St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“William Temple” from Great Cloud of Witnesses
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1944
William Temple was a renowned teacher and preacher, regarded as one of the most exemplary Archbishops of Canterbury of the 20th century. His writings reflect a robust social theology that engages the challenges of modern industrialized society.
Temple was born October 15, 1881, and baptized three weeks later, on November 6, in Exeter Cathedral. His father, Dr. Frederick Temple, Bishop of Exeter and then of London, became Archbishop of Canterbury when William was fifteen. Growing up at the heart of the Church of England, William’s love for it was deep and lifelong.
Endowed with a brilliant mind, Temple took a first-class honors degree in classics and philosophy at Oxford, where he was then elected Fellow of Queen’s College. At the age of twenty-nine he became headmaster of Repton School, and then, in quick succession, rector of St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, Bishop of Manchester, and Archbishop of York. Though he was never subject to poverty himself, he developed a
passion for social justice which shaped his words and his actions. He owed this passion to a profound belief in the Incarnation. He wrote that in Jesus Christ God took flesh and dwelt among us, and, as a consequence, “the personality of every man and woman is sacred.” In 1917, Temple resigned from St. James’s, Piccadilly, to devote his energies to the “Life and Liberty” movement for reform within the Church of England. Two years later, an Act of Parliament led to the setting up of the Church Assembly, which for the first time gave the laity a voice in Church matters.
As bishop, and later as archbishop, Temple committed himself to seeking “the things which pertain to the Kingdom of God.” He understood the Incarnation as giving worth and meaning not only to individuals but to all of life. He therefore took the lead in establishing the Conference on Christian Politics, Economics, and Citizenship (COPEC), held 1924. In 1940, he convened the great Malvern Conference to reflect on the social reconstruction that would be needed in Britain once the Second World War was over.
At the same time, he was a prolific writer on theological, ecumenical, and social topics, and his two-volume Readings in St. John’s Gospel, written in the early days of the war, rapidly became a spiritual classic. In 1942, Temple was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and reached an even wider audience through his wartime radio addresses and newspaper articles. However, the scope of his responsibilities and the
pace he set himself took their toll. On October 26, 1944, he died at Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, after only two and a half years at Canterbury.
Some quotes to ponder:
- My worth is what I am worth to God; and that is a marvelous great deal, for Christ died for me. Thus, incidentally, what gives to each of us His highest worth gives the same worth to everyone; in all that matters most are we equal
- When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't.
- The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.
- To evangelize is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.
- Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.
- The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.