William Temple (bishop)

William Temple (15 October 1881 – 26 October 1944) was a bishop in the Church of England. He served as Bishop of Manchester (1921–29), Archbishop of York (1929–42) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1942–44).

William Temple
Archbishop of Canterbury
Appointed1 April 1942 (nominated)
Installed17 April 1942 (confirmed)
Term ended26 October 1944
PredecessorCosmo Lang
SuccessorGeoffrey Fisher
Ordination1909 (deacon), 1910 (priest)
Consecration25 January 1921
Personal details
Born15 October 1881
Exeter, Devon, England
Died26 October 1944 (aged 63)
Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, England
BuriedCanterbury Cathedral
DenominationChurch of England
SpouseFrances Anson
Previous postBishop of Manchester,
Archbishop of York

A renowned teacher and preacher, Temple is perhaps best known for his 1942 book Christianity and Social Order, which set out an Anglican social theology and a vision for what would constitute a just post-war society. He is also noted for being one of the founders of the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942. He is the last Archbishop of Canterbury to have died while in office.

Early life

Temple was born in 1881 in Exeter, Devon, England, the second son of Frederick Temple (1821–1902), also Archbishop of Canterbury in 1897. From an early age, he suffered from a cataract which left him without use of his right eye at age 40.[1] He was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a double first in classics and served as president of the Oxford Union.

After graduation, he became fellow and lecturer in philosophy at Queen's College, Oxford from 1904 to 1910 and was ordained in 1909 and priested in 1910. Between 1910 and 1914 he was Headmaster of Repton School after which he returned to being a full-time cleric. He married Frances Anson in 1916. There were no children from the marriage.[2] He was appointed Bishop of Manchester in 1921 and Archbishop of York in 1929. During his life, Temple wrote constantly and completed his largest philosophical work, Mens Creatrix (“The Creative Mind”) in 1917. In 1926 during the General strike while he was Bishop of Manchester he contributed "to bridge the gulf between coal-miners and coalowners".[3] In 1932–33, he gave the Gifford Lectures, published in 1934 as Gifford Lectures, Nature, Man, and God. He became the leader of the "Life and Liberty movement, an unofficial body" which was founded to start change in the governance of the Church of England.[4]

Archbishop of Canterbury

Support for social reforms

In 1942, Temple became Archbishop of Canterbury. In the same year he published Christianity and Social Order. The work attempted to marry faith and socialism and rapidly sold around 140,000 copies.[5]

Temple defended the working-class movement and supported economic and social reforms.[6] He became the first President (1908–1924) of the Workers' Educational Association, and a member of the Labour Party from 1918 to 1925. He was chairman of an international and interdenominational Conference on Christian Politics, Economics and Citizenship held in 1924 and participated in the ecumenical movement. One of the Anglican delegates to the World Conference on Faith and Order held in Lausanne in 1927, Temple both helped prepare and then chaired the second World Conference Faith and Order in Edinburgh 1937. He helped form the British Council of Churches after his elevation to the archbishopric in 1942, and the World Council of Churches in 1948. Temple was also influential in bringing together Britain's various churches to support the Education Act of 1944.

Second World War

Against the background of persecution of Jewish people during World War II, Temple jointly founded with Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz the Council of Christians and Jews to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice in Britain. In March 1943, Temple addressed the House of Lords, urging action to be taken on the atrocities being carried out by Nazi Germany. He said:

My chief protest is against procrastination of any kind. ... The Jews are being slaughtered at the rate of tens of thousands a day on many days. ... It is always true that the obligations of decent men are decided for them by contingencies which they did not themselves create and very largely by the action of wicked men. The priest and the Levite in the parable were not in the least responsible for the traveller's wounds as he lay there by the roadside and no doubt they had many other pressing things to attend to, but they stand as the picture of those who are condemned for neglecting the opportunity of showing mercy. We at this moment have upon us a tremendous responsibility. We stand at the bar of history, of humanity and of God.[7]

Temple drew criticism from his numerous Quaker connections, by writing an introduction to "Christ and Our Enemies" which did not condemn the Allied carpet bombing of Germany citing the fact that he was "not only non-pacifist but anti-pacifist".[8]

In 1944, he published The Church Looks Forward (1944). He also publicly supported a negotiated peace, as opposed to the unconditional surrender that the Allied leaders were demanding.

Theological thought

Temple is noteworthy in being one of the first theologians to engage with the process theology and philosophy streams represented by thinkers such as Alfred N. Whitehead and Samuel Alexander, an approach most often deemed emergent evolution in his day (See George Garin, Theistic Evolution in a Sacramental Universe, Kinshasa, 1991). This attempt is most notable in his Gifford Lectures, mentioned above.[9] He had a talent for settling disputes which was of great use when he moderated conferences. But it was rather his philosophy which was derived from dialectic of Hegel and Plato. Despite of his early doubts in "Virgin Birth and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus" which did not permit the Bishop of Oxford to ordain him in 1906 beginning from 1913 Temple became a fully orthodox adherent. [10]


He suffered from gout all his life and he had "to stand on one foot for his last public appearance at a clergy retreat".[11] Temple died at Westgate-on-Sea, Kent on 26 October 1944. He was cremated at Charing Crematorium, Kent. He was the first Primate of All England to be cremated and this had an immense effect upon the opinion of church people not only in his country, but also throughout the whole Anglican community. His ashes were buried under a large stone in the cloister garden of Canterbury Cathedral, close to his father's grave. There is a memorial to him at the parish church of St George in Bicknoller, Somerset where he spent his holidays from 1933 to 1944.[12]


A house at Archbishop Tenison's C of E High School, Croydon is named after him.

