David Goodbourn, Baptist Union Trustee, ecumenist, dies
Tributes have been paid to Dr David Goodbourn, a former Baptist Union Trustee, Council Member and General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), who died on Sunday (9 November) aged 66
**update: an obituary of David Goodbourn
has now been published 25/11**
David had cancer, which only caused him to step down as a Baptist Union Trustee as recently as the summer. He had served in this role since 2011, during which time he played a significant part in the Futures process, chairing a group which looked at the new governance structures of the Baptist Union.
Before then David was a president of Luther King House, the centre for theological education in Manchester (2005-2011) and a general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (1999-2006). He was a member of the central committee of the World Council of Churches and acted as moderator of its sub-committee on programmes.
He was an associate member of staff of the International Baptist Theological Seminary, and tutored at both Northern Baptist College (now Northern Baptist Learning Community) and Scottish Baptist College. He also served on the panel of reference for the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, was a member of the editorial panel of the Journal of Adult Theological Education and was chair of trustees for the charity Feed the Minds.
A wise and articulate voice, he wrote movingly about his cancer in an article for Reform Magazine just over a year ago.
General Secretary Lynn Green said, ‘I was saddened to hear of the death of David Goodbourn over the weekend.
‘David has made a very significant contribution to Baptist life over the years, most recently as a member of the BUGB Trustee Board. His wisdom, clarity of thought, his encouragement and unfailing support were all appreciated so much by his fellow trustees.
‘David has offered us an example of embracing suffering on the journey of discipleship throughout his illness. In the midst of our sense of loss we are thankful that he is now at peace with His Lord and we pray for his wife Lynn and the family as they mourn their loss.’
Graham Sparkes succeeded David as President of Luther King House in 2011. He said, 'David was deeply loved and respected here at Luther King House. During his years as our President he made an enormous contribution, both through his work as an educator and as someone with a wide understanding of the churches in this country and abroad. David’s witness to the gospel was both fiercely intelligent and deeply compassionate, and we shall miss him greatly.
'No one could want for a better predecessor! Following his retirement, David continued to be an immense support and encouragement to us all at LKH, and I was grateful to draw on his wisdom on numerous occasions. Yet at the same time he never sought to interfere. We shall remember him not least for the last sermon he preached to our community – carefully prepared as always, full of rich insight, and clearly the result of much faithful living. All this was typical of David.'
Ruth Bottoms, a former moderator of Baptist Union Trustees, worked alongside David at the World Council of Churches. She said, 'For me, David Goodbourn was the ecumenical diplomat par excellence: knowledgeable, a good listener, patient, able to interpret different traditions to one another and with a wry sense of humour over the diversity of the church.
'I first got to know him when as General Secretary of CTBI he attended the Central Committee meetings of the World Council of Churches as an observer. At the time I was one of seven British and Irish churches representatives on the Committee.
'David would bring us together as a group and ensure we were well briefed and able to represent the whole of the British and Irish church scene not just our own traditions. When I was out of my depth in understanding the nuances of ecumenical debate, or frustrated to the extreme by discussions, he was the person to turn to. In particular he was unfailingly encouraging of those of us who were younger and female to find our voice.
'I owe him much, for he helped to enable me to find my feet in the World Council of Churches, which in turn helped equip me for roles within our Baptist Union. David himself served on the WCC Commission for Education and Ecumenical Formation before replacing me as the Baptist Union representative on the Central Committee in 2006. This was at a time of major restructuring for the governing structures of the WCC in the face of significant funding challenges and David brought his many gifts to bear in helping steer the process through. As Baptists we were later able to make use of these same gifts through the recent Futures process.'
This last point was reflected by Richard Nicholls, who in his role as Baptist Union General Manager and then Transition Manger, worked with David over in recent years. He said, 'He was a great guy, very open, wise and articulate. He played a significant role in the Futures process as we tried to envision what the new governance structures would look like, how Council, the Trustee Board and the Baptist Steering Group would relate to each other.
'He was a valued and respected trustee, a very clear thinker. He will be missed.'
Tributes have also poured in from previous colleagues in other denominations, highlighting the impact David had in his ecumenical work and the respect in which he was held.
Bob Fyffe, the General Secretary of CTBI, writes, 'Having worked with David over a number of years before following him into CTBI, I can testify to the many people at home and abroad whom David has worked with and influenced. I first met him at St. Colm’s College when David was running the Scottish Churches Open College. Many people across Scotland, lay and ordained, owe so much of their formation to David’s enthusiasm and teaching style.
'It was no surprise when he was appointed as General Secretary of CTBI in 1999 where his rigorous mind and depth of knowledge across the ecumenical scene was put to best use. Following David into CTBI also allowed me to see the care and attention to detail he gave to organisational strategy and the wide vision for Christian unity that he carried within himself. David’s contribution to that wider ecumenical vision was illustrated by his active involvement with the World Council of Churches and beyond.
'Apart from that he was one of the nicest and most Christian people I have had the privilege to know.'
Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:5-6)
Following the death of Dr David Goodbourn on Sunday 9 November, we give thanks to God for the life and faithful witness of this distinguished educator, creative thinker and loyal friend in the service of the One Church of Jesus Christ. Recognizing David’s many achievements, we in the World Council of Churches are especially grateful for his contributions to the work of the WCC Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation, the WCC Programme Committee, and for his transformative participation in all three governing bodies of the WCC: the Assembly, Central Committee and Executive Committee. I will personally miss him and his never failing support, till our last communication.
A member and leader of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, in his youth David was president of the Baptist Student Federation before beginning his career as a teacher in Scotland and England. From 1999 to 2006 he was general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Afterwards, he continued to make his mark as president of the ecumenical Partnership for Theological Education, Luther King House in Manchester, UK, retiring from that position in 2011.
At the Ninth Assembly of the WCC (Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2006), David Goodbourn represented the Baptist Union as a delegate and was elected to a seven-year term on the Central Committee; later, when he became chair of the WCC Programme Committee, he also came to serve as a member of the Executive Committee. He played an essential, imaginative and consistently positive role in the ecumenical movement during a time of changing circumstances, changing expectations and changing leadership. His experience and skills in administration added significantly in those years to the quality of governance review and the reform of institutional structures.
As an educator, lay theologian and ecumenist, David encouraged his students, colleagues and companions to face hard questions with unflinching honesty and with the knowledge that God’s love is mediated in our love for one another. Through his teaching, his writing and those whom he loved, David’s witness continues. Our prayers are with his wife Lynne, their extended family and their companions on life’s pilgrimage, that we all may know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
Bishop Angaelos, the Moderator of Trustees CTBI, said, 'In having dealt with my dear friend the late Dr David Goodbourn for many years, it was obvious that he had a heart for the life of the Church in Britain and Ireland and was heavily committed to the continued efforts of unifying its life and witness. David was instrumental at a time of restructuring and renewing of vision within CTBI, and his efforts, love and commitment will never be forgotten.
'I pray that God grants David well deserved rest after his valiant and gracious struggle with illness for many years. While he will be truly missed, his influence and memory will always be with us.'
Margaret Swinson (former Moderator of CTBI Trustees and long-time member of Church Representatives Meeting - CRM) said, 'I was fortunate to work with David both at CTBI and, following his retirement, in his new role at Luther King House. His commitment to ecumenical working was exemplary as was his care and attention to all that he did which was enlivened by his gracious manner and humour.'
Gillian Kingston, former Moderator of the CTBI CRM) said, 'To have worked alongside David Goodbourn on the Church Representative Meeting was both privilege and pleasure. David’s clarity of vision and sharpness of mind surmounted challenges presented by both situations and personalities. Above all he had an engaging and infectious sense of humour which stayed with him through his illness.
Ar dheas De a raibh a h-anam dilis (translated - May his sweet soul be at the right hand of God).
Peter Sulston (former Moderator of Executive Committee of CRM) said, 'When David was General Secretary of CTBI from 1999 to 2006 he brought to the role all his skills as an adult educator, particularly his commitment to encouraging the gifts and insights of others and playing to the strengths of colleagues.
'Although his deep affection for Scotland was clear he always sought to be objective and churches in all four nations trusted and respected him. Although not outwardly demonstrative David’s commitment to things being done properly, his quiet competence and meticulous attention to detail all inspired respect and confidence.
'He was not afraid to grasp nettles and managed the changes to the way CTBI worked and the necessary reduction of its activities with great professionalism. In more informal settings staff, trustees and all who worked with David were always aware of his personal warmth and dry humour.
'His ‘parting thoughts’ published just over a year ago reflected on what mattered knowing he had only months to live. He was grateful to know that he and his work were valued and that he was loved. His honesty and readiness to go where faith led him was both moving and challenging. he words of Julian of Norwich express, in part at least, the faith by which David lived and died: “Love is not changed by death, and nothing is lost, and all in the end is harvest". I thank God for the privilege of knowing him and working with him.'
Mgr Andrew Summersgill, formerly General Secretary the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said, 'Archbishop Bernard Longley, Mgr Andrew Faley and I worked alongside David at a period of great change for CTBI, and perhaps the words "ecumenical architecture" are not the ones you might immediately expect to hear as we learn of his death!
'However David was assiduous in ensuring that we always had before us that it is the Lord who is the foundation and builder of the endeavour of the Church. May the Good Shepherd whom David served so tirelessly show mercy to him, welcoming him into the Father's house. May he rest in peace.'
Gethin Abraham-Williams, former General Secretary Churches Together in Wales
Though he had prepared himself and us, his parting, when it came, still crept up on us unawares. A Baptist educator with an ecumenical soul. The quiet Englishman who championed our four nations. From China to Harare and places in between, David’s integrity and capacity for the humdrum as well as the visionary was acknowledged and valued.
Always gracious, persistent without ever appearing intrusive. A true friend. A good man. His wife Lynn supplied the unconventional and the spontaneous that met his dry humour and his instinctive caution. Theirs was a perfect match and a deep love. In an article prepared for publication before he died, David compared himself to de Mello’s ‘salt figure walking out into the sea, and in the final seconds before she dissolves, saying, “Now I know who I am”.’ For those who had the privilege of counting themselves among David’s friends, there were never any doubts who or what he was. Nor any doubts that he is now in and with God in an eternal present.