Born in Sunderland, he was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Richmond College. Gaining a London BD in 1954, he then spent one year at Drew University, NJ (STM, 1955) and one at Basel University (DTheol, 1960). He was stationed in the Manchester and Salford Mission (1956-1962) and the Rochdale Mission (1962-1969) before spending one year as Visiting Professor at Boston University and New York Theological Seminary. In 1967 he founded the Ashram Community, which runs a large inner-city housing project. He has published Journey, a radical course in Christianity and discipleship and runs Radical Christianity programmes. From 1970 he was Superintendent of the Sheffield Inner City Ecumenical Mission, where he founded the Urban Theology Unit, and from 1990 was Honorary Lecturer in the Biblical Studies Department of Sheffield University.
His commitment to radical theology and political involvement were expressed through such offices as chairman of NW Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1957-1963), founding chair of the Alliance of Radical Methodists (1970-1976) and director of the British Liberation Theology Project; and through such publications as Christ and Methodism (1965), Secular Christ (1968) and OK, Let's Be Methodists (1984). In 1997 he co-edited the major report to Conference, The Cities.
As President of the Conference in 1989-1990, his inaugural address was on five 'pillars of Christianity' - a worldly God, a new reality, priority for the poor, the 'journey downwards' and 'things in common' and he gave six all-party lectures at the House of Commons.