Born in Rishton, Lancashire. After training for the ministry at Richmond College, he studied community development under T. R. Batten and applied it to Church and community. This shaped a major part of his ministry. In 1976, together with Catherine Widdicombe of the Grail Community, he set up AVEC – 'A Service Agency for Church and Community'. Through AVEC he enabled individuals and groups to think through the work they were doing in a reflective and non-directed way, to see how it could be improved, and to set clear purposes for the next steps in its development. A particular feature of this work was the use of diagrams to clarify processes and situations.
Amongst the groups he helped were clergy of all denominations and mission-partners on furlough from overseas, or preparing to return to work in Britain. He led consultations in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria, bringing together people in key positions in churches in those countries and a similar number of people from British Methodism, to consider the strengths and weaknesses of their churches, and ways in which they could help each other.. Of particular significance was a consultation he led for the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe in 1980, soon after that church became autonomous and Zimbabwe became an independent country with its first African government. He published several books on different aspects of Community Development. In 1981 he gave the Beckly Lecture on 'Human and Religious Factors in Church and Community Work'. When he retired, a postgraduate course he had inaugurated on work consultancy was taken up by the York Institute for Community Theology. In 2006 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury.