(Arthur) Wesley Carr

1941 -

Wesley Carr was born at the end of the Second World War, when the post-war enthusiasm for education was also practical. Scholarships opened hitherto closed doors. He earned an outstandingly good education from Dulwich College. He won an exhibition (minor scholarship) to Jesus College, Oxford, where he intended to read classics and theology. Excited by philosophy he changed to Greats. After four years he moved to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read theology. A semester in the University of Geneva gave him a powerful ecumenical experience and provoked new perspectives on religion.

Wesley was ordained in the Church of England to the parish of Luton, where he began to observe people's relationships to the church, in particular the nature of dependency and the role of the priest. This later was to be a major theme in his writing. After three years he returned to Ridley Hall, Cambridge to teach, but a college upheaval left him looking for a job. He was elected Sir Henry Stephenson Fellow in the University of Sheffield. There he wrote his doctoral thesis, subsequently published by Cambridge UP.

At Chelmsford Cathedral Canon Richard Herrick, a member at the first Leicester Conference, was establishing a centre for research and training and looking for a theologian. Wesley Carr applied and was appointed. The Centre was beginning to make its mark in Chelmsford and beyond, when Dick suddenly died and the Centre was closed. But this, though sad, had a powerful effect on Wesley's life. In the course of only a few years he did something (lecture, consultation, training exercise) in almost every diocese in England. He was Canon Residentiary of the Cathedral (the youngest in the Church of England), Director of Training (clergy and lay) in Chelmsford diocese (one of the largest), Senior Selector of Ordinands, Senior Inspector of Theological Colleges and in demand for working parties as well as by individuals seeking clarity and consultation. So in spite of the loss of the Centre, the application of learning through group studies and consequential organisation has been widely disseminated.

Wesley Carr was a member on two Leicester Conferences and shortly after was invited to be on the staff. This was the beginning of a period when he staffed or directed group relations conferences around the church and in secular settings. He directed the 'mini-Leicester' at the Tavistock Clinic, was Associate Director at Leicester and subsequently directed that Conference. He particularly enjoyed directing Training Groups. He began his association with the A K Rice Institute in the USA, staffing conferences with Margaret Rioch and others. He gave a keynote address at two national meetings. At his first US conference he met Dr Edward Shapiro, a psychoanalyst and director of a unit for the treatment of adolescents. They have remained friends and colleagues in groups, writing and consultations. Shapiro invited Wesley to consult at his hospital unit and throughout his years in Austen Riggs, where he is Medical Director and CEO. Wesley Carr was also consultant to the process of creating the Boston Centre of AKRI and directed some of their early conferences. He was invited on to the staff of the AKRI national conference and, with Charla Hayden, directed the first training group for twenty years.

In 1986 he was appointed Dean of Bristol, from where he continued his group relations activities. He was Chairman of the Bridge Foundation, Bristol, and a member of the Group Relations Advisory Group that Eric Miller set up to advise on his retirement. Wesley Carr's last appointment was as Dean of Westminster. During his nine years he wrote and presided over many royal and national occasions, including the funeral of Princess Diana and the mourning associated with 9/11. A month after he arrived at Westminster he was diagnosed as having a throat cancer and Parkinson's Disease. He took early retirement in 2006, but continues to write, to review and advise.

A prolific writer, including many reviews, Wesley Carr has a number of books to his name. The Priestlike Task and Brief Encounters have been regarded as seminal. In all of them appear ideas that derive from the theory and practice of group relations as developed at the Tavistock Institute. In collaboration with Edward Shapiro he wrote Lost in Familiar Places (Yale UP, 198-).


Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

DLitt University of the West of England.

DLitt University of Sheffield.

The Character of Wisdom; Essays in Honour of Wesley Carr,(2005) ed. Martyn Percy and Stephen Lowe.

The Fourth Annual Margaret Rioch Memorial Lecture.

The Eric Miller Memorial Lecture (forthcoming 2009).

Selected publications

Carr, A.W. (1985) The Priestlike Task. London: SPCK

Carr, A.W. (1985) Brief Encounters. Pastoral Ministry through the Occasional Offices. London: SPCK. Revised edition 1994

Carr, A.W. (1997 ) Ministry and the Media. London: SPCK

Carr, A.W. (200-) A Handbook of Pastoral Studies. London: SPCK

Carr, A.W.(ed.) (2002), A New Dictionary of Pastoral Studies. London: SPCK

Carr, A.W. (1989) The Pastor as Theologian. London: SPCK
New edition completely revised 2008.

With E. R. Shapiro, (1981) Lost in Familiar Places. Yale UP.

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