Born at Burry Port, South Wales and educated at Llanelli Grammar School, he gained his BA from the University of Wales, Cardiff, a Cambridge MA and a PhD from London. From 1964 to 1967 he was Assistant Lecturer in English at St. David's College, Lampeter, then trained for the ministry at Wesley House, Cambridge. Seven years (1970-1974 and 1977-1980) in Haiti, partly at Nouveau College Bird, provided the foundation for his awareness of and involvement in international affairs and issues of development in a poor and politically unstable country. This period produced two books: The History of Methodism in Haiti (1991, a development of his doctoral thesis) and a biography of the former RC priest and later President Jean Bertrand Aristide (The Aristide Factor).
As Superintendent of the West London Mission 1986-1991 he had oversight of a number of social work projects and became well-known as a lively and challenging preacher and a radio and TV broadcaster, notably on Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day'. He has been a regular columnist for the Methodist Recorder, the Church Timesand the Tablet. In addition to booklets of sermons, he published Worship and our Diverse World (1999) and Voices from the Desert (2003) and in 2010 an autobiography, A Vew from the Edge.
He was President of the Conference in 1994 and the following year became Superintendent Minister at Wesley's Chapel. His continuing commitment to education is shown in his service as school governor and his chairmanship of the Southlands College governors. In 1989 he was made a Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and in 2000 became an honorary Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral. In 2004 he received a life peerage, taking his title from the area in South Wales where he grew up.