Ranters of Mow Cop

Ranters of Mow Cop

Friday, 31 October 2014

William Temple -- 70 Years On.



Archbishop William Temple died 70 years ago this week, in the same year as my own maternal grandmother. I personally never met either of them as I was not born until 1951, yet I suspect both had a significant influence on my life and wellbeing.




As a child of poor working class parents growing up in those early post war years I benefited from the cod liver oil, the free prescriptions and the free grammar school education that had just become available under the welfare state. And it was Temple along with his friends Beveridge and Tawney who identified five "Giant Evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease, and went on to propose widespread reform to the system of social welfare to address these.  My whole generation continues to gain much from the social and economic conditions that ensued, though today we look round with sadness and often anger at the way this great achievement is being destroyed under the influence of neo-liberal economics and the cult of individualism.


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 argued powerfully for the right of the church, and of individual Christians to engage in debates in the public sphere, and to propose radical policies that would bring about a more just and equal society. By advocating an approach of drawing evidence and wisdom from across the disciplines of economics, the social sciences, politics and theology he avoided the temptation of directly bringing Bible texts to bear directly on modern social issues. However he ensured that fundamental Christian values could be applied in the service of the common good.


As a radical evangelical non-conformist I still have some difficulties with the whole notion of Archbishops, especially when they themselves were the son of an archbishop and drawn from an elite social class. Temple himself 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. I would also have had some difficulty during the war with Temple's robustly non-pacifist patriotism. However I am willing to give him credit for his Christian socialist credentials and for his ministry as bishop in the North –west of England. His legacy locally includes the secondary school in Preston where my own two children were educated.


I continue to value being an associate fellow of the William Temple Foundation and to be one of a team involved in productive thinking and research into the relationship of the church with the economy and the public sphere. And I'm really looking forward to being involved next week in the exciting conference


Reclaiming the Public Space:

Archbishop William Temple 70th Anniversary Conference

Monday 10th November – People's History Museum, Manchester


I hope to see you there.  You can still book tickets by clicking on this link





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