Obituary: Canon G. B. Bentley

G. B. Bentley was an outstanding priest of the Church of England and a remarkable person.

I got to know Bentley well during the last 11 years of his life, as his next-door neighbour in the Cloisters at Windsor Castle, where he was a Canon of St George's Chapel from 1957 (and an Honorary Canon from 1982), and as a friend and confidant up to the hour of his death. Although he was in considerable discomfort and distress towards the end, his mind remained acutely sharp, his last dispute being with God, who had called him, whilst still at school at Uppingham, in Rutland, to the priestly vocation.

He recalled very clearly how he tried to resist that call but he succumbed and was firm in his conviction and vocation all his life. He went on to King's College, Cambridge, from where he emerged as a distinguished scholar with a double First in Classics and Theology.

During an active and vigorous ministry which spanned close on 50 years, Bryan Bentley served as priest, pastor and scholar, as husband to Nina and father to two sons and two daughters. It was not possible to get all those things right all the time, but he left a remarkable legacy in each of those spheres of his life.

His intellectual abilities were recognised early in his ministry through his work at Lincoln, in college and cathedral, and his pastoral gifts in hospital and parish. He devoted much of his intellectual energy to moral theology and as one of the leading moral theologians of his day was a prime mover in the Church's efforts to establish a fruitful relationship between church and state law with regard to marriage and the family, not least through his work under that title for the 1958 Lambeth Conference. The report Putting Asunder (1966) was very much his work and proved to be a forerunner of the recent divorce law reform. He was in correspondence with the Lord Chancellor almost to the end of his life, in support of the no-fault divorce recommendations.

He worked hard and conscientiously without the ambition and self-interest that can mar many a vocation. This, coupled with a scrupulously critical mind, was doubtless why his writing was not more extensive, although between 1940 and 1965 he was the author of some half a dozen books.

Bryan Bentley exploded the silly myth that one is either good with one's head or one's hands. He was extremely good with both, having a dextrous touch for making things and an acute understanding of how things worked - he serviced his own car. Not only was he an innovative Precentor for many of the 25 years of his Windsor canonry but also an effective Steward of the buildings and the works which abound in the place.

With regard to his long tenure as Canon of Windsor, followed by the unprecedented 14 years as Honorary Residentiary Canon, he devoted considerable energy to the maintenance and understanding of the college and chapel traditions. What appeared to some as an over- zealous regard for the ancient statutes that bind the College of St George derived from a deep love and concern for the place and its continuing part in the life of the wider Church.

It has been said that he was in some ways a difficult person at times, but such is often the judgement of those who do not distinguish between the argument and the man. He was, above all, a seeker after truth for its own sake.

His life and work spanned a good deal of the 20th century; he was a living link with an earlier generation and a reminder of an age when men of ability and distinction responded more readily to the Church's call to ministry.

How one dies is largely dependent on how one has lived. Bentley's was no easy vocation. He was prepared to argue it out with his maker as he did with his friends. And through all this he increasingly displayed a warm and generous heart.

Geoffrey Bryan Bentley, priest: born 16 July 1909; ordained deacon 1933, priest 1934; Assistant Curate, St Cuthbert's, Copnor 1933-35; Tutor of Scholae Cancellarii, Lincoln 1935-38, Lecturer 1938-52; Priest Vicar, Lincoln Cathedral 1938-52; Proctor in Convocation 1945-55; Rector, Milton Abbot with Dunteron 1952-57; Examining Chaplain to Bishop of Exeter 1952-74; Canon of Windsor 1957-82, Honorary Residentiary Canon 1982-96; married 1938 Nina Coombe (two sons, two daughters); died 12 September 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'