Alan Philip Frederick Sell (1935–2016): Per Crucem ad Lucem

Alan SellI am grieved to learn (via Kim Fabricius) that my dear friend Alan Sell, who had been quite unwell for some time now, has died. In an email sent to United Reformed Church ministers (current and retired), Helen Lidgett (Synod Clerk, East Midlands Synod) stated:

I am deeply saddened to report the death of Rev Professor Alan Sell. He died peacefully, content, and with great dignity at 9.00 pm on Sunday February 7th in Willen Hospice in Milton Keynes. Details of the Green Burial and Thanksgiving Service will be forwarded shortly.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Alan’s wife, Karen and their family.

Alan’s qualifications were: BA; BD; MA; DD; DLitt; PhD; HonDD; Hon DTh; FSA FRHistS; He was ordained in 1959 and had a very fruitful and world-wide ministry:

1959–1964: Sedbergh & Dent
1964–1968: Hallow, Worcester & Ombersley
1968–1983: Theological Lecturer & Professor in UK
1983–1987: Theological Secretary WARC
1988–1992: Theological Lecturer & Professor in Canada
1992–2001: United Theological College Aberystwyth

In retirement he continued to write and contribute to theological debate, including a valuable contribution to the discussion on the marriage of same sex couples at East Midands Synod in March 2015.

Alan was a good friend, and a wonderful encourager to me. I shall miss him and our frequent correspondences very much. Already, the world certainly feels poorer without him.

In pace requiescat et in amore Alan.

You can read my reviews of some of Alan’s work here:


  1. Sad to learn of Alan’s death. He was such a fine man, an excellent theologian, and an enthusiastic supporter of renewed conversation between the church and the academy. And he was a dedicated Forsythian! May he rest in peace and rise in glory!


  2. I am sorry to hear this Jason; and not surprised Alan was your friend and I suspect an intellectual companion. His Defending and Declaring the Faith is one of the best books extant on 19th C Scottish Theology, and his work on 19th C philosophy of religion clarified many aspects of German influence on British theology for me. His range of thought and grasp of detail were formidable, and his writing was theologically astute.


  3. Not to forget the dapper dresser, the dry wit, and Alan’s ability always to go to the nub of the matter. I worked for several years with Alan on the BEM Group of the Commission of Covenanted Churches in Wales (Rowan Williams sat at the same table). Boldly and firmly, but sensibly and irenically, Alan was not ashamed to fly the Congregationalist flag, pinpointing the “Galatian heresy” — “matters on which human interpretations are elevated above God’s action in Christ” — roaring with his hero Forsyth that “If unity is in polity, Christ died in vain.”

    After leaving Aberystwyth, Alan tried to lure me from Swansea to work in Milton Keynes with its vibrant ecumenical set-up. I was sorely tempted to join him, but — alas — the timing was not right. Another of life’s might-have-beens. But the crucial thing is that-Alan-was — is, and always will be.


Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.