Reverend Elder Jean Anne White
Jean White aged 69, died peacefully of cancer in Trinity Hospice .
A native of London she studied for her SRN at The Royal London Hospital followed by courses in midwifery in Bristol and Edinburgh. After completing a course in tropical diseases in Liverpool, from 1963-1964 Jean studied at The International Bible Training Institute, Sussex and in Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1964 Jean went as a medical missionary to Macau, S.E. Asia. She was initially billeted with Gladys Aylward under whose tutelage she learned Chinese.
Gladys Aylward’s ‘story’ was depicted Hollywood style in the film “Inn of the Sixth Happiness”. By all accounts she didn’t receive a penny or even see the film. On being told by Jean that she was played by Ingrid Bergman, “who is very beautiful”, Gladys replied “Well, they can’t even get that right!”
Jean served as a missionary from 1964-1970. However, during the last 3 years, following the Cultural Revolution, she, along with 10 nuns and a Swedish missionary were incarcerated by the Red Guards. It is believed that Anthony Grey, who had been held hostage in Peking, had heard of their plight and informed the government.
Following her release in 1970, she was so emaciated, her parents initially failed to recognize her. With her indomitable spirit and her faith intact, she returned to her profession; became a tutor of midwifery and ultimately Hospital Matron.
In 1972 on coming to terms with her sexuality, she was required to leave the denomination with whom she had served as a missionary. The same year she heard an address given by The Rev. Elder Troy Perry (an American priest, Founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and author of “The Lord is my Shepherd and He knows I’m Gay.”)
Following this meeting, Jean began attending the Fellowship in Christ the Liberator. In 1973 at her instigation, this became The Metropolitan Community Church of London; an inclusive denomination which had an outreach to (amongst others) gay people, many of whom had faced rejection by other churches.
Having served in various capacities, including Deacon, Jean became the first British woman ordained as M.C.C. clergy. She became Church Extension Officer for the European North Sea District.
In 1979 she was the first non-American to be elected as an Elder. In 1981 she devoted herself to full-time Ministry with the UFMCC and gave up her secular career.
Jean was responsible for over-seeing and establishing churches in Europe, Asia, South Pacific, Latin America, New Zealand and Africa. In Nigeria she was surprised and amused to find the Jean White Memorial Clinic named in her honour.
Jean was a modest, self-effacing person who vetoed any attempts to give her honours, though she did receive the keys to ‘Kansas City’.
In the days before the internet, Jean travelled, sometimes at great risk to herself, to places where it was very dangerous to be openly gay. She corresponded with thousands of Christians all over the world. Her work with the distressed, disadvantaged, the whole and the sick will not be forgotten. Her pioneering AIDS Ministry and her fight against bigotry was truly heroic. Her compassion, generosity of spirit and bravery, was for many, truly inspirational.
In 1993 Jean retired from the Board of Elders but continued here Ministry by founding M.C.C. South London where she served as Pastor until her death.
She is survived by her long term partner, Mary Smail and pet dog, Lucy. She also leaves a vast “rainbow family” attracted by her generosity and her maternal, charismatic persona. Not surprisingly was she affectionately known by many as ‘Reverend Mother’.
A superb preacher and pioneer, Jean personified and embraced the four loves, Agape, Eros, Philia and Storge and she was much loved in return.
Love’s last gift, Remembrance.