On March 9, Athol Gill died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 54 years old. Athol was a theologian, teacher, activist, and community leader. He was a father to the radical Christian movement in Australia, and his influence was felt around the world. He was a friend of mine and of Sojourners, who visited and taught us here in Washington on more than one occasion (see "Unity at the Center," Sojourners , June 1990).
Whenever I was in Australia, I would spend time with Athol. We traveled together, spoke together, strategized together, laughed and talked together long into many nights. His community, The House of the Gentle Bunyip (named after a mythical Australian creature), was a place of hospitality for me many times.
Many American Christians didn't know Athol Gill, but to all those who are committed to what he used to call "radical discipleship," Athol has made a profound contribution. His passing must be noted, his life celebrated, and his place in our collective history honored. The following is a fond tribute to Athol Gill which was sent to be read at his memorial service in Melbourne.
The shock continues. We were not ready for this. Not Athol. The thought of never being with him again still seems unbelievable and unacceptable. The memories flood the mind and heart. At this moment they become great treasures. The tough old bear and the gentle bunyip. The uncompromising radical and the tender pastor.
The prophet, whose passion for justice would not let the church get off easily, and yet, whose love for the church kept him from giving up on it--on us. Who was more serious about the things which our societies refused to take seriously, and yet, who would you rather be with for an evening of laughter and joy?