(RNS) – The Rev. Thomas McKenzie, rector of a large Anglican congregation in Nashville, and his daughter were killed in a car crash on Monday (August 23).
He was 50 years old.
Both were towards Texas, the first stop on a trip to New Mexico, when the car they were riding in collided with a semi-trailer at around 9:50 a.m., according to a local report.
“It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you that this morning Thomas and his 22-year-old daughter Ella died in an accident on Interstate 40 west of Nashville,” said Reverend Kenny Benge, associate pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, the parishioners said in an email message.
“They were going to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Ella was to continue her education at St. John’s College. Thomas was just starting his well-deserved sabbatical.
Earlier in the morning, about half an hour before the crash, McKenzie tweeted about his trip. “First day of sabbatical leave”, he posted. “Driving with my child in New Mexico… Today’s goal? Shamrock, Texas.
McKenzie was the longtime pastor of the Church of the Redeemer, a congregation of the Anglican Church in North America, which he helped found after leaving the Episcopal Church. He was well known in evangelical circles in Nashville, with friends of many faiths.
He was the author of The Anglican Way and several other books and frequently commented on current films and events on social media.
I am part of a church committee @redeemernash. We just voted to distribute $ 20,000 to help women in Afghanistan, earthquake victims in Haiti and impoverished children in the region eat healthier food. God is good!
– Thomas McKenzie (@thomasmckenzie) August 19, 2021
Best-selling author Stephen Mansfield had been with McKenzie’s congregation for years and considered him a friend. He was stunned to learn of McKenzie’s passing.
“Few are these men or women who have glimpsed God and whose ideas transform others forever,” he said. “They struggle with their humanity in a way that helps others struggle with theirs. They freely give away what they know with contagious joy. Thomas was such a soul. And he was my friend.
Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, was also a friend. He described McKenzie as having “a quick wit and a loving heart.”
“He challenged me and so many others to think, love and live like Christ. He will be sadly missed because he kept leading people to Jesus, ”Stetzer said. “I remember sitting together in Nashville to talk about what it meant to be a vicar – and what it meant to be an earthly representative of Christ. Thomas did it well, and his loss is deeply felt by many of us.
Russell Moore, a public ethicist at Christianity Today, befriended McKenzie several years ago and recently visited his church after Moore left the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore said Mckenzie often texted her with messages of encouragement.
Until the day before he left on sabbatical, Moore said McKenzie had been active on social media, encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“He has always really asserted and encouraged people, regardless of their faith affiliation,” he said. “We respected him because he was serious about her, but he was also kind and gentle.”
After dropping off his daughter in New Mexico, McKenzie and his wife, Laura, planned to travel to England for a cathedrals tour. The tour was a 50e birthday present, McKenzie said in a blog post about his sabbatical. From there, he planned to walk the Camino de Santiago, a five hundred kilometer pilgrimage that dates back to medieval times.
“I am very grateful for Laura’s support – she is an amazing wife! I am also grateful to our bishop, our sacristy and our staff, as well as my family and friends, ”he wrote in his sabbatical. “I am also grateful to you. The Church of the Redeemer is such a wonderful community. I ask for your prayers and hope to see you when I return.
McKenzie is survived by his wife Laura and daughter Sophie.
“Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our comprehension: treat graciously those who mourn, especially Laura and Sophie,” Reverend Benge wrote in his memo to the Church of the Redeemer congregation. “Surround them with your love, so that they will not be overwhelmed by their loss, but trust in your goodness and in your strength to face the days to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”