Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

William Temple: A Calling to Prophecy

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

William Temple: A Calling to Prophecy

Article excerpt

William Temple: A Calling to Prophecy. By Stephen Spencer. London: SPCK, 2001. xii+132 pp. £7.99 (paper).

Often, when a biography of a "larger than life" character is written by a close friend or associate, there is a tendency to a hagiographie portrayal of the subject. This was the case with F. A. Iremonger's 1948 biography of Archbishop William Temple. In 1991, John Kent wrote a shorter, but much more negative account of Temple's life and work. Ten years later, Stephen Spencer has revisited the subject, with an appreciative yet not uncritical volume about the man who was one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century Anglicanism.

For those who have read William Temple's own works, and the scholarship concerning his life and thought, there will be few surprises in Spencers book. In some ways, it is too dependent on Iremonger, almost to the point of being a synopsis of the earlier and much longer biography. What will puzzle a reader who is familiar with the literature surrounding Temple is the recurring theme of "prophecy." Although in the last decade of his life, Temple did indeed claim that there needed to be a "prophetic note" sounded in theology, Spencer takes this too far, asserting that Temple himself understood his life and vocation as one of prophetic ministry. This is difficult to substantiate, either through biographical materials or from Temple's own writings; it seems to be a "reading back" on Temple's life of interpretations by other authors that Spencer accepts too readily. Another problem of analysis is the claim that Temple shifted his interests from social justice to ecumenism in the 1930s. …

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