Obituary: ALEX MITCHELL

by
21 December 2010

A correspondent writes:

ALEX MITCHELL, who edited the Christian monthly Third Way for five of its first six years, and established its reputation as making a significant contribution to Christian social thinking, died on 26 Nov­ember, aged 63.

She also made an important con­tribution, not least as its only woman and non-ordained member, to the Jubilate Hymns words group that produced Hymns for Today’s Church, the Evangelical Anglican and Free Church hymn book published in 1982.

Third Way was launched at the beginning of 1977 as a fortnightly magazine. It provided a biblical per­spective on a wide range of issues. It was the idea of John Capon, editor of the monthly magazine Crusade. The new magazine reflected a growing con­cern among Evangelicals about social issues, particularly after the first Inter­national Congress on World Evan­geliza­tion, in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974.

After working at Crusade for four years, Alex Beale, as she was then, joined its sister publication, Third Way, at its launch, where she worked as Assistant Editor. The next year she became Editor, and took the maga­zine to its current monthly format.

During her editorship, Third Way’s contributors included figures who were yet to become well-known, such as Tom Wright and George Carey, as well as established Evan­gelical leaders such as John Stott, David Watson, and George Hoffman (the founder of Tearfund).

She attracted notable political figures to its pages, including the former Prime Minister Edward Heath. From the United States, she had such diverse contributors as Jim Wallis, of the radical movement Sojourners, and Chuck Colson, the Watergate conspirator who became a Christian and founded the Prison Fellowship. From developing coun­tries, interviewees ranged from Mother Teresa of Calcutta to President Binaisa of Uganda.

Dr Stott, the Rector Emeritus at All Souls’, Langham Place, and a leading figure in world Evan­gelicalism, commented during her editorship that “Third Way is becoming indispensable reading for those who want to think Christianly about contemporary issues.” In his sermon at her wedding in 1980, he said that “Under your editorship Third Way has been a blessing to hun­dreds of thou­sands.”

Alex also showed that Third Way could survive financially, even during the severe recession of 1979-81, by recruiting a small team of volunteers to help her, by then the sole member of staff.

She left Third Way at the end of 1982, on the birth of her first son, but continued her involvement with social issues at the national level, through her active board member­ship of the Shaftesbury project, and the London Institute for Contem­porary Christianity.

Alex moved to Washington DC in 1991, when her husband, John, left his job as director of the World Development Movement to take up a post there in international develop­ment. In Washington DC, she worked for more than ten years as the administrator of Alpha courses.

The family returned to the UK in 2008.

She is survived by her husband, her sons, Peter and Andrew, and her daughter-in-law, Emily.

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