Obituary: The Rev Dr William Platt

William James Platt, missionary: born 2 May 1893; Methodist missionary in West Africa 1916-30; Chairman and General Superintendent, Methodist District of French West Africa 1925-30; Field Secretary for Equatorial Africa, British and Foreign Bible Society 1930-35, Youth Secretary 1935-37, Home Secretary 1937- 46, Assistant General Secretary 1946-48, General Secretary 1948-60, Consultant 1960-61; books include An African Prophet (a biography of William Wade Harris) 1934, From Fetish to Faith 1935, Three Women in Central Asia (Mildred Cable, Francesca French and Evangeline French: a biography) 1964; married 1921 Hilda Waterhouse (died 1975; one daughter); died 5 July 1993.

WITH the death at the age of 100 of William Platt, the Methodist Church has lost one of its great missionary pioneers.

Bill Platt was barely 23 years old when in 1916, fresh from ministerial training college in Manchester and not yet ordained, he was appointed to serve the Lagos District of the Methodist Church in West Africa. That district covered a vast area of what is now Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast. Platt spoke fluent French and as a consequence was sent to work in the French colony of Dahomey (now Benin).

From the beginning he showed a great zeal for missionary work. He came to Africa with the Good News of Jesus and he was intent on proclaiming that good news as widely as he was able. He was blessed with great physical stamina, organisational ability and vision; he was a born leader. He laid great emphasis not just upon 'church planting' but upon education, and particularly education for women and girls. Whilst in many respects the missionary attitude and approach which Platt epitomised belonged to the colonial era, in his belief in the importance of women in African society he was ahead of his time.

From Dahomey he paid two decisive visits to the Ivory Coast in 1923 and 1924, initially to intercede with the French authorities for the small Methodist community in Grand Bassam (then the French colonial capital), but later to follow up the mass movement which grew out of the work of the Liberian 'prophet' William Wade Harris who, between 1913 and 1915, had walked from Monrovia in Liberia through Ivory Coast into Ghana and back again, all the way proclaiming Jesus. His work had met with a 'success' unknown by previous missionary endeavour, particularly in Ivory Coast.

Harris left a legacy of tens of thousands of people waiting to be nurtured in the Christian faith, and it was these people whom Platt 'discovered' in 1923. He formed churches and schools, he bought land. It is small wonder that the Methodist Church in Ivory Coast looks upon Bill Platt as in a very real sense the father of their church.

So it was that he was invited to share in the autonomy celebrations of the Ivoirien Methodist Church in 1985. Although by then well into his nineties, Platt made that journey and enjoyed the privilege of sharing in those celebrations. It was there, indeed, in 1985 that I first met him, and saw for myself the love and respect, mixed with just a little awe, that the Ivoirien people felt for him.

Platt's missionary zeal, however, was not all focused on West Africa. In 1930 he had resigned from the Methodist Missionary Society over policy differences to serve with the British and Foreign Bible Society, first as field secretary for equatorial Africa, then successively as youth secretary from 1936, home secretary from 1937, assistant general secretary from 1946, and then as general secretary until 1960; he retired in 1961, well past the normal retirement age.

His wife Hilda, whom he had married in 1921 and with whom he shared his missionary adventures, died in 1975. Bill then moved to Burnham and finally to Windsor, where I was able to get to know him better over the last years of his life. The man I came to know saw himself as an ordinary Methodist minister, a worker in God's Kingdom, a man with gifts to be employed in the service of God and of His Kingdom. This he did to his life's end.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate Start - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders