He joined the staff of the the Christian Conference of Asia in 1978 as the executive secretary for Theological Concerns, and subsequently, he was appointed as its associate general secretary in 1983; he continued in this position until he was appointed as the director of the Programme on Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva in 1986.
“In particular, the WCC family is grateful for the life, legacy and ecumenical journey of the late Dr Niles. He generously shared his skills of bridge builder, participating in important processes in the life and history of the WCC. We have lost an ecumenical champion for justice and creation,” said WCC acting general secretary (during the vacation) Marianne Ejdersten.
The general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, expressed deep condolences on the demise of Niles and stated that he was the first executive secretary recruited by the Christian Conference of Asia to head the newly created commission which sought to address emerging theological concerns in Asia.
Niles also inspired many budding Asian theologians and provided platforms for them to develop ways of doing theology contextually in Asia.
“Preman Niles was a proponent for a new theological and missiological approach in understanding mission as an engagement with Asian plurality, and saw to it that the theology that ensued would not be an intra-ecclesial enterprise, but would be open to facilitate broader conversations that could invite the participation of others,” added Chunakara.
A native of Sri Lanka, Niles completed his theological education at Oxford University and the Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a senior lecturer and academic dean at the Theological College of Lanka.
He was also the third general secretary of the Council for World Mission, the successor mission body of the London Missionary Society, from 1991 to 2002.
He is survived by three children: Damayanthi, Radhika, and Dharman.
The funeral service will take place on Friday August 25th at 2:15 pm GMT with a reception to follow. Service and Reception will take place at his home parish, St John’s United Reformed Church, Lynwood Grove. Orpington, Kent BR6 0BG.
For those unable to join in person, the service will be live streamed under the title ‘Preman Niles Memorial’ using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSxgsw7yBt0fx0MKaeDYzKA.