John Habgood

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The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Doctor
The Lord Habgood
Archbishop of York
John Stapylton Habgood (1981).jpg
John Stapylton Habgood (1981)
Province Province of York
Diocese Diocese of York
Installed 18 November 1983
Term ended 1995
Predecessor Stuart Blanch
Successor David Hope
Other posts Bishop of Durham
Consecration c. 1973
Personal details
Birth name John Stapylton Habgood
Born (1927-06-23) 23 June 1927 (age 94)
Denomination Anglican
Profession Author

John Stapylton Habgood, Baron Habgood PC (born 23 June 1927), was Bishop of Durham from 1973[1] to 1983, and Archbishop of York from 18 November 1983[2] to 1995.

He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1983,[3] and was created a life peer as Baron Habgood, of Calverton in the County of Buckinghamshire on 8 September 1995.[4] Later in his life he ceased attending the House of Lords and took leave of absence; on 3 October 2011 he became one of the first two Peers to formally and permanently retire from membership under a newly instituted procedure.[5]

Earlier life and career

He was educated at Eton, King's College, Cambridge and Ripon College Cuddesdon. A University Demonstrator in Pharmacology from 1950 he became a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge in 1952.[6] He was a Curate at St Mary Abbots, Kensington[7] from 1954 to 1956 when he became Vice-Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge. He was Rector of St John's Church, Jedburgh[8] from 1962 to 1967;[9] and Principal of Queen's College from 1967 until his elevation to the Episcopate.[10]


  • Master John Habgood (1927–45)
  • Mr John Habgood (1945–54)
  • The Rev John Habgood (1954–1973)
  • The Rt Revd Dr John Habgood (1973–1983)
  • The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Habgood PC (1983–1995)
  • The Rt Revd and Rt Hon The Lord Habgood PC (1995–present)


After his inauguration at York in 1983, Habgood stated that there was no reason why the Archbishop of Canterbury should take precedence over York. This challenge to custom dating back, at least, to the thirteenth-century Synod of Westminster and tacitly enshrined in law, caused widespread astonishment. It was discussed in the media (Yorkshire Post, Church Times amongst many others) as was his "admission", on retirement (1996) that his assertion had been wrong. His role in the affair of the Crockford Preface (1987) that resulted in the suicide of Oxford Scholar and Priest, Gareth Vaughan Bennett was also controversial. The account of this by literary historian and theologian Dr William Oddie is perhaps the most weighty[11] analysis of any aspect of Habgood's career.


When Robert Runcie announced his retirement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1990, Habgood was regarded as one of the favourites to succeed him. The religious journalist Clifford Longley described him as "the outstanding churchman of his generation", although noting that Habgood had described himself as too old.[12] As preparations for the selection of the new Archbishop began, Habgood gave a television interview stating that he was interested in being considered as "if I believed that this is what the church really wanted and if I believed that this is what God really wanted I would be under a strong obligation to say yes." At the same time it was reported that Habgood was not popular among those close to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who would make the actual recommendation to the Queen.[13]

At the beginning of May a report in the Sunday Correspondent stated that four candidates were under active consideration: Habgood, David Sheppard (Bishop of Liverpool), Colin James (Bishop of Winchester) and John Waine (Bishop of Chelmsford).[14] Habgood declined to take up the automatic place he could have had on the Crown Appointments Commission, which would select the two names to be given to the Prime Minister.[15] He was endorsed in a leader in The Times on 10 July 1990,[16]

On 25 July it was announced that the next Archbishop of Canterbury would be George Carey, the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Habgood described him as "a good choice", adding that "there is a little human bit in anybody that likes the top job, but that is a very small part in my feelings. In my heart of hearts I didn't really want the job. If it had come five years ago I might have thought differently but you slow up and it is an enormously tiring job."[17] In 1996, Habgood's name was proposed by both Anglican and Catholic churches for membership of a National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education. Although he indicated willingness to serve, he was not appointed. No explanation for his omission was given

Religion and science

Habgood is a member and past president of The Science and Religion Forum.[18] He has written in this area, e.g., his book Truths in Tension: New Perspectives on Religion and Science (1965). Another example of his work in this area is "Faith, Science and the Future: the Conference Sermon", which was given at the World Council of Churches' conference on Faith, Science and the Future held on the MIT campus (12–24 July 1979).[19] An early 21st-century example is his review of Ronald L. Numbers's book The Creationists, which Habgood titled "The creation of Creationism: Today's brand of Protestant extremism should worry theologians as well as scientists".[20]


  • Religion and Science (1964) (1965 U.S. publication retitled to Truths in Tension: New Perspectives on Religion and Science)
A Cavendish Professor of Physics and Nobel Laureate, Nevill Mott, has cited this book. :

"I am impressed too by the point of view of the present Archbishop of York (John Habgood, Science and Religion, [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1964]), that to understand the Bible we must try to enter into the belief patterns of the period"[21]

  • A Working Faith (1980)
  • Church and Nation in a Secular Age (1983)
  • Confessions of a Conservative Liberal (1988)
  • Making Sense (1993)
  • Faith and Uncertainty (1997)
  • Being a Person (1998)
  • Varieties of Unbelief (2000)
  • The Concept of Nature (2002)[22]

See also


  1. New bishop consecrated The Times (London, England), Wednesday, 2 May 1973; p. 20; Issue 58771
  2. Of Choristers – York, The Minster School
  3. Court Circular. The Times (London, England), Thursday, 22 December 1983; p. 12; Issue 61719
  4. The London Gazette: no. 54156. p. 12433. 13 September 1995.
  5. "Former Archbishop of York retires from House of Lords". The Press. 3 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. University News. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, 19 March 1952; p. 6; Issue 52264
  7. Church web site
  8. Sacred Scotland
  9. Crockford's Clerical Directory 1975–76 London: Oxford University Press, 1976 ISBN 0-19-200008-X
  10. ‘HABGOOD’, Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edn, Oxford University Press, December 2011; online edn, November 2011 accessed 12 July 2012
  11. Oddie William The Crockford's File ISBN 0-241-12613-4
  12. Longley, Clifford (31 March 1990). "Habgood by a head". The Times. p. 10. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Longley, Clifford (4 May 1990). "Habgood's mitre in the Canterbury ring". The Times. p. 1. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Four left in Runcie race". The Sunday Times. 6 May 1990. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Bishops to help select archbishop". The Times. 23 June 1990. p. 3. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "A Sceptic for Canterbury", The Times, 10 July 1990, p. 15.
  17. "Carey appointment welcomed by Runcie". The Times. 26 July 1990. p. 2. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Reviews in Science and Religion (Num. 49, May 2007, page 17)" (PDF). Retrieved 18 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Faith and Science in an Unjust World, World Council of Churches, 1980, ISBN 2-8254-0629-5, pp. 119–122
  20. The Times Literary Supplement 23 July 2008, John Habgood
  21. page 68 of Margenau, H. (1992). Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo sapiens. Open Court Publishing Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> co-edited with Roy Abraham Varghese. This book is mentioned in a 28 December 1992 Time magazine article: Galileo And Other Faithful Scientists
  22. British Library web site accessed 17:08 GMT Friday 13 July 2011

External links