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William Temple Edit Profile


William Temple was a famous clergyman in the Church of England.


He was born in 1881 in Exeter, Devon, England, United Kingdom, where his father, Frederick, was bishop, William Temple is unique in having followed in the steps of his father, who became archbishop of Canterbury 16 years after William's birth.


He had the traditional education of the English upper classes, at a public (that is, private) school-Rugby-and at an ancient university-Oxford.


He was immediately recognized as a man of great gifts and became successively a fellow of Queen's College, Oxford, in 1910; headmaster of another public school-Repton-in 1910; rector of the fashionable St. James, Piccadilly, in the center of London in 1914; a canon of Westminster Abbey (which is a royal "peculiar" and outside the normal structures of the church) in 1919; bishop of Manchester, a heavily populated industrial diocese, in 1921; archbishop of York in 1929; and then archbishop of Canterbury in 1942. These rapid promotions were not due to his privileged background but to the fact that he was widely recognized as a leading figure who could not be overlooked.

Nor did he move primarily in privileged circles. From 1905 he was closely associated with the Workers' Educational Association, and he was its first president from 1908 to 1924. He retained a lasting commitment to educational and social causes, and in the 1930 he was active in working for the unemployed during the economic depression of that time.

It was because of these ecumenical contacts that he was the obvious chairperson of the first ecumenical social conference to be held in Britain, COPEC (Conference on Christian Politics, Economics and Citizenship), in Birmingham in 1924. Subsequently he was to play a leading part in both the "Faith and Order" and "Life and Work" sides of the incipient ecumenical movement.

Within the Church of England Temple was prominent in securing an enabling act from Parliament in 1919 which gave the Church a large measure of self-government instead of more direct state control and in chairing from 1925 to 1938 a commission whose report Doctrine in the Church of England showed how modern biblical and doctrinal criticism could legitimately be used to interpret traditional positions.

In his last years, as war again threatened and did break out, he took a more sombre view of irrationality in the world. His spirituality was reflected in his Readings in St. John's Gospel (1939 and 1944). His wartime Christianity and Social Order (1942) remained into the 1980 a classic of realistic yet hopeful social ethics. He was unusual in being a prophet with a sense of the possible.

He died in the fullness of his powers in 1944.


  • He was an outstanding church and civic leader who by the time he died had achieved world status as Archbishop of Canterbury. All his life he worked at a prodigious pace over a huge range of issues and problems, and he published many books: Mens Creatrix, Gifford Lectures, Nature, Man, and God, Christianity and Social Order, The Church Looks Forward and others. He is also noted for being one of the founders of the Council of Christians and Jews.

    He was the sole president of the World Council of Churches, which was officially launched in 1948.

    Temple has a high school named after him, Archbishop Temple School in Fulwood, Preston. The Archbishop William Temple CoE Primary School in Hull was also named after him. Temple is honoured in the Calendar of the Church of England and other church members of the Anglican Communion on 6 November.


His own position moved from a more liberal Protestant to a more liberal Catholic one. He was a natural believer in the Christian faith who never felt serious doubt.


He was a member of the Labour Party for some years, and that before it had ousted the Liberals as the main opposition party to the Conservatives. From 1907 he was associated with the Student Christian Movement, which sent him as an usher to the Edinburgh Conference of 1910, from which the modern ecumenical movement is dated.


In philosophy he was nurtured in the last days of Oxford idealism, and his early books -

Mens Creatrix (1917) and Christus Veitas (1924) - reflect this. Idealism has difficulty with the concrete, and Temple was concerned to show the necessity and reasonableness for it to allow for a specific Incarnation. Subsequently he wrestled with A. N. Whitehead's Process philosophy and came very near to what is known as its pantheism; but he never came to terms with Logical Positivism or with Existentialism (going back to Kierkegaard), both of which became very influential philosophical movements before World War II. His Gifford Lectures Nature, Man and God (1934) show his thought at its best.

By this time the great economic depression from 1929 had alerted him in a general way to Marxism.

Quotations: "Christianity is the most avowedly materialistic of all the great religions".

"The art of Government in fact is the art of so ordering life that self-interest prompts what justice demands".


He never lost hope.


  • Philosophers & Thinkers

    Alfred N. Whitehead and Samuel Alexander


He married Frances Anson in 1916. There were no children from the marriage.

Frederick Temple (1821–1902)

Frances Anson