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Obituary: Canon Julian Whittam Charley

22 September 2017


Meticulously clear teaching and preaching: the Revd Julian Charley in 1971

Meticulously clear teaching and preaching: the Revd Julian Charley in 1971

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.

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