Essay / Misc.

In memoriam: A.M. (Donald) Allchin

A.M. Allchin’s is one of those names that you run across all the time, in many different contexts, and you ask yourself: who is this man? As it turns out, Allchin was quite a man and he appears to have known most of the biggest names in Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox circles over the past 60 years. Born in 1930, Allchin was educated in London and Oxford,  and lived most of his life in Oxford, Canterbury and Bangor, Wales. He died on December 23, 2010.

For all of his accomplishments Allchin was, without doubt, a devoted ecumenist. As it turns out, he attended the same grade school as Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware, who has remained a life-long friend. Throughout much of his life he has been involved in the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, England’s leading ecumenical society seeking unity primarily between the Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy. In 1960, Allchin, at the age of 30, became the editor of the fellowship’s journal Sobornost and in 1971 he became Chairman of the Council of the Fellowship. For a time he also directed the St Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality, an ecumenical study center in Oxford, and was librarian at Pusey House, the Anglo-Catholic house of studies in Oxford. He was also a founder and past president of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Through these and other areas of service Allchin came to know the leading lights of twentieth-century Christianity: Thomas Merton, Dumitru Staniloe, Nicolas Zernov, Andrew Louth, Benedicta Ward, Nicholas Lossky, Rowan Williams (who will conduct his funeral) and others.

Allchin’s academic interests were as varied as the friends that he kept. He published an important and influential volume on the history of Anglican monasticism, studies of Welsh poets, a definitive study of the Danish theologian and poet N.F.S. Grundtvig and many volumes on Christian unity. He was a prolific and eclectic author who mastered both the Welsh and Danish languages in order to conduct his research.

I believe, however, that one of Allchin’s greatest contributions to Christian thought and witness is that he remained an Anglican. Though he counted important Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics as his friends, he did not convert but stayed faithful to his own tradition. Perhaps this could be Allchin’s greatest message to us today: one can remain faithful to one’s own Christian tradition while still having good friends who hold to different views and belong to different Christian traditions. For that is a real, living ecumenism and the kind that we should all aspire to.

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