John Church (1780 – c. 1835) was an Independent minister who was most famous for his involvement in the homosexual scandal of the Vere Street Coterie. He is often claimed as the first openly gay ordained Christian minister in England. Contemporary rumours about this are unproveable one way or the other, though circumstantial evidence may suggest that his “inordinate affections which led me into error”[1] can be equated with homosexual inclinations.


A foundling discovered as a toddler barely able to walk on the steps of St John’s Church Clerkenwell (hence his name) or St Andrew’s Church Holborn, Church’s parents are unknown. He was sent to the Foundling Hospital and spent his first six years in the care of a woman at Hadlow, near Tonbridge in Kent, before returning to the hospital. There he remained, receiving a rudimentary education, including how to read but not how to write…

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