Margaret and I became friends with Bishop Keith Sutton when he was chaplain and tutor at Bishop Tucker College in Uganda between 1968 and 1973. Bishop Keith secured visas for Margaret and I to escape from Uganda when we knew it was no longer safe for either of us to remain. We travelled to Kenya and then boarded a flight to the UK. Under the tyrannical regime of President Idi Amin, we told no-one of our plan to flee Uganda as refugees.
Bishop Keith loved people and was passionate about communicating the Gospel in a language they would understand – he and his wife Jean were adopted by Baganda and given a clan name. He was a pastor, a theological educator, a friend, an encourager, with a big heart for the poor and marginalised. He was sent to South Africa by Archbishop Robert Runcie when Archbishop Desmond Tutu had been put under House Arrest. In defiance of the Apartheid Regime, Bishop Keith addressed a vast multi-ethnic crowd outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town:
Anyone who touches you, touches us. And believe you me, the arm of the Rule of Law knows no bounds, colour, gender, ethnicity. Jesus Christ is the only Lord and all in him are one.Bishop Keith Sutton
In 1973 and with the visas ready, I secured a place at Selwyn College, Cambridge to read theology and then later went on to study for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. I first served as Assistant Chaplain at Selwyn College, and as a Chaplain at Latchmere House Remand Centre. I was appointed Vicar at Holy Trinity, Tulse Hill and St Matthias Upper Tulse Hill - and Margaret and I were blessed with a young family of four children, two children of our own and two which we agreed to foster as their mother was dying in hospice care. Both Margaret and I are very grateful to see God at work in their lives today.
Bishop Keith was installed as the 97th diocesan Bishop of Lichfield in 1984 and served in the role until his retirement in 2003. He died on Friday 24 March 2017 at a care home in Surrey aged 82 after living with dementia for many years.
I received the news of Bishop Keith’s death whilst on a deanery mission to Stokesley and spoke to a group of sixth form students at Conyers School of my deep gratitude for Keith.