Obituary: The Rev Rupert Davies

Rupert Eric Davies, minister of the church: born London 29 November 1909; Tutor in Church History, Didsbury College (now Wesley College) Bristol 1952-67, Principal 1967- 73; Warden, New Room, Bristol 1976-82; President, Methodist Conference 1970; married 1937 Margaret Holt (two sons, two daughters); died Bristol 4 July 1994.

RUPERT DAVIES was a Methodist leader well known beyond his own church and a prolific author.

He was born in 1909, the son of Walter Davies, a London solicitor, and his wife Elizabeth. He was Captain of St Paul's School, before winning a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, reading classics and becoming Senior Denyer and Johnson Scholar. At Wesley House, Cambridge, he took a First in theology then spent a year at the University of Tubingen, in Germany. He was chaplain of Kingswood School, Bath, from 1935 to 1947 and later Chairman of the Governors. He was then a Methodist Circuit Minister in Bristol. In 1952 he was appointed Tutor in Church History at Didsbury (now Wesley) College, Bristol, becoming Principal in 1967 when the college amalgamated with Wesley College, Leeds. From 1973 to 1976 he was again in a Methodist circuit and acted as Warden of the New Room in Bristol from 1976 to 1982. He was President of the Methodist Conference in 1970.

Davies's first book, The Problem of Authority in the Continental Reformers (1947), earned him his Cambridge BD, giving him a place in the renaissance of Reformation studies at that time. Religious Authority in the Age of Doubt (1968) followed up the earlier book. He was co-editor of the four-volume History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, contributing notable chapters. His Methodism (1963) is still the best one-volume book on its subject but his range extended to the ecumenical scene, the philosophy of education, the creeds, and the commandments, and he was literary editor of the Methodist School Hymn-Book in 1950.

He was a patient teacher, his greatest academic skill being the way in which with total clarity he could summarise great contributions to Christian thought. He was for many years a Recognised Lecturer at Bristol University, which awarded him an honorary D Litt in 1992. But it is as an ecumenist that he was best known in the wider church. In Bristol he played a notable role in the rich ecumenical scene there. He was a member of the Anglican-Methodist Unity Commission, and deeply disappointed by its final failure. He saw the goal of organic unity not as a Utopian idealist but as a patient negotiator and a tireless advocate in public; behind the scenes he combined the wisdom of Solomon and, just occasionally, the statecraft of Machiavelli, but with warm humanity. He was a member of the Joint Liturgical Group which achieved much in both the renewal of worship and dialogue between the churches. He served both the British and the World Council of Churches and was convenor of the Methodist Faith and Order Committee. His clarity of mind and theological acumen had full scope in all these activities.

If his early writings reflected the era of Hitler, the German church struggle and post-war reconstruction, his later theological outlook was sympathetic to the struggle for liberation of oppressed people and the full participation of women in the life of the churches. In all this he was fully supported by his wife Margaret. They had two sons, two daughters and a foster-daughter, a refugee from the Nazis. Davies was no remote academic: he was preaching regularly up to the month of his death and recently wrote on the issue of the Establishment of the Church of England.

(Photograph omitted)

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

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines