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Revd Dr Kenneth Wilson: 1937-2017 (1957, History and Divinity)

Kenneth Wilson, who died on 12 January aged 79, was a distinguished philosopher and theologian.  

He was born in Bangor, then Caernarvonshire, and went up to Trinity Hall in 1957 to read History and then Divinity. While in Cambridge he decided to candidate for the Methodist ministry, and in 1966 he was ordained. He subsequently completed an MLitt on ‘The Justification of Moral Judgements’ and a PhD on ‘The Search for System in Contemporary Theology’, both at the University of Bristol.

After two years as Assistant Minister at Hinde Street Methodist Church, London, Kenneth returned in 1966 to his old school, Kingswood, in Bath, first as assistant chaplain and then as Chaplain. In 1973 he became Tutor in Philosophy and Ethics at Wesley College, Bristol, and part-time lecturer at Bristol University. From 1980 to 1996 Kenneth was Principal of Westminster College, Oxford, the Methodist College of Higher Education, training teachers and a considerable number of theology students. He was a Council member for CNAA 1982-92; and for the Institute of Education, London 1991-96 (and chaired the latter 1993-95). In 1993, he was awarded an OBE for services to education. He received Honorary Degrees from Lycoming College, US (Hon DTh, 1994) and High Point University, US (Hon DLL, 1995).

In 1981, together with Owen Nankevill and Raymond Clarke, Kenneth founded the Hinksey Centre, later to become the Hinksey Network, to ‘express a Christian concern for public issues’. He was a director until 2012.

From 1996 to 2001 Kenneth was Director of Research at The Queen's Foundation, Birmingham. During retirement, he was Visiting Research Fellow at Canterbury Christchurch University 2005-11, at Chichester University 2004–11, and then Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values in the School of Education, University of Birmingham 2012-15. He was on the Council of Sarum College 2001-07, and Chair of the Ammerdown Trust 2008-13.

Kenneth had a very wide range of interests. Both his writing and his teaching evidenced a wide knowledge of literature, poetry, music and science as well as theology and philosophy. He greatly assisted in the planning of the Ian Ramsey Centre intended to encourage theological engagement with the sciences, now part of Oxford University Theology Department, and sat on its Committee 1985-99. He was involved with the Science and Religion Forum, at national and international levels, and chaired it 1979-81 and 2009-12.

Publications: Making Sense of It, Epworth, 1973; Living it out, Epworth, 1975; The Experience of Ordination, Epworth, 1979 (Contributor and editor); Focus on God, Epworth, 1986 (Co-authored with Professor Frances Young); Freedom and Grace, Epworth, 1988 (Contributor and, with Rev Dr Ivor H Jones, editor); Governance and Authority in the Roman Catholic Church: Beginning a Conversation, SPCK, 2000 (Contributor and, with Professor Noel Timms, editor); Learning to Hope, Epworth, 2006; Dying to Live, Epworth, 2008; Christian Community Now: Ecclesiological Investigations, Bloomsbury / Continuum, 2008 (Co-authored with Gerard Mannion, Paul M. Collins, and Gareth Powell); Methodist Theology, Continuum, 2011; The theological roots of Christian Gratitude, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015.

Kenneth is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and three children, Sarah, Mark and Vanessa. He also has six grandchildren, one of whom, Alistair Wilson, himself joined Trinity Hall as an undergraduate to read Natural Sciences in 2016.

Written by Kenneth's daughter, Sarah Wilson.

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