The Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan writes:
CANON Julian Whittam Charley, who died on 15 September, aged 87, was one of the most outstanding of those English clergy who are rarely in the spotlight, but give long and superb service to their Lord and his church. Julian came from public school and a teenage faith in Christ (and Iwerne camping), to go to Oxford, Ridley Hall, and ordination to All Souls’, Langham Place.
After a five-year curacy with John Stott (1957-62), for two years he ran the All Souls’ Clubhouse, gaining first-hand experience of “how the other half lived”. Thus came God’s call to embrace inner urban ministry.
Prebendary Hugh Jordan, however, invited him on to the staff of the London College of Divinity, in Northwood, in 1964, as chaplain and doctrine lecturer. Mission was later added — a topic he pioneered in theological education. In 1969, the Revd Michael Green became Principal, and Julian took the post of Vice-Principal, and the College then moved to become St John’s, Nottingham.
Within college, Julian presided over the Bachelors Club (supposedly with life membership), and was famed for his fastidiousness and groomed appearance, matching his meticulously clear teaching and preaching.
But he also entered a much larger world: in 1969, Archbishop Michael Ramsey appointed him a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, where he immediately “clicked” with the remarkable Fr Jean-Marie Tillard OP (who revelled in Julian’s bachelor friendship), and with him did much drafting of the ARCIC agreements on eucharist, ministry, and authority. Julian defended these agreements in print, initially writing the first-ever Grove booklet in 1971.
About this time, he was on an ACCM (now Ministry Division) working party that, unable to identify any distinctive part for deacons and scorning to cobble up flimsy diaconal posts, simply recommended abolishing the diaconate. That exemplified his no-nonsense theological style.
Julian’s conscience about urban ministry persisted; he declined a tempting invitation to be considered for a college principalship, and became, in 1974, Vicar of St Peter’s, Everton, later Team Rector of the Team Ministry — and Warden of the Shrewsbury House. Life was changed, not only by his thrusting whole-heartedly into “hands-on” ministry in a very needy area, but also — to Tillard’s distress — by his embarking on a loving marriage at 47.
Claire and he were soon raising a family, while working together, and being greatly loved in Liverpool. Then, with this rich urban experience, he might well have returned to theological teaching, or possibly have become a bishop, but his Church inexplicably failed to deploy his outstanding gifts.
Instead, in 1987, he came to Great Malvern Priory. His bishop was delighted to gain such an able theologian, but Julian was little used beyond his parish. He became an Hon. Canon of Worcester Cathedral in 1991.
Julian retired locally in 1997, with his children still at school. He gardened a very tidy allotment, and ministered in churches for many years. Ultimately, Parkinson’s disease constricted his life, though he never lay down under it. Over recent years, cherished by Claire, he lived to see two of his three children marry and begin a third generation. A much loved Christian gentleman, he has passed to his Lord.
A service of thanksgiving for his life takes place on Monday 25 September at Malvern Priory.