Liverpool, England – St Johns’ Church is one of the city’s oldest and most respected Christian churches.
But the St John’s Church of Liverpool is now a hub of LGBT activism and social justice activism in the US, Canada and the UK.
BBC Sport’s Dan Mullan and Lucy Coates look at how the St Jools Church became a global leader in social justice, and why it’s a symbol of a movement for justice in our time.
WATCH MORE: St Johns church, in pictures 1 of 10 St Johns Cathedral is the cathedral’s largest building, but the cathedral has been used for many other events as well, including a concert at St Paul’s Cathedral, a concert in the cathedral garden, a memorial service, and the first public viewing of the Queen of England’s portrait at St John Paul II Cathedral in London.
The St Johns is also the home of the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the British Library and other institutions.
WATCH THE LATEST ON ST JOOL: BBC documentary series ‘The St Johns’: ‘In a World’ Listen to the BBC’s documentary series The St Johns Cathedral, which features interviews with local residents and experts.
St John St John, a local boy who has been living with cerebral palsy since he was seven, is a social justice advocate in the St Louis suburb of Mount Pleasant, Missouri.
He’s an activist, a member of a local group called St John the Evangelist Ministries, a church, and a member at St Johns.
“The church is a beacon of social justice,” he says.
It is not just a place to be, he says, it’s where you can come out and say, ‘I’m not afraid to say I’m gay.’
It’s a place where I have a very positive and powerful voice.
“His story is typical of St Johns, says its founder, Rev Mark Thomas, and of St John and the Apostles, a Christian order founded in the early 20th century in the United Kingdom.
St John the Apostle Ministries is a non-denominational Christian order that is based in Scotland.
The order, which has its headquarters in the UK, was founded in 1894 by a young man named Matthew St John.
Its mission is to “preserve and defend the Church and its Word and its Tradition,” and to “make disciples of the saints, so that they may be enabled to share the glory of Christ in the world.”
Its current leader, Rev. Mark Thomas (pictured), is an ordained minister and ordained member of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Thomas is also a member in good standing of the Church of Scotland, which represents all British churches.
On a visit to St Johns last week, I met the head of St Jool, Rev David Taylor, a Presbyterian minister who was ordained a member the St James’s Cathedral in Edinburgh in 2002.
When I asked Taylor about his personal views on the church, he told me: “I am proud of the role St Johns plays in the history of this church.”
In 2014, the St Josie Cathedral in Scotland opened as the new St John Church of England.
In 2015, St Johns celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding, when its congregation numbered 5,000.
Since then, the congregation has grown from 100 to more than 400,000, and today the St Joies Cathedral holds around 600 people.
After St Johns started in the 1970s, he said, “it was a little bit like a microcosm for all of society in England and the world at large. “
It’s been a very important symbol of social change,” he told us.
After St Johns started in the 1970s, he said, “it was a little bit like a microcosm for all of society in England and the world at large.
It was like a giant billboard for gay rights.”
Today, St John is known for its support of LGBT rights.
Taylor is a minister and the parishioners at St Joody’s have been known to march on St Johns Square in protest of gay marriage and for the St Joe’s Cathedral event, which commemorates St Joe of Rome.
But Taylor believes the St Mary’s Cathedral at Liverpool Street is more important than St Johns as a place of worship.
This story originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine, on newsstands Friday.