JohnJohn S. Summerwill

John has degrees in Biblical Studies, Education and Theology. From 1966 to 1979 he taught secondary school RE, then from 1980 to 1997 he was a research officer and lecturer at the Welsh National Centre for Religious Education in Bangor University. Throughout his teaching career he was involved in public examinations, and after early retirement and return to Leeds his examination work became a half-time career as a senior examiner and reviser in A-level and GCSE Religious Studies.

John became a Methodist as a teenager and began his training as a local preacher when he was 17. He has been an active accredited local preacher since 1965. Over the years he has trained many local preachers and served as local preachers’ secretary and tutor at circuit and district levels. Methodism has been central to his life and outlook for more than half a century.

John’s interest in other faiths goes back to the 1960s and grew further through his years of teaching as he took students to visit synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras and temples.  Since about 1998 he has been an active member and is currently co-chair of Concord Leeds Interfaith Fellowship. The dialogue between Methodism and other faiths is a key interest of his.

When John first became a Methodist, a local preacher in training and a student of Biblical Studies he tended towards a conservative evangelical outlook, but he found that position increasingly untenable as his encounters with biblical scholarship and radical theology challenged simple, comfortable certainties. By the time he had completed his local preacher training he had come to the sort of Christian agnosticism popularised by John A.T. Robinson, though not at the extreme end of scepticism. He continues daily to learn the truth of the words of his teenage friend’s wise father: ‘Education is a progressive revelation of one’s own ignorance.’