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John Hope (1891–1971)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published:

John Hope (1891-1971), Anglican clergyman, was born on 5 January 1891 at Strathfield, Sydney, youngest son and tenth child of Charles Hope, a Victorian-born woolbroker, and his wife Mary Hooper, née Kebble, from New Zealand. The family had some distinguished members, including Rev. Samuel Marsden and the historian Manning Clark. John was educated at Ashfield Collegiate and Sydney Grammar schools. For a year he worked for the New Zealand & Australian Land Co., but the influence of the High-Church rector of Burwood was inclining him towards holy orders.

Full-time duty as missioner and catechist at Burwood was followed by training at St John's Theological College, Melbourne. There Hope was grounded in Gore's incarnational theology and the Anglo-Catholic ideals of social justice. He returned to Sydney, where Evangelical churchmanship generally prevailed, and was made deacon on 12 July 1914 and ordained priest on 17 December 1915 by Archbishop Wright: 'the most unfortunate thing I ever did', that sorely tried prelate would later admit.

At the time of his deaconing, Hope was engaged to be married. But he was to remain a bachelor, less by inclination than by circumstance. He was a well-set, handsome man, sometimes brusque, yet with charm of manner and a deep understanding of people. Many causes were to claim his support and he took them up rather than analysed them. His preaching was more forthright than eloquent, his mind agile but not intellectual in its leanings. Totally regardless of personal comfort, he was a strident upholder of the poor, and an enemy of smugness and irresponsible wealth.

Hope's first curacy, at middle-class Randwick, did not inspire him. He failed to become a military chaplain, then moved in 1916 to the Anglo-Catholic city parish of Christ Church St Laurence. A breakdown in health led him to accept the sympathetic Archbishop Donaldson's offer of the Brisbane parish of Clifton. After six years additional experience, Hope returned to Christ Church, first in an acting capacity and, from 1926, as rector.

The old, Gothic-style church in what had slowly become the unfashionable end of the city was to be his final parish. He sought no preferment and was given none. The state appointed him M.B.E. in 1956, the church gave him nothing. In time, however, Hope gained a place of great influence and respect, of affection and notoriety, revered by some, execrated by others—a unique figure in the Church of England in Sydney and a distinguished one beyond. Under his firm leadership, Christ Church adopted the most advanced form of Anglo-Catholic theology and worship. Indeed, Hope went further than most others in England and Australia, using the 'Sarum rite' and the full array of Catholic practice.

While this made Christ Church a vigorous Anglo-Catholic centre, drawing worshippers from afar and influential throughout Australia, it aroused fierce opposition in the increasingly Evangelical Sydney diocese. Hope coped with the barrage of criticism with equanimity. From the mid-1930s he adroitly countered the diocesan synod's efforts to curtail the income from the property of the defunct Christ Church schools. It was a war of attrition that involved court action and interminable synod debates. Hope was a shrewd campaigner, despite his air of simplicity and unworldliness. Eventually, the pressure relaxed in the last years of Archbishop Mowll.

At first Hope used open-air missions, complete with liturgical processions, in his parish near Central Railway Station. Throughout his rectorship, his house was open to a motley array of visitors; Bea Miles often slept on the doorstep. The Christ Church 'Cheeros' for the lonely and destitute became legendary, as did its hospitality for servicemen. Known to his parishioners as Father John, he preached vigorous, blunt sermons on behalf of social justice—pragmatic rather than doctrinaire. He supported Rev. Alf Clint's work among Aborigines and gave him a house, Tranby, at Glebe. While his church attracted many among the well-to-do, Hope was at heart a slum parson who saw spiritual healing as complementary to his high sacramental worship.

With the advent of Archbishop Gough, Hope retired in 1964 in the knowledge that a sympathetic successor would be secured. Full of years and famous in his generation, he died on 21 June 1971 in Royal North Shore Hospital and was cremated. He left the residue of his estate, sworn for probate at $27,812, to the Order of St Luke the Physician (Australasia).

Select Bibliography

  • L. M. Allen, A History of Christ Church S. Laurence, Sydney (Syd, 1939)
  • L. C. Rodd, John Hope of Christ Church (Syd, 1972)
  • Church of England (Sydney), Sydney Diocesan Synod Reports, 1926-64
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 1956, 9 Feb 1964, 14 Dec 1971, 8 Dec 1973
  • Australian, 27 June 1971.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Hope, John (1891–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 January, 1891
Strathfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


21 June, 1971 (aged 80)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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