Obituary of Rex Kissack

An extract from a report of proceedings of Tynwald Court - Douglas, Tuesday 28th April 1998 at 10.30am:

Tribute to the Late Rev Rex Kissack

The president (The Hon Sir Charles Kerruish OBE LLD (hc) CP): Members will have been saddened to hear of the death of the Reverend Rex Kissack, former Chaplain of the House of Keys and friend to us all. I call upon Mr Speaker to pay tribute.

The Speaker (the Hon N Q Cringle): Mr President, Rex Kissack was a gentleman of sound straightforward thinking and basic common sense. He served as Chaplain of the House of Keys for five years during which time he became very well known to all its members. I say he became well known because in fact he was a true chaplain. He was diligent in his duty and he enjoyed the comradeship, particularly at our lunch table in the canteen on many an occasion. He was always interested in any explanation that a member may give of a particular point that had been made during a debate and those debates which he followed assiduously.

Those of us who attended his funeral last week could not help but be really impressed by the tribute which was paid to him by his son. This tribute covered a long life of service to the church and to the people, generally of the world and particularly in refugee areas.

As a member of the Methodist Church here on the Island I know personally of Rex Kissack's service and the fact that that service was of considerable benefit to the Methodist Church on the Island. He was welcomed in the pulpit throughout the Island.

When any members of this hon. Court were ill, he was always there, prepared to enquire and prepared to support and keep us all, as it were, forward-thinking and very much to the front.

Rex Kissack was a man of stature. He was a man of stature in the community and a man of stature in the church.

A comment was made at his service in the tribute that he enjoyed the walk from Glen Mooar through to Kirk Michael on a regular occasion. Kirk Michael became an area which he considered of extreme beauty and his true home.

Rex Kissack was a chaplain who served this Court and the Keys with distinction.

The President: The Lord Bishop.

The Lord Bishop (The Rt Rev Noel Debroy Jones): Mr President, the Island has many amazing features considering its size and its population. Not least is the number of residents quietly going about their lives who have made a considerable impact in wider areas than the Island in many branches of human endeavour: education, commerce, industry, the arts, the church, and so on. Rex Kissack is an example of this. Known to us in this honourable Court in his retirement years as an interested and active Chaplain of the House of Keys, we may be forgiven for not being aware to the full of his international contribution both to Methodism and church relationships. Let me this morning highlight two examples.

In 1955 Rex Kissack was in Rome charged with executing the plan to create an independent Italian church, not governed by British Methodism. It was a plan achieved so well by him that it became the model for other overseas territories - Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and those sorts of places - in a period when many former colonial countries were gaining their independence and the churches in general were following suit. But Rex had obviously made an impression upon Roman Catholic churchmen at a time when only slight lip-service was paid to ecumenical matters. In 1958 John XXIII became Pope and a heady period began. Rex Kissack was well respected enough to become involved in discussions, careful negotiations and behind-the-scenes activities which were to add to the general impetus of Vatican II. He rubbed shoulders with people who were the grandees of the Catholic Church - Cardinal Bea, Cardinal Cushing, Monsignor (later Cardinal) Willibrand - and as a classicist, theologian and Italian speaker he more than held his own in that great gaggle and added in no small way to the changing attitudes among denominational leaders. Just after Pope John’s death in 1963, Rex and the family returned home and after two years in Colwyn Bay he was appointed Chairman of the Liverpool District. Here is the second example of far-reaching consequences to the ecumenical scene. No doubt because of his reputation in Rome, he immediately struck up a firm friendship and relationship with Archbishop Beck, the Roman Catholic successor to Cardinal Heenan, so much so that in 1975 the Methodist Conference met in Liverpool and held its celebratory worship in the metropolitan cathedral. Now, 20 years ago that was some breakthrough. It is not too much to claim that the Beck-Kissack relationship in a Liverpool of deep denominational distrust paved the way for the partnership of Bishop David Shepherd and Archbishop Derek Warlock, only recently ended and which enjoyed such a high public profile.

An appointment to look after the Methodist interest in Laxey may seem far removed from these heights, but Rex came to that and, ably supported by Elizabeth, loved the work, loved the people and loved the Island.

I consider it a privilege to have known him, if only for a short span of nine years, and on behalf of the Legislative Council to offer this inadequate tribute. We join with the House of Keys in honouring his memory and conveying our affection and sympathy to his widow Elizabeth, son and daughter, John and Christie, as well as other members of the family, in this their time of bereavement.

The President: Hon. members, let us stand in silent tribute to his memory.

The Court stood in silence.

The President: Thank you, hon. members.

Present were:

The President of Tynwald (the Hon Sir Charles Kerruish OBE LLD (hc) CP). In the Council: The Lord Bishop (the Rt Rev Noel Debroy Jones), the Attorney-General (Mr W J H Corlett), Hon C M Christian, Messrs J R Kniveton and E G Lowey, Hon E J Mann, Messrs J N Radcliffe and G H Waft, with Mr T A Bawden, Clerk of the Council.

In the Keys: The Speaker (the Hon N Q Cringle) (Rushen); Mr L I Singer and Hon A R Bell (Ramsey); Mr J D Q Cannan (Michael); Hon H Hannan (Peel); Mr W A Gilbey (Glenfaba); Mr S C Rodan (Garff); Hon D North (Middle); Mr P Karran and Hon R K Corkill (Onchan); Messrs J R Houghton and E A Crowe (Douglas North); Hon D C Cretney and Mr A C Duggan (Douglas South); Mr R P Braidwood and Mrs B J Cannell (Douglas East); Messrs J P Shimmin and A F Downie (Douglas West); Hon J A Brown (Castletown); Hon D J Gelling (Malew and Santon); Sir Miles Walker CBE LLD (hc), and Mrs P M Crowe (Rushen); with Prof T StJ N Bates, Clerk of Tynwald.

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