Wilfred Wood (bishop)

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Wilfred Wood
Bishop of Croydon
DioceseDiocese of Southwark
In office1985–2002
PredecessorStuart Snell
SuccessorNick Baines
Other postsArea bishop of Croydon (1991–2002)
Archdeacon of Southwark (1982–85)
Ordination1961, St Michael's, Bridgetown (deacon)
1962, St Paul's, London (priest)
Personal details
Born (1936-06-15) 15 June 1936 (age 82)
Barbados (Caribbean)
NationalityBarbadian British
ResidenceChrist Church, Barbados[1]
ParentsWilfred & Elsie
SpouseIna Smith (m. 1966)
Children3 sons; 2 daughters
Alma materCodrington College

Wilfred Denniston Wood KA (born 15 June 1936) was Bishop of Croydon from 1985 to 2003 (and the first area bishop there from 1991), the first black bishop in the Church of England. He came second in the "100 Great Black Britons" list in 2004.[2]


Born in Barbados to Wilfred Coward and Elsie Elmira Wood, Wood was ordained a deacon on the island, then as a priest in St Paul's Cathedral in 1962, first serving in Shepherd's Bush. He soon came to wider attention in the United Kingdom for speaking out on racial justice. In 1974 he joined the Diocese of Southwark, where he stayed until his retirement. In 1977 he was appointed Rural Dean of East Lewisham and Honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral. He was Archdeacon of Southwark from 1982 until his consecration as area Bishop of Croydon in 1985, where he oversaw the Croydon Episcopal Area and assisted the Bishop of Southwark.

Wood was a champion for racial justice, launching several initiatives and serving on many committees. In 1968, Wood and colleagues submitted proposals for the replacement of the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants (NCCI) with a Community Relations Commission that came to be known as "the Wood Proposals". The proposals called for some members to be directly elected by minority ethnic associations.

In 1992 he co-sponsored with David Sheppard, the then Bishop of Liverpool, a new set of race equality principles for employers, which became known as the "Wood-Sheppard Principles". He was Moderator of the Southwark Diocesan Race Relations Commission from its foundation. He also served as Moderator of the World Council of Churches's Programme to Combat Racism, known for its work on South African apartheid. In his last years as Bishop of Croydon, he protested at the honours given to Enoch Powell upon his death,[3] stating, "Enoch Powell gave a certificate of respectability to white racist views which otherwise decent people were ashamed to acknowledge".[4] and, in 2000 about the then British government's and opposition's attitudes to asylum seekers.[5]

Wood was also involved in Croydon life outside of the church, serving as a board member for the local Mayday Hospital for more than ten years, President of the Royal Philanthropic Society[6] and also Chair of the Tramlink Penalty Fares Appeals Panel.

Bishop Wilfred Wood also served on the Board of the UK's Housing Corporation from 1986 to 1995 and was a founder-member of a number of housing associations. He served as chairman and later president of the Institute of Race Relations.

Bishop Wood was made an Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Croydon in 2002.[2] He holds honorary doctorates from the Open University, the University of the West Indies and the General Theological Seminary, New York, when he was described in the citation as "a wide and trusted defender of the rights of minorities."

Retirement and honours[edit]

On 30 November 2000 – Barbados Independence Day – The Queen appointed Wood a Knight of St Andrew "for his contribution to race relations in the United Kingdom and general contribution to the welfare of Barbadians living here".

Wood retired as Bishop of Croydon on 30 September 2002 and was succeeded in 2003 by Nick Baines. In 2004, Wood was voted by the public as second only to Mary Seacole on a list of the "100 Great Black Britons."[7]


  1. ^ "WOOD, Rt Rev. Wilfred Denniston", Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edition, Oxford University Press, December 2011, accessed 9 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Ex-bishop is top 10 Brit". 18 February 2004. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  3. ^ "Row breaks out over Enoch Powell's funeral". BBC. 15 February 1998. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  4. ^ "Bishops criticise Abbey over Powell honour", The Irish Times, 16 February 1998, p. 14
  5. ^ Sarah Lyall (19 April 2000). "Tories Trying To Top Labor in Toughness on Asylum". New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  6. ^ Now RPS Rainer
  7. ^ "100 Great Black Britons Press Release" (Press release). Retrieved 2006-05-27.