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Morton, Harry Osborne
1925-1988; e.m. 1950

Born in Wales, a Yorkshire pit village west of Worksop, on 28 June 1925 and educated at the King's School, Pontefract. He read Natural Sciences at King's College, Cambridge on a Miners' Welfare Scholarship and came under the influence of the Franciscan Fathers, who persuaded him to return to the Methodism he had abandoned. He worked for Marconi's at Chelmsford, became a local preacher and in 1948 General Secretary of the Order of Christian Witness. He was very much Donald Soper's protégé, sharing both his pacifism and his great articularity. Accepted for the ministry in 1949, he trained at Hartley Victoria College; then, following attendance at Youth and Student Conferences in India, from 1954 to 1958 served in Bangalore as Study Secretary of the SCM in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He was ordained deacon (1954) and presbyter (1955) in the Church of South India. From 1960 to 1963 he was in Geneva as Scholarship Secretary of the World Council of Churches; then joined the MMS staff. As Secretary for East and Central Africa (1963-1972) he encouraged the development of indigenous leadership. He was General Secretary of the MMS 1972-1973 and was President of the Conference that year. When the Conference was equally divided over the closure of either Hartley Victoria or Wesley College, he declined to use his casting vote, but called for a recount, which went in favour of Bristol. From 1973 to 1980 he was General Secretary of the British Council of Churches. Appointed Superintendent of the East Ham Mission in 1980, he was prevented from becoming Chairman of the London NE District the following year by a stroke that left him aphasic. He died at Allestree, Derby on 5 December 1988.

Quotations

'Harry Morton was another man of outstanding gifts. His lucidity of thought and ability to present a penetrating analysis of a situation were wedded to a truly prophetic sense of mission. But the ministry he exercised exacted a heavy price. He suffered from spells of deep depression, what he called his "black dog", and his colleagues, who supported him with deep loyalty, sometimes found him testy and uncertain. He was felled by a debilitating stroke … When the British Council of Churches celebrated its 40th anniversary in St. Paul's Cathedral Harry was pushed down the aisle in a wheelchair by Kenneth Slack…'

Kenneth Greet, Fully Connected (1997), p.123

'[Harry] was the man called of God to stand in the gap. The gulfs he bridged were numerous; between denominations through his ecumenical commitment; between the sexes in his concern for equality in the service of the Church; between theological factions in his ability to transcend the conservative-radical divide; between peoples and nations as a missionary statesman...

'It was because Harry held the prophetic and priestly elements of his ministry in such fruitful tension that he was able to fulfil that rarest of functions - to be a prophet within the ecclesiastical establishment… [which] means coming to terms with the ambiguities of power. Harry understood power, its appropriate use in the purposes of God, and the dangers of it, for power always exacts too high a price for its services in the end.'

Colin Morris in Methodist Recorder, 28 October, 2016

Sources

  • Conference Handbook, 1972
  • Methodist Recorder, 29 June 1972; 15 December 1988; 28 October 2016
  • Colin Morris, Snapshots (2007), pp.21-23

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