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Thomas McKenzie, Nashville Anglican pastor, and Daughter Killed in Car Crash

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Rev. Thomas McKenzie, the rector of a prominent Anglican congregation in Nashville, and his daughter were killed in a car crash Monday (Aug. 23).

He was 50.

The two were headed to Texas, the first stop on a trip to New Mexico, when the car they were driving in collided with a tractor-trailer at about 9:50 a.m., according to a local news 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,” the Rev. Kenny Benge, associate pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, told parishioners in an email message.

“They were driving to Santa Fe, New Mexico where Ella was to continue her studies at St. John’s College. Thomas was just beginning his well-deserved sabbatical.”

Earlier in the morning, about a half hour before the crash, McKenzie tweeted about his trip. “First day of sabbatical,” he posted. “Driving with my kid to New Mexico … Today’s goal? Shamrock, Texas.”

McKenzie was the longtime pastor of Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican Church in North America congregation, which he helped found after leaving the Episcopal Church. He was well-known in evangelical circles in Nashville, with friends across many denominations.

He was the author of The Anglican Way and several other books and was a frequent commentator about movies and current events on social media.

Best-selling author Stephen Mansfield had been part of McKenzie’s congregation for years and counted him as a friend. He was stunned to hear of McKenzie’s passing.

“Rare are those men or women who have glimpsed God and whose insights transform others ever afterward,” he said. “They wrestle with their humanity in a way that helps others wrestle with theirs. They give freely of what they know with contagious joy. Thomas was such a soul. And he was my friend.”

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Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, was also a friend. He described McKenzie as having “a sharp mind and a kind heart.”

“He challenged me and so many others — to think, to love, and to live like Christ. He will be missed by many because he kept pointing people to Jesus,” Stetzer said. “I remember sitting together in Nashville talking about what it meant to be a vicar — and what it means to be an earthly representative of Christ. Thomas did that well, and his loss is deeply felt by many of us.”

Russell Moore, a public ethicist at Christianity Today, became friends with McKenzie several years ago and recently visited his church after Moore left the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore said Mckenzie often sent him texts with encouraging messages.

Up to the day before he left on sabbatical, Moore said McKenzie had been active on social media, encouraging people to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“He was always really affirming and encouraging people regardless of their denominational affiliation,” he said. “We respected him because he had a gravity about him, but he also was kind and lighthearted.”

After dropping off his daughter in New Mexico, McKenzie and his wife, Laura, had planned to fly to England for a tour of cathedrals there. The tour was a 50th birthday present, McKenzie said in blog post about his sabbatical. From there he was planning to walk the Camino de Santiago, a five-hundred-mile pilgrimage that dates to medieval times.

“I’m most grateful for Laura’s support–she’s an amazing wife! I’m also thankful for our bishop, vestry, and staff, as well as my family and friends,” he wrote in his sabbatical note. “I’m grateful for you, as well. Church of the Redeemer is such a wonderful community. I ask for your prayers, and will look forward to seeing you upon my return.”

McKenzie is survived by his wife, Laura, and daughter, Sophie.

“Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: deal graciously with those who mourn, especially Laura and Sophie,” Rev. Benge wrote in his note to the congregation at Church of the Redeemer. “Surround them with your love, that they not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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Bob Smietana

Bob has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.