The Rt Revd Dr Tom Butler writes:
THE Rt Revd Donald Arden died peacefully at home in Romsey,
surrounded by his family, on 18 July, aged 98. He had been
Archbishop of Central Africa from 1971 to 1980. He was appointed
CBE in 1981.
Donald was born in Boscombe on 12 April 1916, the youngest of
three sons. When he was nine, the family moved to Australia. In
1934, he returned to England to Leeds University, before training
for the priesthood at Mirfield. The College of the Resurrection's
Catholic spirituality formed much of his long ministry.
He was ordained in 1939, and served as a curate in London,
experiencing the first heavy wartime bombing of the city. In 1943,
he joined the staff of a mission in Pretoria, South Africa. From
there, he ministered to rural and city parishes, ran a
school-feeding programme for 5000 children, and started a
successful Scout troop.
From 1951 to 1961, Donald was Director of the Usuthu Mission in
Swaziland. He worked with his team to increase the ministry to
people over a large area, and built St Christopher's Secondary
School, to which the Paramount Chief sent his son. Donald was
always interested in farming, and surprised people by growing
excellent pineapples. Pineapples are now the country's main
On 30 November 1961, Donald was consecrated Bishop of Nyasaland.
He spoke of his early years in the diocese as being difficult.
Hardly any of the clergy, black or white, had a bicycle that
worked; and their housing was dreadful. The five "White"
congregations - Blantyre, Limbe, Zomba, Mulanje, and Thyolo - were
not diocesan parishes but were called the "European Chaplaincy". In
May 1962, a joint meeting of the Chaplaincy and Diocesan Standing
Committee decided unanimously that the chaplaincy would be part of
At a diocesan synod that year, Donald insisted that new clergy
needed to be trained at three levels: at least a handful of
graduates, who would have to be trained in other countries; the
majority of at least Junior Certificate standard, trained at St
John's Seminary in Lusaka, in neighbouring Zambia, part of the
Province of Central Africa; and a single group of ten or more older
men for a shorter course, to tide the diocese over for the next 15
years. To enable this, he exhorted everyone to learn to give. Every
Anglican in the diocese should give to God the fruits of one day's
work each month, whether the money was earned, or the crops were
grown, or the fish was caught.
In January 1962, Donald met Jane Riddle when she took some of
her pupils who were Sea Rangers to Mponda's to paint the mission
buildings. In September, the couple started 52 years of married
life, in which they were later blessed with two sons, Bazil and
Chris, bothof whom continue to return to Malawi.
Donald and Jane spent the first four months of 1963 speaking in
England and the United States to raise funds for the diocese. While
in Texas, Donald addressed the diocesan convention. It subsequently
agreed to form a companion-diocese relationship with Malawi. In
1965, Dr Art Johnson, accompanied by his wife Nan and their three
children, came to be the Diocesan Medical Officer. They brought a
container of equipment for the new St Luke's Hospital. Healthcare
in Africa remained close to Donald's heart for the rest of his
At many confirmation services, people suffering from polio would
crawl or be carried to be confirmed.In response to this, Donald
helped to form Malawi Against Polio, MAP. Rotary International was
persuaded to fund a vaccination programme, and within a couple of
years there were no new cases of polio. Malawi was the first
developing country in the world to be declared free of polio.
Typically, Donald had met a problem with a practical solution.
In 1971, Donald was elected Archbishop of Central Africa, after
his predecessor Oliver Green-Wilkinson's death in a car accident.
He visited Botswana, Southern Rhodesia, and Zambia, all in the
Province of Central Africa, a number of times. During the violence
surrounding UDI in Southern Rhodesia, provincial meetings were the
only occasions when people from the four countries could meet and
talk with each other.
It was during these years that I came to know Donald personally,
because I was serving as a USPG missionary in Zambia. By this time,
Donald had been serving in Africa for almost 30 years, and I was
not the only priest who was somewhat in awe of him. This awe turned
into astonishment when I next saw him some five years later. We had
returned to England in 1973, when I was appointed chaplain at the
University of Kent. A few years later, wandering into the theatre
on the campus which was housing a "Church Leaders Conference", I
saw Donald waving his arms and singing choruses. This was not at
all the severe character I had previously known, but it seemed that
Donald had been caught up into the renewal movement that was at
that time sweeping through many of the churches of Southern Africa.
His spirituality remained influenced by this for the rest of his
Donald, Jane, Bazil, and Chris returned to England in February
1981. Donald became Priest-in-Charge of St Margaret's, Uxbridge, on
the edge of London, and was there until 1986. I was his archdeacon
and then area bishop, and he continued to serve as an honorary
assistant bishop in the diocese for a further 25 years after
In retirement, he continued with his very active involvement
with Africa: co-leading groups to Malawi to visit Christian centres
and work, visiting Mozambique several times on behalf of the
Willesden Area World Church Group; being for 24 years a trustee of
Concern Universal - an organisation working in agriculture and
development in Malawi and other countries - and of MACS, involved
in healthcare education and the fight against AIDS; playing an
active part with Christians Aware, the development educational
charity; and being Warden of the Friends of USPG.
As an active member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women,
he had the joy in 1994 on two consecutive days of taking part in
the ordination of 90 women in St Paul's Cathedral.
In March 2011, Donald and Jane moved to live in Romsey. On 30
November of that year, at the invitation of the Dean and Bishop of
London, Donald celebrated the eucharist in St Paul's Cathedral to
mark the 50th anniversary of his consecration as a Bishop.
His was a good death, ending a good life. May he rest in