Francis Gardom celebrates a defender of the faith

TRUEMAN DICKEN was born on January 18,1919, at Uttoxeter, where his father was a cinema proprietor. The family eventually settled in the West Country, where they ran a group of cinemas in Burnham-on-Sea, Shepton Mallett, Midsomer Norton and Radstock. Trueman received a grammar school education at The Blue Coat School, Wells, where he became Head Boy before proceeding to Exeter College, Oxford, to read Modern Languages (French and German). At Oxford he became a member of the Officers’ Training Corps. War broke out just before he was due to go back to Oxford for his third and final year.

For a time he was the youngest Major in the British Army, and was for some time an Acting Lieut-Colonel. He was Senior Displaced Persons Officer in the British Zone in Vienna, and was Mentioned in Dispatches.

During his wartime service Trueman had decided to offer himself for the ministry. He returned to Exeter College, Oxford in October 1946, to obtain a brilliant First Class Honours degree in Theology. He entered Cuddesdon College for his final studies for the priesthood, lecturing in Moral Theology during his year there.

After ordination to the diaconate on 23 December, 1949, at Southwell Minster in the diocese of Southwell he was appointed curate to the Vicar of Hucknall, spending most of his time at the daughter church, St. John’s, Butlers Hill. Six months later he was ordained to the priesthood and became priest-in-charge of St. John’s. He was also Chaplain to the Air Force Personnel in Hucknall.

He was vicar of Caunton and Maplebeck (Notts) 1953-1965, and did much work with the Young Farmers’ Clubs.

From July 1965 – March 1980 he was Warden of Lenton Hall, then the largest men’s Hall in Nottingham University, and Lecturer (and subsequently Senior Lecturer) in Theology, specialising in Moral and Spiritual Theology. He monitored entrants for University work from the Theological Colleges of Lincoln, and Bramcote (Nottingham), and also helped during various interregna in Nottingham.

In March 1980 Trueman resigned his posts at Nottingham University after objecting on strong moral grounds to certain actions and attitudes of the University concerned with the welfare and protection of young foreign children on vacation educational courses in the University.

He was Rector of Maidwell, Draughton, Lamport and Scaldwell (Diocese of Peterborough) from 1980 – 1984. During this time he lectured in moral and spiritual theology to Post-Ordination students, including the late lamented Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

Trueman’s writings were extensive. His seminal work, The Crucible of Love, led to the award of Doctor of Divinity by his own university (Oxford). This was an examination of the teaching of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. It was published in England and America, and in translation in Spain. This he researched and wrote while a country priest in Nottinghamshire, an option which would hardly be possible nowadays with country priests responsible for as many as 8 or 10 parishes. Several other volumes on Moral and Spiritual Theology followed, also pamphlets and articles concerning the ordination of women. He wrote regularly for The Rock, a Canadian journal, under the title In England Now, and was delighted to work with the editor, Bishop Crawley. In addition to a running commentary on the situation of the Church of England in England some articles were theological essays, for example on the Eucharist.

He gave as much help and encouragement as he could to Americans and Canadians dismayed by the ordination of women and other attacks on the Faith in both countries. He was at the first conference at St. Louis and acted as Press Officer for The Church Times. He had a considerable hand in drafting the St. Louis Declaration, and travelled widely in the United States and Canada, lecturing, teaching and doing what he could to help and encourage those who felt the Faith of the church was seriously under attack, not only by the ordination of women but also by increasingly lax moral values.

In England he was a founder committee member of Cost of Conscience, working for years for that and for Forward in Faith after its foundation in 1992.

Trueman retired in 1984 to Maugersbury, near Stow-on-the-Wold, which had been bought for a retirement home in 1967. After his stroke in 1996 he and Hélène moved to Forsythia Cottage, Bourton-on-the-Water.

When his stroke severely limited his capacity to gather, sift and assess the facts and developments it was with much regret that he had to relinquish an assignment he had greatly enjoyed.

He continued to read widely and was delighted to maintain contacts with so many friends in England, the United States and Canada.

In September 2000 he enjoyed with Hélène a splendid family Diamond Wedding Anniversary party with 30 guests. His health deteriorated rapidly thereafter and he entered Moore Cottage Hospital, Bourton-on-the-Water on Thursday October 19, 2000, and was wonderfully cared for. Trueman died there very peacefully on Thursday October 26, 2000 in the presence of his wife. He is survived by his widow whom he had married in 1940. Their three Children are – Anne (1942), Mark (1947) and Ruth (1951) There are 9 grandchildren

My first encounter with Trueman Dicken came about as a result of my attempts in the early 1980s to discover the real facts concerning the Continuing Churches, particularly in the United States.

