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The Revd Dr Kenneth Wilson

05 May 2017

Canon Peter Fisher writes:

THE Revd Dr Kenneth Wilson, who died in January, aged 79, was a Christian of wide-ranging intelli­gence and in­­sati­­able curiosity, a compelling theo­­­­log­ical educator, a leader of great energy and optim­ism, and a friend and family man.

Rooted in Methodism, with more than 50 years’ service in its ministry, he had ecumenical convictions and a spiritual breadth that defied denom­ina­tional boundaries. So it was natural for him, in retirement, to participate actively and creatively in the life of his village church, in West Bradley, in the diocese of Bath & Wells.

His life was celebrated in April at a thanksgiving service at the Methodist boarding school Kings­wood, near Bath. The school had been formative for him, both in his own schooling, under the excep­tional head A. B. Sacket, and in his later ministry: he was to teach there for seven years before going on to lecture in philosophy and ethics at Wesley College, Bristol.

From 1980 to 1996 he was Principal of Westminster College, Oxford, the Methodist college of higher education. He was awarded the OBE for services to education there. He had determined that he would not carry on in a primary leadership post beyond the age of 60; so he then applied, and was appointed, to be the first Director of Research at the Queen’s Founda­tion, Birmingham.

He was nothing daunted by the challenge of breaking new ground to establish this work, nor by the lively and robust interplay of views which characterised the ecumenical community of staff and students at Queen’s. He relished the challenges. He also proved loyal and com­passionate as a colleague, and stim­ulating and encouraging as a com­panion and guide to students and researchers.

He took retirement in 2001, but the pace of his voracious reading, writing, and editing of books (11 at the final count) and engagement in inter-disciplinary research and devel­­opment diminished not a whit.

Two pieces of work, both the fruits of co-operation, demonstrated Kenneth’s breadth of interest and sympathy. One was an important study, Governance and Authority in the Roman Catholic Church (SPCK, 2000), the other The Theological Roots of Christian Gratitude (Pal­grave Macmillan, 2015), which arose from his involvement with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values at the University of Bir­mingham. He sought human flour­ishing, and would partner any who shared his aim.

There could be a whirlwind quality to a meeting with Kenneth, but, beneath the friendly force of his ebullience, were two deep, sus­taining resources: a rich spiritu­ality, grown from early years min­ister­ing with Neville Ward, and a joyful family life anchored in his steadfast marriage to Jennifer.

He treasured gratitude: we now thank God for him.

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