The Revd Melvin Tinker
1955 – 2021
Many today are bewildered about the challenges that face faithful Anglicans.
The death of the Revd Melvin Tinker, on 23 November 2021 should help us ponder our situation. For here was a minister — in the words of Kevin Vanhoozer the ‘consummate pastor-theologian’ — who warned us of the difficulties decades ago.
Two books from Tinker — ‘Restoring the Vision’ (1990) and ‘The Anglican Evangelical Crisis’ (1995) diagnosed the problems that would come to envelop the Anglican Communion. Thirty years ago, alongside those books Rev. Tinker travelled the country speaking to groups of concerned clergy — urging them to prepare and plan.
Rev. Tinker engaged in the church political scene — founding member of Reform, CEEC council, NEAC 3 speaker — but he felt too many would prove overly wed to a world of ministry and mission that was fading rapidly.
Born in 1955 into a Nottinghamshire mining home, Melvin came to love books at school. More importantly, he was brought to faith in Jesus by a Methodist lay preacher whose family befriended him while at school. Melvin said, ‘They were kind, there was no pressure — just genuine faith.’ As soon as he arrived at Hull University in 1973, Melvin began speaking at the CU and was thrilled to discover somebody became a Christian at his first talk.
Melvin and Heather met at university, and in marriage formed a ministry team. They both shared a concern for the city of Hull – and prayed for it over numbers of years.
Before God called Melvin to his main life work in Hull, he first prepared him for it via a season being chaplain to Keele University (1985-90). Engaging with students gave him a lifelong desire to relate the gospel to the present culture. Following that Melvin was vicar of All Hallows, Cheadle from 1990-94. That season deepened his appreciation for the rhythms of normal parish ministry.
Then in 1994 God opened the door for the Tinkers to move to Hull, as Melvin became vicar of St. John’s Newland. Thus began his life work – 26 years of growing what became one of the largest churches in N. England. Over 500 people attended weekly — reversing the story of spiritual decline and apathy in the area.
Melvin explained ‘I wanted to see the reality of what Martyn Lloyd Jones saw — the gospel warming hearts of folk from all backgrounds. Jesus is not just for the educated or middle class — he is for all.’
In 2020, the year before his retirement Melvin surveyed the cultural and religious scene. He came to the conviction that faithfulness to his ordination vows — to protect the flock — required him to lead his congregation our of the C of E. Not enough evangelicals had heeded his warnings from 30 years ago to give grounds to believe the C of E would be a secure place for people in years to come. So Melvin helped his congregation to leave and they became a network of growing churches in Hull, independent of the established Church. To this date St. John’s is the largest church to secede from the C of E.
As Melvin saw God do that desired work among people in Hull, Melvin worked hard over the years to publish nearly 20 books and numerous articles.
One of his final books was ‘That Hideous Strength: How the West was Lost’ (2018). In the 1990s Melvin had warned Anglican Evangelicals they would pay a price for overlooking liberalism in the denomination. His prophecies proved true. So a couple of years before death, Melvin warned the church at large that the culture really has changed. The world we seek to survive in as believers is hostile and challenging in ways that could not have been imagined 3 decades ago. His book calls on churches to ‘get real,’ demand a ‘literate leadership’ and grow a ‘changed community’ that is prepared to suffer for Jesus. Will Melvin’s words be heeded this time round? Time will tell – but whether or not they are, Melvin was convinced — and said 3 weeks before death, ‘The future is safe in God’s hands.’ We remain thankful for the books and talks Melvin left to help us and pray for his family who grieve.
Revd Tinker went to glory on 23 November aged 66. He is survived by his wife, Heather and three sons: Christopher, Michael and Philip.