Thompson, Edgar Wesley
1871-1963; e.m. 1894

Born at Glastonbury in 1871, the son of the Rev. Thomas Thompson (e.m. 1856; died 1901), he was educated at Woodhouse Grove and Kingswood School; then took a London MA while at Aberystwyth College. After only six months at Richmond College, he spent his entire ministry in the service of the (W)MMS For 25 years he worked in the Mysore District in South India. During his furlough in 1904 he studied Sanskrit at Oxford. He was fluent in Kannada and edited Vrittanta Patrike, a weekly founded by Henry Haigh, which featured Christian teachings, issues of social justice and political criticism. He was a confident debater in public as in the written word, and engaged readily in disputes on public issues, debating on theosophy both in India and with Mrs Annie Besant back in England. He was equally at home in outcaste village congregations. He played a major part in establishing policy with respect to the great community movements in Hyderabad and Trichinopoly. His History of India was used in the schools of the sub-continent for a generation and more.

On furlough in 1911 he was spokesman for his South India colleagues at Conference, proposing some notable revisions to the constitution of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, which were implemented and formed the basis of the MMS constitution at Methodist Union. In 1919 he returned to England as one of the General Secretaries of the Society, with responsibility for West Africa and later for the West Indies. He endeavoured to prepare for the future autonomy of the overseas Districts and late in life saw the first fruits of his work. He delivered the Fernley Lecture in 1932 on The Word of the Cross to Hindus and in 1957 published 'some reflections on Wesley's consecration of Dr. Thomas Coke' under the title Wesley: Apostolic Man.

He retired in 1934, but as late as 1950 was instrumental in drafting the Conference Declaration on Racial Policy. He was always forthright and sometimes abrasive; but in his own words, he 'always put the truth first, but we cannot know the truth unless we love'. He died on 28 January 1963.

  • Minutes of Conference, 1912, Appendix 35
  • Methodist Recorder, 7 February 1963