Thursday, 6 March 2008

Telegraph Obituary: The Rt Revd Kenneth Woollcombe, former Bishop of Oxford

The Right Reverend Kenneth Woollcombe, who died on March 3 aged 84, was Bishop of Oxford from 1971 to 1978; but the pattern of his career was unusual and, in some ways, disappointing.

During the 1960s and 1970s his star was clearly in the ascendant. A series of important academic posts was followed - to the accompaniment of much cheering - by appointment to the bishopric of Oxford. He was well known in international church circles and was associated with the movements for church reform and church unity.

His early years in Oxford were full of promise. Whereas his predecessor, Harry Carpenter, had been of a somewhat dry, academic temperament, Woollcombe's stylish and open approach was found refreshing. His sense of humour enabled him to break through many an icy situation, and he had great pastoral gifts.

The day-to-day demands of so large a diocese, however, proved testing; and there were surprising moments when the bishop forecast the imminent demise of the Church of England and spoke of his own intention to retire in 10 years' time in order to "run a pub".

The humorous, provocative element in such episcopal utterances was easily recognised, but so also was an underlying uncertainty about his role as a bishop and his ability to cope with its requirements. Read more
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