WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-09 > 1221517151
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] MACARTHUR: Arthur Leitch MacArthur 2008
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2008 23:19:11 +0100
The Rev Arthur Macarthur
Presbyterian minister and ecumenicalist who was instrumental in the creation
of the United Reformed Church.
Last Updated: 8:16PM BST 10 Sep 2008
Macarthur during the General Assembly of the URC in 1979
The Reverend Arthur Macarthur, who died on September 1 aged 94, was the last
general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of England (PCE); he was also
instrumental in the creation of the United Reformed Church, which was the
union of the PCE with the Congregational Church in England and Wales.
Arthur Leitch Macarthur was born into a Presbyterian family in
Northumberland on December 9 1913, the son of a linotype operator with the
Newcastle Chronicle who was also session clerk of a local church.
After graduating from Durham University, Arthur studied for the Christian
ministry at Westminster College, Cambridge, and was ordained in October 1937
at Alnwick, where he was minister until 1944. A pacifist in the Second World
War, he went with the YMCA to France in 1940 and six weeks later was
involved in the retreat to Dunkirk. In 1944 he moved to a church at New
Barnet, north London, where he met Esm Muir, who became his wife in 1950
and with whom he had three sons and a daughter. From 1950 he was for 10
years minister in North Shields.
During his time in New Barnet Macarthur had been convener of the PCE's
inter-church relations committee, through which he began a long association
with the Waldensian Church in Italy. He represented the PCE at the first
World Council of Churches' Assembly in Amsterdam in 1948.
>From the 1940s he was involved in negotiations with Congregationalists,
exploring the possibility of forming a united church. These negotiations
were facilitated by his becoming, in 1960, the PCE's General Secretary. He
also served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the PCE in 1971 and in
that year the decision was taken to unite with the Congregationalists. The
United Reformed Church (URC) came into being in October 1972 and Macarthur
was appointed joint general secretary with the Rev John Huxtable. Huxtable
relinquished the role after two years to lead the search for a wider union
among the churches in England; Macarthur continued in the post until 1980.
As general secretary both of the PCE and the URC, Macarthur played an active
part in ecumenical circles and was for many years a prominent member of the
British Council of Churches (BCC) and the Free Church Federal Council
(FCFC). He was a vice-president of the BCC, and in 1980 he became Moderator
of the FCFC, having already served as Moderator of both the PCE and the URC.
In the 1970s ecumenism was facing critical challenges, including the
apartheid system in South Africa and the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Macarthur, who visited South Africa in 1972, courageously defied the critics
within the churches over the WCC's Programme to Combat Racism, defending the
decision to give grants to organisations supporting the victims of
He was involved in one of the most daring ecumenical initiatives when he
joined other church leaders travelling to Feakle, Co Clare, in the Irish
Republic, to meet members of the army council of the IRA in an attempt to
try to mediate between the opposing factions in Northern Ireland.
He was appointed OBE in 1984, and two years later he and his wife retired to
Gloucestershire, where he enjoyed walking and a weekly round of golf. In
1997 he published his memoirs, Setting up Signs: Memories of an Ecumenical
His wife and their four children survive him.
|[W-OBITS] MACARTHUR: Arthur Leitch MacArthur 2008 by "Peter McCrae" <>|