The Rev. Henry Chadwick, 87, a Church of England priest and renowned scholar of the early centuries of Christianity, died Tuesday at a hospital in Oxford, England, his family said. The cause of death was not announced.
Much of Chadwick's work involved controversies in the early church, which he sought to explain with sympathy for the individuals involved; the same attitude was evident in his work in Anglican ecumenical dialogues with Roman Catholics and the Orthodox church.
"He once proclaimed ecumenism 'a good cause to die for,' and was certainly deeply committed to finding consensus -- not by coining a conveniently vague formula, but by a real excavation of common first principles," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the Guardian newspaper.
Born on June 23, 1920, in Bromley, England, Chadwick won a music scholarship to Magdalene College, Cambridge, but his interest turned to church history. He was ordained a priest in 1943.
His teaching career began as a fellow and chaplain at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he served as dean for five years; he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University in 1959, and in 1969 was appointed dean of the college of Christ Church, Oxford.
He moved to Cambridge in 1979 as Regius Professor of Divinity, and served as master of Peterhouse College, Cambridge, from 1987 to 1993. He edited the Journal of Theological Studies from 1954 to 1985.
The first of his many books was a translation of "Contra Celsum" by Origen of Alexandria, the 3rd century church father, published in 1953. His later works included studies of St. Ambrose, Priscillian of Avila, the Roman philosopher Boethius and St. Augustine.
He was knighted in 1989.