Temple has a high school named after him, Archbishop Temple School in Fulwood, Preston.

The former William Temple College in Manchester, named after him, is continued through the William Temple Foundation as a research and resource centre for those developing discipleship and ministry in an urban/industrial society. (The college was founded at Hawarden, Flintshire, in 1947; moved to Rugby, Warwickshire, in 1954; moved to Manchester in 1971 and was renamed the William Temple Foundation.)[13]

The Archbishop William Temple CoE Primary School in Hull was also named after him.

He has three churches named for him. One in Abbey Wood, London, one of three churches which make up the Thamesmead Team Ministry, which is part of the Church of England. Another is William Temple Parish Church, Wythenshawe - part of the Wythenshawe Team Ministry in the Diocese of Manchester. The third is in Manor Park, Sheffield and is part of the Manor Area Ecumenical Mission Partnership between the Church of England Diocese of Sheffield, the Methodist Sheffield District, the Yorkshire Baptist Association and the Yorkshire Synod of the United Reformed Church.[14]

An international student residence in London, William Temple House, also bears his name.

An organisation which provides counselling and social services in Portland, Oregon, United States is named after Temple.[15]

The school house named Temple's House at Bishop Stopford's School at Enfield is named in honour of Temple. It is known in full as "The House of William Temple, Head Master, Archbishop, and servant of God".

Temple Memorial Park open to public on 13 July 1961. Given by the Church Commissioners, covers 175 acres between King George Road and Boldon Lane The park was inaugurated by Mrs Frances Temple, Widow of Dr William Temple, former Archbishop of Canterbury. It was presented by the Commissioners in recognition of the services of South Shields during the 1939-1945 War.


Temple is honoured in the Calendar of the Church of England and other church members of the Anglican Communion on 6 November.



  1. "William Temple, Theologian, Archbishop of Canterbury". Justus.anglican.org. 26 October 1944. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  2. John Kent (1992). William Temple: Church, State and Society in Britain, 1880-1950. Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-5213-7484-7.
  3. Landmines at River Jordan baptismal site to be cleared from September Retrieved on 26 Feb 2018
  4. William Temple, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY Retrieved on 26 Feb 2018
  5. David Kynaston (2008). Austerity Britain 1945–51. Bloomsbury. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7475-9923-4.
  6. Marr, Andrew (2008). A History of Modern Britain. Macmillan. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-330-43983-1.
  7. "GERMAN ATROCITIES: AID FOR REFUGEES. (Hansard, 23 March 1943)". Hansard.millbanksystems.com. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  8. W. Temple papers 51,, Temple to Hobhouse, 26 March 1944; also Melanie Barber, "Tales of the Unexpected: Glimpses of Friends in the Archives of Lambeth Palace", Journal of the Friends Historical Society, Vol 61, No.2
  9. George Garin, Theistic Evolution in a Sacramental Universe, Protestant University Press of the Congo, Kinshasa, 1991.
  10. "William Temple, Theologian, Archbishop of Canterbury 27 October 1944" Retrieved on 26 Feb 2018
  11. William Temple - Archbishop of Canterbury Retrieved on 26 Feb 2018
  12. Waite, Vincent (1964). Portrait of the Quantocks. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7091-1158-4.
  13. University of Manchester Library. "William Temple Foundation ArchivesUniversity of Manchester Library". Guide to special collections. University of Manchester. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  14. https://www.achurchnearyou.com/manor-park-william-temple/ The documents about the creation of the wider mission partnership in 2015 are available from Churches Together in South Yorkshire.

Further reading

  • Dackson, Wendy. "Archbishop William Temple and public theology in a post-Christian context." Journal of Anglican Studies 4#2 (2006): 239-251.
  • Fletcher, Joseph F. William Temple, Twentieth-century Christian (New York, Seabury, 1963).
  • Freathy, R. J. K. "Three perspectives on religious education and education for citizenship in English schools, 1934–1944: Cyril Norwood, Ernest Simon and William Temple." British Journal of Religious Education 30#2 (2008): 103-112.
  • Hastings, Adrian. "Temple, William (1881–1944)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004, 2012) https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/36454
  • Hastings, Adrian. A history of English Christianity, 1920–1990 (3rd ed. 1991)
  • Iremonger, F. A. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters (1948) online
  • Kent, John, William Temple: Church, State and Society in Britain, 1880-1950 (1992)
  • Kirby, Dianne. "Christian co-operation and the ecumenical ideal in the 1930s and 1940s." European Review of History 8#1 (2001): 37-60.
  • Lammers, Stephen E. "William Temple and the Bombing of Germany: An Exploration in the Just War Tradition." Journal of Religious Ethics (1991): 71-92.
  • McConnell, Theodore A. "William Temple's Philosophy of History." Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church (1968): 87-104.
  • Marsden, John. "William Temple: Christianity and the Life of Fellowship." Political Theology 8#2 (2007): 213-233.
  • G. I. T. Machin, Churches and Social Issues in Twentieth-century Britain (1998)
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Edmund Knox
Bishop of Manchester
Succeeded by
Guy Warman
Preceded by
Cosmo Gordon Lang
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Cyril Garbett
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Fisher
Academic offices
New office President of the Workers' Educational Association
Succeeded by
Fred Bramley
Preceded by
Lionel Ford
Headmaster of Repton School
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Fisher
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