It was, and it still is, extraordinarily difficult to get information through the “normal” Church of England channels. The evidence suggests that a policy of deliberate ignorance was being pursued at the time by the powers-that-be. However, perseverance, and a number of devious paths, led me eventually to Trueman’s front door.

From that day onward our friendship grew. Trueman turned out to be the one person in England who not only knew most of the facts, who had been present in an advisory and nor merely observational capacity at the Synod of St Louis and, perhaps most important of all, was willing to share his knowledge eagerly with those who sought it.

As a result of his encouragement I went on a fortnight’s fact-finding mission to the USA, where, at his suggestion I met a number of the key persons involved in the Continuum. That was the first of many such visits, and before each of them I was careful to get myself briefed by Trueman as to the latest developments. Most of what I know about the triumphs and tragedies of the Continuum can be traced back to my acquaintance with Trueman.

He shared with many of us a deep mistrust of the democratic process as a means of deciding theological truth, and was profoundly sceptical of whether the blocking-minority in General Synod, on whom so much alliance was being placed would outlast the next synodical election. In fact it removed that safeguard overnight.

Trueman also warned us from his personal experience in America about the foolishness of relying upon the “safe” bishops and dioceses which then existed. He had seen their we-shall-never-surrender attitude in the USA diminish their number from over one hundred and sixty bishops in 1972 to the mere three or four that are there today. So we had been warned!

Trueman eagerly agreed to become one of the founder-members of Cost of Conscience, which set itself the task of co-ordinating the opposition to the Women Priest movement. We met regularly at Pusey House, Oxford, which was equally accessible from Trueman’s home, London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Cardiff where the other members of the Committee lived.

Trueman’s insights and experience really came into their own at these meetings. Faced as we were with an unprecedented set of circumstances it was invaluable for us to have someone who had “been through it all before” in the case of St Louis and its aftermath. Possible “solutions” which might suggest themselves to our inexperienced minds could be ruled out from the start, if only because Trueman could say “don’t try that one; the Americans did, and it didn’t work”

One example of this was the suggestion of ordaining a number of alternative bishops.

That policy, upon which so much reliance had been placed at St Louis quickly unravelled at Dallas the following year. Despite Trueman’s declared misgivings about it at the St Louis Congress, it seemed to be such an obvious answer. But it wasn’t, and the results of having taken that wrong turning against his advice remain with the heirs of St Louis in the USA even today. He warned us strongly against making a similar mistake at that particular juncture.

Ironically, of course, alternative bishops of our integrity was precisely what we did get in the Church of England under the Act of Synod in 1993. It was Trueman’s wise counsel which prevailed against any attempts to jump the gun, and events have proved just how right he was.

With his advocacy of the Book of Common Prayer, to which he remained unswervingly loyal, Trueman used to remind us continually of the many worshippers who, whilst opposed to liberal innovations and heresies, did not fit easily into the Anglo-Catholic mould where most of us had been formed. This meant, amongst other things, that Conservative Evangelicals have found it much easier to relate to Cost of Conscience than to some of the other “Catholic” societies. That association continues to the present day in the form of a senior member of Reform being an Observer on the Council of Forward in Faith, and myself being the official FiF Observer to Reform.

After Trueman and Hélène’s move to their cottage at Bourton, my wife and I continued to visit them whenever we were passing that way. Whilst his progressive deafness was a real trial to him, it certainly did not in any way affect his razor-sharp mind and memory. One had only to ask him a question about the history of the Continuum, or the name of one of those involved and he could immediately give one the answer with a potted biography of the person in question.

Best of all, Trueman was intensely loyal, not only to his personal friends, but to anyone who was prepared to stand up with him for the Truth with which we have been entrusted. This meant that his circle of friends was both wide, and Catholic in the fullest sense of the word. The fact that a given fellow-combatant might not share his opinions on the merits of the Book of Common Prayer was never for him a barrier to standing alongside him and fighting together on those other (more fundamental) matters upon which they could both agree.

The history of Anglicanism during the past thirty years might have been significantly different if only there had been a few more priests with the wisdom and generosity which Trueman possessed, which enabled him to bring together those from many different backgrounds but who shared that common interest of safeguarding the faith which has been entrusted to us.

Francis Gardom is Honorary Secretary of Cost of Conscience