Biography and Personal

John Martin Hull was born on April 22nd 1935 in Corryong, a small town in north-eastern Victoria, Australia.  He was the second of four children; two girls and two boys.  His father, John Eaglesfield Hull, was a Methodist minister.  (See biographical note).  His mother, Madge Enid Hull (née Huttley), was a school teacher.  (Read the fascinating Beenak Story, an account of her experience as a newly qualified teacher in the Australian outback in the 1920's, which she wrote in the 1960's for her family.  Rediscovered in 2006, it is now on the website in full.)  John wrote at length about his parents and the way in which his Christian faith started from theirs and subsequently developed, in an article called The Shadow of My Parents.

As was normal for Methodist ministers, the family moved every three or four years, spending time in various country towns in Victoria and Tasmania.  John's secondary education was at Bendigo High School in the former gold mining town of Bendigo, and then at Melbourne Boys High School.  He studied for a general arts degree in the University of Melbourne from 1953 to 1955 (three calendar years), trained as a secondary school teacher in 1956, and then taught for nearly three years in Caulfield Grammar School, Melbourne.  While teaching he studied part-time for a postgraduate B.Ed. in the philosophy and psychology of education.

Melbourne Boys High School Fitzwilliam College Cambridge
Melbourne Boys High School Fitzwilliam College Cambridge

He studied theology in the University of Cambridge, England, from 1959 to 1962, where he was a member of Fitzwilliam College and the Congregational theological seminary Cheshunt College, since amalgamated with Westminster College.

In 1962 John Hull became domiciled in the UK, and resumed his work as a school teacher, becoming Head of the Religious Education Department in Selhurst Grammar School, Croydon, south London.  In 1966 he moved to Birmingham to work in Westhill College of Education (now incorporated into the University of Birmingham) as a Lecturer in Divinity, where he trained religious education teachers.  In 1968 he was appointed Lecturer in Religious Education at the University of Birmingham School of Education. The University awarded him a Ph.D. in Theology in 1969. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1978, to Reader in 1986, and in 1989 was awarded a personal chair as the first Professor of Religious Education in a United Kingdom university.  In addition he became Dean of the then Faculty of Education and Continuing Studies in 1990, and held this post for three and a half years.

When he came to the end of his appointment, the University of Birmingham granted John Hull the title of Emeritus Professor of Religious Education on 1st October 2002.  On 1st September 2004 he was appointed Honorary Professor of Practical Theology in the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham.  He said of this: "I am delighted to have this opportunity for new work in this fine institution, and since my own roots are in all three of the churches represented in Queen's, namely, the Methodist, United Reformed, and Anglican traditions, I feel as if I have come home".  (To see the Press Release issued by the Foundation, use the link on the Home page of this website.)

At the Queen's Foundation he worked with candidates for the Christian ministry, rather than with future religious education school teachers.  He taught courses on the theology of mission, and on the church in the modern world. Since 2008 he was Chair of the Committee for Prophetic Ministry in the Foundation's Centre for Ministerial Formation.  This aspect of Prophetic Ministry is concerned with 'the questioning and criticism of the nations and of the surrounding society in the name of the God of justice and peace'.

Other Involvements

From 1978 to 2010 Hull was the General Secretary of the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values, which he founded with the American religious educator, the late Dr. John Peatling, in 1977-8.  ISREV is a group of over 200 religious education research scholars from around 25 countries, which meets every other year, in different countries.

From 1971 to 1996 Hull was Editor of the British Journal of Religious Education (Learning for Living until 1978), and was on its UK Editorial Board until 2009.  He has twice been President of the National Christian Education Council (previously the British Sunday School Union, founded 1802) and which in 2002 was incorporated into the new educational charity Christian Education.

He was or had been a Patron of several charities, and a Director of others - see Support for Charities.  He was active in support of several other organisations, including Christian Aid, the Jubilee Debt Campaign, and Church Action on Poverty.   He was a member of the Labour Party.

Personal Matters

John Hull developed cataract in both eyes when he was a boy of thirteen, and was blind for several months.  The restoration of sight was however followed by a series of retinal detachments, which after several operations led to blindness in 1980.  He has had no light sensation since 1983.  He married for the second time in 1979, his first marriage having ended in divorce.  His wife Marilyn was Head Teacher of the Ley Hill Junior and Infant School in Northfield, Birmingham.   They had four children, and John had a daughter from his first marriage.

John Hull became an active lay person in the Church of England, worshipping at All Saints, the parish church of King's Heath, a suburb of Birmingham.  In 2003 he became Chair of the Social Justice Committee of this local church.  He was also a non-serving elder of the United Reformed Church, and retained close links with Methodism.   All five of his children were educated wholly or partly in Catholic schools.

John Hull died on Tuesday 28 July 2015, three months after celebrating his eightieth birthday with family and friends. He had a serious fall at home the previous Friday and, despite the best of hospital care, he did not recover. He is greatly mourned by his wife and five children, and the hundreds of academic colleagues and friends who found him to be both a scholarly and a personal inspiration.

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