2004 0-7734-6433-6 The thought of William Temple (1881-1944) (Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-1944) is highly esteemed and often referenced by the Anglican theologians who have come after him. However, because Temple’s work is often considered to be limited to his time and place, his writings have rarely been used as a foundation on which later theology can be constructed. The author disagrees with this judgment on the limits of Temple’s thought. This book explores a way in which Temple’s writings can be used to develop an understanding of the nature and tasks of the Church, primarily as that Church is situated in Western, industrialized, democratic nations.
The method of study is a “tradition-constituted” inquiry. This acknowledges the impact of specific written sources on Temple’s thought. However, it places greater emphasis on an attempt to understand the intellectual, spiritual, social and political influences to which he does not explicitly refer, but which have shaped his character and manner of thinking. Such influences would be both “high” and popular culture, participation in family and community life, and contact with a long spiritual tradition of preaching and worship.
There are few extended essays in which Temple’s ecclesiology is set forth, and this has led scholars such as Ronald Preston and Alan Suggate to conclude that Temple had no distinctive vision of the Church. However, a reading across the majority of Temple’s writings indicates that this view must be challenged. A careful reading of Temple’s works, treated synchronically, can produce a doctrine of the Church that is deeply engaged with the social and political life of a democratic nation. Such an ecclesiology points to the Church’s responsibility both to uphold and critique the nation, thereby enabling and encouraging it to grow in conformity with the biblical vision of the Kingdom of God.
Temple’s work provides a different ecclesiology from those offered by other modern Anglicans. This ecclesiology is at once more engaged than that proposed by John Milbank, and more humble and realistic than that envisioned by Oliver O’Donovan.