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Prof. Alister McGrath's Obituary of New Testament scholar R.T."Dick" France

Prof. Alister McGrath's Obituary of New Testament scholar R.T."Dick" France

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Published by OCCAMediaOxfordUK
Alister McGrath (President of The Oxford Centre For Christian Apologetics) Obituary of Dick France published in The Times of London 2.23.12. France was a New Testament scholar and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and known for his thoughtful and gracious brand of evangelicalism. Prof. Alster McGrath was both a friend and colleague, succeeding him as Principal of Wycliffe Hall.
Alister McGrath (President of The Oxford Centre For Christian Apologetics) Obituary of Dick France published in The Times of London 2.23.12. France was a New Testament scholar and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and known for his thoughtful and gracious brand of evangelicalism. Prof. Alster McGrath was both a friend and colleague, succeeding him as Principal of Wycliffe Hall.

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Published by: OCCAMediaOxfordUK on Feb 24, 2012
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Obituary of R.T.´Dick´ France published in THE TIMES of London, Thursday 23February 2012
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PROF. REV. ALISTER MCGRATH
 Dick France was a New Testament scholar and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and known for his thoughtful and gracious brand of evangelicalism. Prof. ALister  McGrath was both a friend and colleague, succeeding him as Principal of Wycliffe Hall.
R. T. (³Dick´) France was a leading New Testament scholar and theological educator.Originally a student of classics at Oxford, he brought his linguistic and scholarly toolsto the study of the text of the New Testament. His PhD was one of the first to emergefrom the University of Bristol¶s newly established Faculty of Theology in the 1960s,and led to his appointment as a part-time lecturer in the New Testament at TyndaleHall, Bristol, where he had trained for ministry in the Church of England.France was a leading representative of a thoughtful, informed, reflective and graciousevangelicalism. During the 1960s and 1970s, under the leadership of John Stott(obituary July 29, 2011) and his circle, evangelicalism had begun to set to one side itsearlier isolationism, and was reconnecting with the life of the Church and the wider academic world. France was an outstanding example of the new style of evangelicalism that began to blossom in that age. Firmly rooted in both his faith andscholarship, he was willing to explore and engage in questions that had hitherto beenignored or feared. By the late 1970s he had established his reputation as a NewTestament scholar who was able to hold together the worlds of critical scholarshipand personal faith, and became a role model to many younger evangelical scholars,wrestling with issues of biblical interpretation.Richard Thomas France was born in 1938 in Londonderry. After studying at BradfordGrammar School, he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1956 to study LiteraeHumaniores. In 1960 he moved to Tyndale Hall, Bristol, to prepare for ordination inthe Church of England, combining this with his doctoral research at the University of Bristol on Jesus and the Old Testament. He was ordained in 1966 and spent threeyears serving as curate at St Matthew¶s church, Cambridge.France¶s interest in theological education led him to spend his next four years as alecturer in biblical studies at the University of Ife (now Obafemi AwolowoUniversity) in Nigeria. He returned to England in 1973 as librarian of Tyndale House,Cambridge, which was then emerging as a leading research centre for the study of thehistory and literature of the New Testament. He would remain involved with TyndaleHouse, eventually becoming its Warden.In 1981 France moved to London Bible College (now London School of Theology),initially as senior lecturer in New Testament. His administrative gifts and stronginterpersonal skills led to his being appointed Vice-Principal two years later. Hissuccess in that role led to him returning to Oxford in 1989 to succeed Canon G. N.Shaw as Principal of Wycliffe Hall, one of the Church of England¶s theologicalcolleges. His scholarly reputation and easy-going manner drew students, allowing himto expand both the student body and the number of teaching staff. France paid
 
 particular attention to developing a good working relationship with the University of Oxford. The respect in which he came to be held within university circles led to him being elected chairman of Oxford¶s Faculty of Theology for the academic year 1994-95.Yet France¶s period as Principal of Wycliffe Hall was not easy. The influence of JohnStott and his circle within Anglican evangelicalism began to lessen in the late 1980s,with louder and less diplomatic voices becoming more prominent. The 1992 decisionto ordain women to the priesthood in the Church of England created severe tensionswithin evangelicalism, which were reflected at Wycliffe Hall. France had, throughlong reflection on the New Testament, become a firm but diplomatic supporter of theordination of women, for reasons he set out clearly in his 1995 Didsbury Lectures, published as
Women in the Church¶s Ministry
(1997). It was an uncomfortablesituation for him.France¶s move in the summer of 1995 from being Principal of Wycliffe Hall to becoming rector of a group of isolated Anglican parishes in the diocese of Hereford,straddling the border between England and Wales, caused surprise at Oxford. Givenhis obvious gifts, some expected him to become a bishop (many still believe that thiswas a missed opportunity for the Church). Others thought that he would move to asenior academic appointment in North America, where his reputation was substantial,and his teaching gifts would be fully appreciated.Yet France was committed to a deeper vision of scholarship than that normallyassociated with the academic world. From the outset, France saw himself as one whowas called to interpret and apply the New Testament to the life of the Church. Hisfinal appointment allowed him to help ordinary churchgoers to make more sense of their faith, and connect more deeply with the text of the New Testament. As hisformer colleagues came to realise, France had found a way to relate the Church andscholarship that he found to be more satisfying and productive than what some mightconsider more prestigious alternatives. France came to be seen as a role model for agrowing number of ³priest-scholars´, who were concerned to develop and apply their theology and scholarship in the context of active ministry and service, rather than inisolated academic institutions.In 1999 France retired to Gwynedd in northwest Wales, where he continued hisministry of writing and teaching. Among many other responsibilities he was lecturer for the Bangor diocesan ministry course from 2000 to 2009. Although France¶s works published during his career won him many plaudits, his two best works were published after his retirement. His substantial commentaries on Matthew¶s gospel(2007) and the Greek text of Mark¶s gospel (2002) are models of detailed textualengagement and tempered scholarship, coupled with a deep personal commitment todiscern the deeper meaning of the text. France had saved the best wine for the last.He is survived by his wife, Barbara (³Curly´), and a son and daughter.
R. T. France, New Testament scholar and educationist, was born on April 2,1938. He died after a short illness on February 10, 2012, aged 73

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