Obituary: Murdoch MacKenzie, 76

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Murdoch MacKenzie, an ordained minister in the United Reformed Church who worked in India, has died in Edinburgh from leukaemia, aged 76.

Murdoch was born in Glasgow in 1938. Following national service with the RAF he went up to Oxford and later studied divinity at Edinburgh, after which he took a course in Marxism at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Shortly after leaving Edinburgh University in 1965 he became a member of the Iona Community.

In 1966, along with his wife Anne whom he had married two years previously, he went as a missionary of the Church of Scotland to the diocese of Madras (now Chennai) in the united Church of South India. The MacKenzies remained in Madras for the next 12 years, working alongside Bishop Lesslie Newbigin – the last British bishop in that large diocese.

With his fluent Tamil and boundless energy, Murdoch became a major figure within the CSI, always recognising that it was the poor and the marginalised who could teach him much about God and life in general. His ministry in India, supported by Anne, was in many ways unique.

The years in India were followed by ministries in a Church of Scotland parish in Glenrothes, and in a local ecumenical parish in Runcorn. In 1988, he was called to Carrs Lane Church in central Birmingham. There, in a multicultural situation, he was able to exercise a far-reaching ecumenical ministry. This led to important links with those of other faiths, especially with the worshippers at the Central Mosque during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

By this time Murdoch was widely recognised as a visionary leader in the United Reformed Church and within the British ecumenical movement; eight years after going to Birmingham he was appointed Ecumenical Moderator in Milton Keynes. As Moderator from 1996-2003 he was responsible for the pastoral care of the clergy of all denominations, embracing 100 churches.

After retiral from Milton Keynes, the MacKenzies moved to Connel in Argyll. This enabled Murdoch to be much more involved with the work of the Iona Community. His international and ecumenical commitments continued unabated, and almost until the day of his death his advice and deep compassion for others was a source of inspiration to people across the world.

Eighteen months ago, Murdoch and Anne moved to Edinburgh to be nearer their family. Soon he was facing major health problems and in time knew his illness was terminal. The way in which he faced up to this situation was truly inspiring, and the many people who visited him during this time were delighted that his mind was as engaged as ever. In his death, the British churches have lost both a wise and a visionary leader and a humble, loving man of God.

Murdoch is survived by Anne, daughters Ruth and Catriona, son Iain, two grandchildren and his brother Kenneth.

Rev Dr Peter Millar