overall responsibility for the pastoral care of members of College, as well as oversight of the Chapel and the work of the Choir. At the same time, he has been Director of Studies in Theology at St John’s, and teaches anthropology and sociology of religion in the University.

From 2011 until 2015, Duncan also served as College President, a wide-ranging role that involves supporting and representing the interests of the Fellows, as well as assisting with the appointment and induction of new Fellows, among other duties.

Much of his recent academic research has examined questions of sexuality, marriage and relationships in the Anglican Church. He co-edited a collection of essays by Cambridge theologians entitled An Acceptable Sacrifice? Homosexuality and the Church; and has also collaborated with a group of academic lawyers on an international project considering the rights of intersex and transgender people. His next book, to be published later this year, is a co-authored title on Pope Francis and “the renewal of the Church”.

Duncan says that there have been plenty of highlights during his time at St John’s – not least the opportunity to work with three “extraordinary talented and stimulating” Directors of Music; Christopher Robinson, David Hill and Andrew Nethsingha. He has particularly enjoyed being part of some of the major landmarks in the College’s religious and musical life, such as the quincentenary celebrations in 2011, the Choir’s participation in the commemoration of the D-Day landings in June 2014, the introduction of webcast Chapel services, and the recent launch of a College music label.

“It has been a real pleasure to have been part of the community of St John’s for the last 19 years and to say that I will miss it is a very great understatement,” Duncan added. “It is a warm and friendly place, but I have also learnt a great deal from many people within the College, the extended Johnian family, and through the vibrant life of the Chapel.”

“I have enjoyed the opportunities to teach and be a tutor and generally work with students, but I have also appreciated other opportunities, especially some projects relating to the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 2007. Most notably, this included a schools’ project which produced new material for the history curriculum emphasising the part played by individuals who had themselves been enslaved, like Olaudah Equiano, alongside the Johnians and abolition campaigners Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.”

As Chief Executive Officer of USPG, Duncan will be responsible for leading the organisation and overseeing its development and strategic direction.

Much of its work is concentrated on communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the agency and its partners also run projects in many other countries. Its current and recent initiatives include an effort to support counselling and treatment for people with HIV in Zimbabwe, a programme to improve healthcare in isolated rural parts of Myanmar, and assistance for refugees and migrants in Europe who have fled war and persecution in their home countries.

Professor Chris Dobson, the Master of St John’s College, said: “Duncan has been an absolutely outstanding Dean of Chapel at St John’s, and a valued member of the College for almost 20 years. In that time he has also made huge contributions to the pastoral, musical and academic life of the College. We shall miss him very much indeed, but I know that he relishes the prospect of using his energy, experience and passion for justice in this exciting new role.”