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Archbishops pay tribute to Canon John Bartlett

The Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin have paid warm tributes to the Revd Canon Professor John Bartlett, formerly Principal of the Church of Ireland Theological College between 1989 and 2001, who died on Thursday evening, 18th August 2022. 

Canon John Bartlett speaking at the close of the service to mark his 80th birthday, held in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in March 2017.
Canon John Bartlett speaking at the close of the service to mark his 80th birthday, held in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in March 2017.

Canon Bartlett was predeceased by his first wife Jan and is survived by their children and his widow, Olivia, and his funeral will take place at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, next Tuesday (23rd August), at 2.00pm. If you would have liked to attend the funeral but are unable to, you may view the service at this link.

The Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, remarks:

I write with profound regret at the news of the death of Canon John Bartlett, but with an equally heartfelt gratitude for his life, influence and witness. John was a Christian scholar, teacher and intellectual to his fingertips, the scope of whose accomplishments and the depth of whose modesty matched perfectly.

I had the pleasure (I don’t think John would approve of the word “privilege”) of studying for Orders under John’s gentle guidance when he was Principal of what was then the Church of Ireland Theological College. It was a difficult time to be in charge of such a place. Vocations to priestly ministry were not plentiful, and the usual respect felt for senior clergy and scholars was not always evident. As with almost every institution or organ of Anglicanism, the College’s smooth running depended on the internalised decencies of mutual regard and affection. However even where these were in short supply, John maintained a degree of civility and forbearance which were the fruits of a lifelong discipleship of Jesus Christ, a commitment to the highest standards of critical scholarship and the manifold paradoxes of the Church of Ireland.

He was a Catholic scholar of the Anglican obedience, who was content to concede that the Anglican way may not have been the “best” way of being a Christian, but it was “our” way, and had its unique contribution to make to the treasury of the Universal Church. He kept copies of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament, with which to follow the Readings, in his seat in Chapel, and I think he could never quite grasp why so few ordinands learned to read the ancient languages. The Church owes him an immense amount for taking on the responsibility of the Theological College when the easier thing to do would have been to continue in the accustomed way and even tenor of his Fellowship.

However, even there John did not plough his furrow in a popular field of studies.  Books on the Moabites or the Sibylline Oracle were unlikely to leap off the shelves within even the eccentric tastes of the Academy, but as with all of his commitments, once he had made them, he would never give up. The closest he came to “popular” writing was in The Bible: Faith and Evidence in which he summarised many generations of scholarship of the Hebrew Scriptures in a readable and (all things considered) pacy style. Someone who spent a great deal of creative effort in his 80s translating the synoptic Gospels into iambic pentameters was not in the hunt for worldly glory.

John was always thinking. When I was in Braemor Park it wasn’t unusual to hear a diffident tap on the door of my room at about 10.30pm with John keen to discuss what either of us had been reading. Indeed that was almost always the first question he asked if you were sitting beside him at dinner.

John was of a height which lends itself to impishness, although he was never hurtful. He took his responsibilities very seriously and his smile would be overtaken often by a frown; but never his laugh. He loved Ireland and the Church of Ireland, but was a constant and happy reminder that much of the substance of our tradition, lies in the word “Anglican” … of the English. He brought what was best across that narrow sea and enriched his adopted country and his Church to a degree which will now have its fit reward.

My prayers are with John’s widow Olivia and his children Penny, Jessica and Helen.

Ar dheis Dé go raith a ánim dílis.

The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, writes:

It is with considerable sadness that members of the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough will have learned of the death of the Reverend Canon Professor John Bartlett.

Canon Bartlett was beloved of generations of undergraduate students and staff in Trinity College where he lectured in Old Testament and Inter Testamental Studies. He served the College as a Fellow and the University as a Professor. His ‘reasonable Anglicanism’ made him a very accessible exponent of the Christian tradition in a secular university. He was assiduous in his support of the College Chapel and in his pastoral care of his tutorial pupils.


Canon Bartlett served the Church of Ireland in the capacity of Principal of the Theological College. He had already lectured to many ordinands in Trinity College before becoming Principal. This was a testing time. It was also a time during which he generously and graciously shared the best of contemporary critical scholarship with the future clergy of the Church of Ireland.

Christ Church Cathedral became his spiritual home in recent years. He served faithfully as Precentor and greatly enjoyed the musical tradition of the cathedral.

Canon Bartlett will be missed most by his family. He will also be missed by all who worship in the cathedral and in Christ Church Taney where in years past he served with Canon Walter Burrows. He will be remembered for his humanity, his simplicity, his erudition and his delight in God and other people – and for his Greek New Testament in which he always followed the New Testament Readings.

For further information please contact:

Church of Ireland Press Office 
Church of Ireland House 
61–67 Donegall Street 
BT1 2QH 

Tel: (028) 9082 8880 – from Northern Ireland & Great Britain

Tel: (048) 9082 8880 – from Republic of Ireland

Email: Press Office

Peter Cheney

Press Officer 07774 295 369

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