14 November 2007

Wales to South Africa: the Rt Revd Graham and Suzanne Chadwick in 1981

Wales to South Africa: the Rt Revd Graham and Suzanne Chadwick in 1981

The Rt Revd Thomas S. Stanage writes:

ALTHOUGH the Welshman turned African, Bishop Graham Chadwick died in the UK after many years of faithful service to the Church of England.

He was a remarkable South African church leader with a brilliant sense of humour, and a Welsh toughness that never betrayed him in seeking access — which was arduous and sometimes impossible — to his huge diocese of Kimberley & Kuruman.

Where today four-wheel-drive vehicles are the norm, Graham Chadwick managed with a small car, and travelled thousands of miles throughout the Northern Cape, never complaining of financial stringencies and sometimes poor and threadbare accommodation.

He was married to the beautifully gentle and supportive Suzanne, and they had one son, Simon, who now lives in the United States. Trained at St Michael’s College, Llandaff, Graham served his first and only curacy at Oystermouth (in the diocese of Swansea & Brecon), where he met his wife and lifelong companion. He is now laid to rest there.

In 1950, he was called to minister in Africa, and served with distinction in what was to become Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom of Southern Africa. It was a divided country, and would remain so for a considerable time. His outstanding contribution to the diocese was his ministry on the back of a mountain pony and his ability to speak the language of his people, Sesotho.

He remained the diocesan training officer for a further six years before being elected as Bishop of Kimberley & Kuruman. He was enthroned in Kimberley Cathedral, the most beautiful Anglican cathedral in South Africa, to fanfares by Salvation Army trumpeters, in 1976.

The politics of the Republic were such that being a bishop of any diocese was a constant anxiety. During his years in office, he was a brave and outspoken critic of the nationalist government’s policies. It led him into many a conflict with the security police.


During his absence at one stage, a young schoolteacher, Pakamile Mabija, a member of the Anglican Nomads Educational Group, was arrested for allegedly attacking public transport in Galeshewe. He was interrogated in the police-station tower, which had seven floors, and the Dean of the Cathedral was informed that he had been found dead, having fallen from the seventh floor. Did he jump or was he pushed? The inquest was a fiasco, and the public made up its own mind.

The Church examined every aspect of the tragedy. When Bishop Graham returned from the UK, he challenged the security police. For this impertinence, he was deported from the Republic.

He first sought shelter in the neighbouring homeland Bophuthatswana, but governing the diocese from that position and from an Anglican hospital was something of a nightmare, and the homeland government preferred to refuse him sanctuary. The story ends in his very sad return to England.

Bishop Graham was a man of gargantuan holiness, and his future association with the Roman Catholic Fr Gerard Hughes SJ enabled them both to develop a centre of spirituality which enriched the whole Anglican Communion. Denied access to his people in Africa, Bishop Graham turned to another thrust of ministry which gave him access to the whole world.

As a bishop with a life of deep prayer, his golden-oldie favourite was understandably Richard Hooker, although he loved Jeremy Taylor, too. In a more modern context, he deeply admired his fellow countryman the present Archbishop of Canterbury.

Graham was a fine-looking man, tall and Celtic with a sweep of white hair. He was deeply modest in his clerical attire, in the way he and Suzanne ran their homes, and in his counselling; but he was a mighty preacher, and was often called a Pentecostal Prophet. But he himself would have eschewed such a title. He was deeply suspicious of so-called “popular preachers”. In the words of Karl Rahner, he would have said: “Father, let me continue to marvel that I meet so many persons who allow me, poor sinner that I am, to enter into the secret chamber of their hearts, because they have been able to recognise you hidden in me.”

Graham had been suffering from a variety of illnesses. He received holy communion just five minutes before his death on 28 October.

Bishop Stanage is a former Bishop of Bloemfontein (now The Free State).

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