Bryan Ronald Wilson is the Reader Emeritus in Sociology in the University of Oxford. From 1963 to 1993, he was also a Fellow of All Souls College, and in 1993 was elected an Emeritus Fellow.
For more than forty years, he has conducted research into minority religious movements in Britain and overseas (notably in the United States, Ghana, Kenya, Belgium and Japan). His work has involved reading the publications of these movements and, wherever possible, associating with their members in their meetings, services, and homes, and critical appraisal of the works of other scholars.
He holds the Degrees of B.Sc. (Econ) and Ph.D. of the University of London and the M.A. of the University of Oxford. In 1984, the University of Oxford recognized the value of his published work by conferring upon him the Degree of D.Litt. In 1992, the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, awarded him the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa.
In 1994, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
At various times he has held the following additional appointments:
Commonwealth Fund Fellow (Harkness Foundation) at the University of California, Berkeley, United States, 1957–8;
Visiting Professor, University of Ghana, 1964;
Fellow of the American Counsel of Learned Societies, at the University of California, Berkeley, United States, 1966–7;
Research Consultant in Sociology, University of Padua, Italy, 1968–72;
Visiting Fellow of The Japan Society, 1975;
Visiting Professor, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium 1976; 1982; 1986; 1993;
Snider Visiting Professor, University of Toronto, Canada, 1978;
Visiting Professor in the Sociology of Religion, and Consultant for Religious Studies to Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, 1980–1;
Scott Visiting Fellow, Ormond College, University of Melbourne, Australia, 1981;
Visiting Professor, University of Queensland, Australia, 1986;
Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A., 1987;
Visiting Professor, Soka University, Hachioji, Japan, 1997;
For the years 1971–5, he was President of the Conférence Internationale de Sociologie Religieuse (the world-wide organization for the discipline); in 1991 he was elected Honorary President of this organization now re-named as Société Internationale de Sociologie des Religions.
Council Member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (U.S.A.) 1977–9;
For several years, European Associate Editor, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion;
For six years, Joint Editor of The Annual Review of the Social Sciences of Religion.
He has lectured on minority religious movements extensively in Britain, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, and the United States, and occasionally in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
He has been called as an expert witness on sects in courts in Britain, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa and has provided evidence on affidavit for courts in Australia, Latvia, Russia, Spain and in France. He has also been called upon to give expert written evidence on religious movements for the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.
Among other works, he has published eleven books devoted in whole or in part to minority religious movements:
Sects and Society: the Sociology of Three Religious Groups in Britain, London: Heinemann, and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961; reprinted, Westport, Conn., U.S.A.: Greenwood Press, 1978
Patterns of Sectarianism (edited) London: Heinemann, 1967
Religious Sects, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson; New York: McGraw Hill, 1970 (also published in translation in French, German, Spanish, Swedish and Japanese)
Magic and the Millennium, London: Heinemann; New York: Harper and Row, 1973
Contemporary Transformations of Religion, London: Oxford University Press, 1976 (also published in translation in Italian and Japanese)
The Social Impact of the New Religious Movements (edited) New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1981
Religion in Sociological Perspective, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982 (also published in translation in Italian, Romanian, and Bulgarian. Japanese translation in preparation)
The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990
A Time to Chant: the Soka Gakkai Buddhists in Britain, [with K. Dobbelaere] Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994 (Japanese translation 1997)
New Religious Movements; Challenge and Response, [co-edited with Jamie Cresswell] London: Routledge, 1999
Global Citizens: The Soka Gakkai Buddhists in the World, [co-edited with David Machacek] Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000
He has also contributed more than thirty articles on minority religious movements to edited works and learned journals in Britain, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. He has contributed articles to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences; the Encyclopaedia of Religion, Encyclopédie des religions (Paris) and Enciclopedia Italiana (Rome).
Among the movements on which he has undertaken research has been the Church of Scientology. He is not and never has been a member of that Church or any of its affiliated organizations. His research has been conducted in accordance with the principles of detached objectivity and ethical neutrality as maintained in the academic tradition of the social sciences.