In Memoriam: Michael Whinney ‘90

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The Rt. Rev. Michael Whinney, who received a Master of Theology degree from General during a sabbatical from the Church of England in 1990, died February 3, 2017 at the age of 86. Whinney was a well-loved bishop who made a great contribution to the Church of England in Birmingham as Bishop of Aston (1982-1985) after fruitful ministry in Rainham, Bermondsey and as Archdeacon of Southwark. In 1985 he moved to take the role of Bishop of Southwell before returning to Birmingham three years later due to ill health. After a sabbatical year in the Diocese, he became a stipendiary assistant bishop where his passion for mission, his approachability and his care of the clergy were highly valued. During the period between the departure of Archbishop Sentamu and the arrival of Bishop David, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked Whinney to lead the Diocese and his ministry during that time was deeply appreciated.

A great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, Whinney inherited something of his ancestor’s social concern for the inner-city and two decades of immersion in Bermondsey and Southwark had provided him with a deep knowledge of South London’s inherited problems and their continuing challenge to the church.

Michael Humphrey Dickens Whinney was born in Chelsea on July 8 1930. At Charterhouse he was captain of football, leaving in 1948 to take a National Service commission in the Royal Horse Artillery and the Surrey Regiment. This completed, he joined as a trainee a family firm of accountants founded in the mid-Victorian era.

Evangelical influence intervened, however, and he left in 1952 to prepare for Holy Orders. At Pembroke College, Cambridge, he read History and Theology, before completing his training at Ridley Hall. From 1957 to 1960 Whinney was a curate at Rainham in Essex. He then became head of the Cambridge University Mission Settlement in Bermondsey.  On completion of a seven-year stint at the Settlement, he became Vicar of the neighboring parishes of St James with Christchurch, thus widening his responsibilities and influence. These increased further in 1973 when he became Borough Dean and Archdeacon of Southwark.

Nine years later his experience and expertise in urban ministry led to his appointment as Bishop of Aston with a remit to tackle the problems for the Church created by Birmingham’s fast-changing social and racial make-up. In 1985 he was asked to move to the leadership of Southwell.

In 1988, Whinney accepted the invitation of the Bishop of Birmingham, Mark Santer, to join him as a full-time stipendiary assistant bishop. He was thus able to resume his urban ministry, and with great success support the parish and specialist clergy, as well as contribute to diocesan policy. He was a Canon Residentiary of the cathedral from 1992 to 1995.

Whinney remained in Birmingham after his retirement and was active as an honorary assistant bishop. He became vice-president of the Dickens Fellowship in 1986. He is survived by his wife, Veronica, and by two sons and a daughter.