Tributes to former Baptist Union President
Professor Graham Ashworth CBE, President of our Baptist Union in 2000-1, has died aged 80
During a distinguished career Graham was a leading figure in the environmental sector, and was awarded the CBE for services to the environment in 1980.
He trained as an architect and had a keen interest in urban development, which he put down to seeing wartime destruction. High profile projects included the redevelopment of Liverpool Albert Dock.
He became well known nationally as Director General of the Tidy Britain Group (now Keep Britain Tidy) from 1987 to 2000, and was involved in Operation Spring Clean, a two-year programme that saw 65,000 people clean up their area. He would remain active in environmental advocacy right up to his death.
Graham held several senior positions in his career: he was made President of the Royal Town Planning Institute in 1973, was a former President of the Foundation for Environmental Education, and a former member of the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development.
As a former Professor of Urban Environmental Studies at the University of Salford he was an advocate of urban regeneration and land reclamation.
He was a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire from 1991, and chaired his local Parish Council.
'Graham ranks as one of the outstanding Baptist layman of his generation'
Graham served as Baptist Union President in 2000. The Revd Dr David Coffey was General Secretary at the time, but revealed their association began much earlier.
‘I had the privilege of knowing Graham Ashworth since my student days and pay personal tribute for his warm encouragement to me throughout my ministry, but especially during my years as General Secretary,’ he said.
‘He could be an immensely challenging friend if he sensed you were not taking seriously the issues that were close to his heart, and his passionate advocacy always opened my eyes to issues I had overlooked.
‘As a Baptist community we are immensely proud of Graham’s distinguished achievements in the realm of town planning, environmental research and education.
‘In the lists of honours and recognitions bestowed on him, he never failed to highlight his Presidency of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and his fellow professionals knew his gifts and skills were rooted in his firm faith in Jesus Christ.
‘Graham ranks as one of the outstanding Baptist layman of his generation and one of the few British Baptists to have gained international recognition for his knowledge and expertise in the care of creation.’
'A leading voice - one of the first - in support of environmental issues'
The Revd Dr John Weaver, whose own presidency of our Union in 2008-9 focused on creation care, worked alongside Graham on numerous occasions.
‘It was with sadness that I learned of the sudden death of Professor Graham Ashworth CBE,’ he said.
‘Graham was for many years a leading voice, in fact one of the first, in support of environmental issues, and a supporter of the John Ray Initiative (an educational charity that connects the environment, science and Christianity) from its early days under the leadership of Sir John Houghton.
‘I was privileged to work with him both in teaching and at conferences. He and I both taught on the Certificate in Applied Theology course for young Baptist leaders from central and eastern Europe at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague.
'He was a great encourager of debate. From my own position of chair of the IBTSC Board, I know that Graham's teaching of environmental theology was greatly appreciated by the students and the staff in Prague.
‘We can give thanks to God for Graham’s prophetic voice, a voice we will miss in the run up to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris.’
'His significant achievements were a visible reflection of his unstinting faith'
Graham was raised in Plymouth and Bristol, but after studying at Liverpool University he would remain in the North West all his life, where for a time he served as assistant minister at Carey Baptist Church in Preston.
The Revd Phil Jump, regional minister team leader at the North Western Baptist Association, was a longstanding friend and preached at his funeral, reflecting on how Graham’s significant achievements were a visible reflection of his unstinting faith.
Preaching from Psalm 24 he said, ‘What would you do if you truly believed that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it – how would that affect your commitment to the wellbeing of the created environment?
‘What would your priorities be if you believed that this God, seeing that the world was not as it should be had become personally involved in its salvation?
‘How would you order your life if you believed from your teenage years that you were called to make known the message of this Gospel?
‘We can cite numerous projects and initiatives that now stand as a living testament to Graham’s commitment to live out that faith with every ounce of his being.’
Graham died suddenly at home on September 18, and leaves wife Gwyneth, daughters Clare, Alyson and Kate, grandchildren Angharad, Holly, Morgan, Daniel and Charlotte, and son-in-laws Gwyn and Richard.
Speaking to the Lancashire Evening Post, Kate said, 'People enjoyed having him around. He loved jokes and he was so fun.'
Of his achievements, she continued, 'He wasn’t just dabbling, he was leading the field in so many different ways.
'But he was such a gracious man. He didn’t boast about anything. People didn’t know who he knew, who he had influenced and who he could pick up the phone to.'
Graham is pictured signing the President's Bible at the Baptist Assembly, Plymouth in 2000.