The Very Rev Fenton Morley :OBITUARY

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The Independent Online
Fenton Morley was a parish priest at heart as well as a brilliant and versatile speaker, who held several high offices. But he is assured of his place in history for his skilled chairmanship of the Morley Commission on the Deployment and Payment of the Clergy which reported in 1967 with far-reaching consequences for the Church of England.

The Morley Commission came to the clear conclusion that the way in which the Church handled the care, deployment and payment of the clergy was inadequate and wasteful. It failed to meet contemporary needs; it distorted the image of the Church as a divinely constituted society; consequently, it ought to be replaced by another. The commission proposed as an alternative that the Church as a whole should assume responsibility for enabling a clergyman to exercise his ministry and to receive his stipend so that he derived both status and security from being an ordained priest "on the strength of a diocese" and not from the office he held. In each diocese a Ministry Commission should be established to make all appointments and a Central Ministry Commission would make decisions of policy and secure co-ordination.

The report was a "package deal" that proved too much for the Church Assembly to take in its dying years. But if the master plan was rejected, yet the Morley Report set the agenda for the first task of the life of the General Synod which undertook important work in every area of the report. "Barchester" disappeared once and for all as a result of the radical changes that Fenton Morley and his colleagues advocated so cogently.

Fenton Morley was born in Wales and educated at St David's College, Lampeter, and Oriel College, Oxford. He trained for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and 10 years later took a First Class DD at London University.

After two curacies and one incumbency in Wales, Morley moved to Oxford where he became vicar of Great Haseley as well as director of music and lecturer in Hebrew at Cuddesdon theological college.

In 1950 he was appointed Education Secretary of the Overseas Council of the Church Assembly. He travelled widely overseas and for nine years edited the East and West Review, a magazine concerned with missionary strategy. His educational interests widened when in 1956 he became a Canon Residentiary of Southwark and Chaplain and Lecturer of St Gabriel's Teacher Training College.

Morley's appointment to be Vicar of Leeds in 1961 gave him continued scope for his work as an educationist whilst his knowledge of music and fine singing voice were assets in a parish church with cathedral-like standards of worship. He became Rural Dean of Leeds and an Honorary Canon of Ripon and in 1964 was elected to the Church Assembly. Within a year he was appointed Chairman of the assembly's Deployment and Payment Commission.

For two years Morley held together a diverse and distinguished group and, contrary to all expectations, led them to present a unanimous report. Throughout this time he ran a busy and demanding parish, was Warburton Lecturer at Lincoln's Inn, in London, and became a Church Commissioner.

It was widely expected that Morley's next move would be to a diocesan bishopric. But to his own deep disappointment, as well as to that of many of his friends, this was not to be. In the same way that a generation later the report Faith in the City was attacked in Downing Street, so the Fenton Morley report was dismissed there as altogether too radical. In days when the views of the civil servants of Church and State were not complemented as they are now by those of elected members of the vacant diocese and of the Synod, it was more possible for someone of Morley's forthright views to be passed over.

But if some thought Morley too radical, the clergy trusted him and the Synod had an affection and respect for him. This was shown by his appointment as chairman of the Church of England Pensions Board, an office which, by common consent, he continued to hold for three years after his retirement.

In 1971 Morley was appointed Dean of Salisbury where he gave strong leadership whilst maintaining a harmonious and united Chapter. He visited every house in the Close and was very much a pastor, particularly beloved by children. The Chapter inaugurated a system whereby the many visitors to the cathedral were firmly solicited for realistic voluntary contributions. Morley's diplomacy, and his care towards those who objected, established a source of income which others have since sought to achieve elsewhere.

Morley was Chaplain to the Queen's household from 1965 to 1971 and in 1974 he welcomed her to Salisbury for the Royal Maundy service. In 1980 he was appointed CBE.

Morley retired to Bath, where he ministered happily at Bath Abbey. He also became a well-known after-dinner speaker and travelled all over Britain. People flocked to hear him and paid handsomely for the privilege. He spoke mellifluously with great grace and skill and to the last was a charming and witty speaker.

William Fenton Morley, priest: born 5 May 1912; Officiating Chaplain to the Forces 1941-43; Vicar of Penrhiwceibr 1943-46; Rector of Haseley 1946-50; Director of Music and Lecturer in Hebrew, Cuddesdon College 1946- 50; Examiner in Hebrew and New Testament Greek, London University 1947- 59, External Lecturer in Biblical and Religious Studies 1950-61; Education Secretary, Overseas Council of Church Assembly 1950-56; Editor, East and West Review 1953-64; Chaplain and Lecturer, St Gabriel's Training College 1956-61; Vicar of Leeds, Rural Dean of Leeds 1961-71; Chairman, Church of England Deployment and Payment Commission 1965-68; Chaplain to Her Majesty's Household 1965-71; Dean of Salisbury 1971-77; CBE 1980; married 1937 Marjorie Robinson (one son, one daughter); died 9 July 1995.

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