Webb, Dr Pauline Mary

Click to enlarge

Campaigner, journalist and broadcaster, and missionary publicist. A daughter of the former missionary to Nigeria Leonard F. Webb (1891-1973; e.m. 1915), she was born in London on 28 June 1927 and educated at King's College, London. She taught from 1949 to 1952 before joining the MMS as Youth Education Secretary (1952-1954), editor of Kingdom Overseas (1954-1967) and area secretary for the Caribbean (1973-1979). She reopened the issue of women's ordination at the 1959 Conference and from 1965, the year in which she was Vice-President of the Conference, was a participant in the Anglican-Methodist Conversations. She used her presidential year to advocate special ministries among drug addicts, alcoholics and gamblers.

The first woman to be elected an officer of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, she played a leading role, as Vice-Moderator 1968-1975, in its Programme to Combat Racism. She was the first secretary of the Board of Lay Training, 1967-1973 and organizer of Religious Broadcasting in the BBC World Service, 1979-1987. Her extensive travelling and contacts with leading Christians throughout the world are chronicled in her autobiographical World-Wide Webb (2006) and her thoughts on ecumenical issues in Now Think On … from Edinburgh 1910 to World Mission 2010. She was co-editor of the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement (1991).

She died on 27 April 2017.


'Few living Methodists have touched the contempoary world at so many points as Pauline Webb, and in the breadth of her concerns she defies pigeon-holing. None of the usual labels fit - she is a theological liberal at home among evangelicals; a pioneer feminist who loves the company of men, a charmer with a steely resolve. She has been prominent in the leadership of the World Council of Churches for over 30 years, but never vanished into the stratosphere of ecumenical politics, alwaya remaining a quintessential Methodist. She is a preacher and broadcaster accustomed to the big stage who is happy doing routine tasks in a local congregation week by week.'

Colin Morris in Epworth Review, January 2002

  • Conference Handbook, 1965
  • J F Bibb, Women into Priesthood (1991)
  • Colin Morris, 'Pauline Webb' [Profile], in Epworth Review, 29:1 (January 2002) pp.13-23
  • Brian Frost, with Stuart Jordan, Pioneers of Social Passion (Peterborough, 2006)
  • Colin Morris, Snapshots (2007), pp.76-77
  • Methodist Recorder, 23 June 1966
  • Church Times, 26 May 2017
  • ODNB