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.