Parrinder, E. Geoffrey 1910-2005
PARRINDER, E. Geoffrey 1910–2005
(Edward Geoffrey Simons Parrinder)
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 30 (one source says April 10), 1910, in New Barnet, Hertfordshire, England; died June 16, 2005. Minister, missionary, educator, and author. Parrinder was a scholar of world—especially African—religions and a retired professor of the comparative study of religions who encouraged education as a way of understanding the beliefs of others. Coming from a family of modest financial means, he entered the work world as a teenager employed as a railway booking clerk. During this time, he began learning about Buddhism, which spurred an interest in learning more about religion. He trained to become a Wesleyan minister at Richmond College in London from 1929 to 1932, and then traveled to Dahomey (now Benin), Africa, to be a missionary and principal of the Seminaire Protestant. With the advent of World War II, the area came under control of Nazi-controlled Vichy France, and Parrinder was forced to stay in England, where he was a minister in Cornwall. Meanwhile, he earned his B.D. from Richmond College in 1940, and went on to complete a Ph.D. at the University of London in 1946 and a D.D. in 1952. From 1933 to 1958, Parrinder taught at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Here he learned a great deal about indigenous African religions, about which he would go on to publish numerous books. Returning to England in 1958, he joined the faculty at King's College, Cambridge as a reader in the comparative study of religions. He would become chair of the department in 1970 and dean of the theology faculty from 1972 to 1974, before retiring in 1977. In addition to his teaching—one of his famous students was Desmond Tutu, who later became South African archbishop—Parrinder participated in many cross-cultural religious organizations. Among these were the World Congress of Faiths, the British Association for the Study of Religions, for which he was a founding member and former president, the London Society of Jews and Christians, and the London Society for the Study of Religion. His many publications include West African Religion (1949; third edition, 1969), African Traditional Religion (1954; third edition, 1974), the bestselling textbook What World Religions Teach (1963; second edition, 1968), The Wisdom of the Forest (1975), Encountering World Religions: Questions of Religious Truth (1987), and the controversial work Son of Joseph: The Parentage of Jesus (1992), which questioned the notion of the Virgin Birth.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), August 5, 2005, p. 27.
Times (London, England), July 6, 2005, p. 58.