Born on 6 September 1871 at South Norwood, he was widely considered the widest-ranging Methodist scholar of his time. After student years at the City of London School and Trinity College, Oxford (where he gained a First in both Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores, he trained for the ministry at Richmond College, where he also served as Assistant Tutor from 1896 to 1898 and 1899-1901. His only circuit appointments were one year in Weston-super-Mare (1898-99) and three in Bradford (1901-1904). He was Old Testament tutor at Handsworth College 1904-1925 and Principal 1925-1940. He introduced the study of Sociology and Psychology, and his political and social concerns had a profound influence on generations of Handsworth students. He was actively involved in the formation of the Methodist Union of Social Service.
The College's 50th anniversary appeal in 1931, which resulted in the building of the chapel, new classrooms and the cloisters, was primarily his responsibility. The chapel windows commemorating him are now in the nearby Rookery Road Methodist Church. He retired to Woodstock in 1940 and then in Worthing. He died at the MHA in Shirley on 5 July 1965.
He was President of the WM Conference in 1929. Early influenced by J. Scott Lidgett, he saw, ahead of many, the need to study social conditions in the light of the Gospel and was a founder member of the Wesleyan Methodist Union for Social Service. His consistent concern with ethics as a key branch of theology was expressed most clearly in his Ethics and Atonement (1906). He was also a philosopher and OT scholar (writing a commentary on Ezekiel) and active in both the 'Life and Work' and 'Faith and Order' sections of the inter-war ecumenical movement. At the Methodist Church Congress in 1929 he spoke on 'Methodism and the Church'.
'In those days there came to Handsworth, as Assistant Tutor, one who had been for two years in the same post at Richmond. He was tall, young, fair of countenance, and full of academic honours. He brought to us Oxford and her culture, deep devotion, and inspiring teaching. Since those days he has written his name deep in the history of Handsworth, and all over the world there are men who love his name, and reverence the beauty of his loving service.'
W. Bardsley Brash, The Story of our Colleges (1935), p.102
'William F. Lofthouse came [to Richmond College] direct from the Bermondsey Settlement and Oxford, with social reform in his blood and scholarship which shaped his career along tutorial paths both at Richmond and Handsworth. He struck awe into some of his contemporaries by writing lecture notes in Greek.'
Frank H. Cumbers, Richmond College 1843-1943 (1944), p.140
'Lofthouse set the stamp of his extraordinary personality upon [Handsworth] college and generations of its students both before and after the First World War. He combined the culture and learning of Oxford 'Greats' with personal qualities of spirituality, devotion and insight that inspired something like veneration - tinctured with a little affectionate amusement at his idiosyncrasies of voice and manner.'
G. Thackray Eddy, in Epworth Review, January 1987, p.34