The Bishop of Buckingham and former Premier trustee, Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, has passed away at the age of 68. He was well known for his advocacy on behalf of church abuse survivors and for encouraging the Church to embrace the opportunities provided by digital media. The former Bishop of Oxford Rt Rev John Pritchard pays tribute to him


Dr. Alan Wilson, Area Bishop of Buckingham, was a wonderful controversialist, but that was not what made him tick. He held powerfully-expressed views on LGBT inclusion in the Church and on the rights of survivors of abuse, and his stance on these issues gained him friends and opponents in equal measure. Essentially, however, he was a teacher and pastor with a remarkably well-stocked mind and a big heart.

Alan Wilson died at home on Saturday morning of a suspected major heart attack. His death at 68 is the more poignant in that he was on sabbatical preparing for retirement after 44 years of fruitful ministry in the diocese of Oxford.

He studied history at St John’s College, Cambridge and trained for ordained ministry at Wycliffe Hall, an evangelical theological college in Oxford. He served curacies in Eynsham near Oxford and in Caversham, part of Reading, during which time he gained a doctorate in history. He went on to serve as Rector of St Michael and All Angels, Sandhurst until 2003 when the then Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, had the wisdom to call him to be Bishop of Buckingham.

He was a constant source of delight and of good humour

I had the pleasure of working with Alan Wilson for over seven years when I succeeded Richard Harries as Bishop of Oxford. He had a fine intellect and an enviable memory. He would produce facts, quotes and opinions from both historic and contemporary sources that made you wonder how he absorbed so much and how he could come up with the relevant information quite so effortlessly and present it so fluently. He was a constant source of delight and of good humour.

He was also a demanding colleague in that his deeply felt views on sexuality were strongly argued but very different to current church thinking. This put me as Diocesan Bishop in the uncomfortable situation of having to hold to the centre of gravity in terms of the Church of England’s current position while resisting the demands of conservative church leaders in the diocese that I discipline Alan for overstepping the theological mark.

He was a courageous, wise, intelligent, prophetic pastor and teacher

Behind the controversy, however, was a bishop who loved both the gospel and the Church and who delighted in the variegated people of God in the parishes he served. He was quick to respond to pastoral need and parish emergencies. He loved the clergy in his Area and wanted them to flourish. He encouraged them to enjoy life beyond their parish duties and exemplified that himself – he was a runner, a photographer and kept chickens; he enjoyed travel and politics, history and contemporary culture. He was quick to see the advantages of social media and was a regular consumer and producer of blogs, twitter-posts and more. As an early-adopter of new technology he could also be misunderstood. I received a letter of complaint from someone who had been at a service he was taking and thought he saw the bishop reading his emails; in fact he was following the Bible readings on an App.

Bishop Alan was an enthusiast for education in which the diocese had a major interest with nearly 280 Church of England schools and emerging academies. Alan served as an all-action Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education and tried to forge a link with an educational enterprise for Dalits in India. He was a trustee of Premier for a number of years and was also the CofE bishop responsibe for digital. His mind was always on the move and his heart was quick to follow.

Alan was married to Lucy and they had five children whose development was a constant source of fascination and pride. It was a full and happy family life and provided the security that underlay Alan’s productive ministry. He was a courageous, wise, intelligent, prophetic pastor and teacher.

Whether you agreed with him or not he stirred people to think. He had a very important part to play in the life of the diocese and of national Church life.

We need people like Alan Wilson. He was unique.