Council for World Mission has received news that Rev Bernard Thorogood has died. The 92-year-old patriarch, who served faithfully and with distinction, as a missionary of the former London Missionary Society and the first General Secretary of CWM passed away peacefully in a Sydney hospital today.
It was during the 1950s and 60s that Rev Thorogood served as LMS missionary in the Pacific region, mostly in the Cook Islands. At a time when the churches, founded by the early missionaries, were seeking to establish themselves as credible and authentic witnesses to the gospel in context, Bernard Thorogood was a positive source of influence and inspiration for the people. He assisted them to assert their identity and to affirm their place in the great missionary enterprise, which needed to find root in the voices, faces and experiences of the local people.
In 1977, when CWM emerged as a partnership of churches, with a strong mandate to enable the churches to become the real beacons of hope and messengers of good news in their context, Rev Thorogood was appointed as its first General Secretary. His visionary and audacious leadership in those pioneering years set the stage for member churches to claim their giftedness and to participate in the sending and receiving of missionaries from everywhere to everywhere. His leadership has also paved the way for a CWM that has flourished to become a highly recognised prophetic presence in the global landscape and within the international ecumenical community.
After retiring from the position of General Secretary for CWM, Bernard went on to serve the United Reformed Church as its General Secretary, a position he held until 1992. Throughout all this time and even after his retirement, Rev Thorogood continued to demonstrate an active interest in the life and wellbeing of CWM. Although he was unable to attend our 40th-anniversary celebration in Singapore, in 2017, he was the first of our former General Secretaries to send a message of congratulations to CWM. He continued to share his thoughts about the direction of CWM with the current leadership. Up until as recently as the early part of this year, we received correspondence from him, including his most recent anthology, which carried some rather inspirational pieces and a clear articulation of his discipleship journey and the sense that he had finished his course, kept the faith and was ready for his final destination with the God he served and the future he embraced.
Council for World Mission celebrates the life and witness of this great servant of the Church and as our leader emeritus. We remember him as who led with integrity, boldness, pastoral sensitivity and prophetic relevance. He gave much and took us far in those early years when we were learning what it meant to break loose from the vestiges of the colonial missionary mentality and power constructs and to redefine ourselves as an organisation of equals irrespective of geopolitical location, numerical strength or financial capacity.
The Board of Directors, member churches and the Secretariat of CWM offer our sincere condolences to his dear wife, Joan, his children John and Neil and all other members of the family, as well as the United Reformed Church. We assure you of our prayers for you during this time of great loss, and we encourage you to take comfort in the sure knowledge that Bernard gave as much as he could and that our lives are the richer for knowing him, serving with him and learning from him.
For all the saints who from their labours rest,
Who Thee, by faith, before the world confessed
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest
May the soul of Bernard Thorogood rest in peace and may the light of God’s grace be upon him perpetually.
Rev Thorogood’s Message on CWM’s 40th Anniversary