In Memoriam: David B. Barrett
The Rev. Dr. David B. Barrett passed away on August 4, 2011 in Richmond, Virginia after a brief illness. He was 83. Following receipt of his B.A. in aeronautics from Cambridge University, Barrett began his career at Britain’s Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1948 (he received his M.A. from Cambridge in 1952). While at the RAE he performed aircraft design flight research on such planes as the de Havilland Comet (the world’s first commercial jetliner) and the supersonic Concorde. When the RAE reassigned him to missile and bomb design, however, Barrett left to train for the priesthood in the Church of England. He was ordained a deacon in 1954 and a priest in 1955 and was appointed as a missionary through the Church Missionary Society in 1956.
After serving in Kenya from 1957-61, Barrett studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Union Theological Seminary (M.T.S., 1963) and Columbia University (joint Ph.D. with Union, 1965). He returned to Kenya as a missionary and oversaw research for the Church of England in Eastern Africa for 20 years. In 1985 (still under appointment as an Anglican missionary), he left Nairobi for Richmond, Virginia, and a position as a research consultant at the Foreign (now International) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, where he remained until 1993. Until his death, Barrett continued as an independent researcher of global Christianity through the World Evangelization Research Center (which he had founded in Kenya in 1965) and its successor, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (established 2003).
Barrett’s contributions to the field of religious demography are extensive. His published research continues to influence both Christian missionary efforts and secular understanding of religious adherence. After his doctoral dissertation on African Independent Churches was published in 1968, (Schism and Renewal in Africa: An Analysis of Six Thousand Contemporary Religious Movements), he spent more than 10 years compiling and serving as editor of the World Christian Encyclopedia (1982). In 2001, this publication was followed by a second edition (with co-editors George Kurian and Todd Johnson) and the companion volume World Christian Trends (which he co-authored with Johnson). Barrett was also a long-time contributor of statistics on global religious adherence to the Britannica Book of the Year and the International Bulletin of Missionary Research.
Dr. Barrett is survived by his wife Pam, his daughter and son-in-law Claire and John, his sons Luke and Timothy, two grandchildren, and family members overseas.