Richard Harries, Baron Harries of Pentregarth

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The Right Reverend and Right Honourable
The Lord Harries of Pentregarth
former Bishop of Oxford
File:Richard Harries 20040428.jpg
Speaking at the Friends meeting house, Oxford, in 2004
Diocese Diocese of Oxford
In office 1987–2 June 2006 (retired)
Predecessor Patrick Rodger
Successor John Pritchard
Other posts Dean of King's College London (1981–1987)
Gresham Professor of Divinity (1 September 2008–2012)
Ordination 1963 (deacon); 1964 (priest)
Consecration 28 May 1987, St Paul's Cathedral[1]
by Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury[1]
Personal details
Born (1936-06-02) 2 June 1936 (age 85)
Denomination Anglican
Spouse Josephine Bottomley
Children 1 son, 1 daughter
Profession Army officer; theologian; author
Alma mater Selwyn College, Cambridge

Richard Douglas Harries, Baron Harries of Pentregarth, FRSL (born 2 June 1936) is a retired bishop of the Church of England and former British Army officer. He was the 41st Bishop of Oxford from 1987 to 2006. From 2008 until 2012 he was the Gresham Professor of Divinity.

Education and army career

Harries was educated at Wellington College and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Corps of Signals on 16 December 1955[2] and was promoted to lieutenant two years later.[3] He left the active Regular Army on 12 September 1958 (transferring to the reserve of officers),[4] and went up to Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he read theology (BA 1961, MA 1965), before going on to Cuddesdon College (1961–63) to study for ordination. He formally resigned his original army commission on 18 March 1965,[5] but was immediately recommissioned as Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class[6] in the Territorial Army,[7] on 29 October 1969 he once more transferred to the reserve.[8]

Church ministry

Harries was made deacon in 1963, becoming assistant curate of Hampstead St John in the Diocese of London (1963–69). He was ordained priest the following year and later combined his ministry at St John's with the chaplaincy of the former Westfield College (now part of Queen Mary, University of London) (1967–69). He became a Tutor at Wells Theological College (1969–71) and was then Warden of the new Salisbury and Wells Theological College (1971–72).

He returned to parish ministry as Vicar of All Saints', Fulham (1972–1981) and returned to academia as Dean of King's College London (1981–1987). He was appointed Bishop of Oxford in 1987,[9] being consecrated on 28 May at St Paul's Cathedral by Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury[1] and taking a seat as a Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords in 1993. In 1999 he was appointed to the Royal Commission (chaired by John Wakeham) investigating a possible reorganisation of the House of Lords[10] (that group produced the Wakeham Report.) He retired on 2 June 2006, his 70th birthday.

In the week previous to his retirement, on 26 May 2006, Downing Street announced that he was to be made a life peer, and he was gazetted as Baron Harries of Pentregarth, of Ceinewydd in the County of Dyfed on 30 June 2006.[11] He sits as a cross-bencher. On 4 August 2006, he was appointed to the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved for a period of five years.[12]

Other activities

In 1986 Harries took up a subsidiary appointment as Consultant to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Inter-Faith Relations. As Bishop of Oxford he became a founder member of the Oxford Abrahamic Group, bringing together Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars. He chaired the Council of Christians and Jews from 1992 until 2001. In 1988 he was president of the Johnson Society, delivering a Presidential Address on Johnson – A Church of England Saint. He has been a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (including serving as Chair of the HFEA Ethics and Law Committee) and a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, as well as chairing the House of Lords Select Committee (Westminster System) on Stem Cell Research. He was Chairman of the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility (1996–2001) and Chairman of the House of Bishops' Working Party on Issues in Human Sexuality and has served on the Board of Christian Aid. He was also a member of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords (the Wakeham Commission). A regular contributor to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, including many appearances on Thought for the Day, he has published three books of radio talks. He is a patron of POWER International ( a charity working with disabled people in poor countries.

Harries was appointed a Fellow of King's College London (FKC) in 1983, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1996, and an Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2004. In 1994 he became a Doctor of Divinity honoris causa of the University of London and in 2001 he was honoured with the degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) by Oxford Brookes University. He was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2002–2008. In 2002 he was Visiting Professor at Liverpool Hope University College. In 2008 he replaced Keith Ward as the Gresham Professor of Divinity.[13]

Harries currently serves as an Advisory Steering Group Member for the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life.

Harries is the author of 26 books on the interface of Christian faith and wider culture, including ethics, politics and the arts, especially the visual arts. These include The Passion in Art (Ashgate 2004) and Art and the Beauty of God (Continuum 2000), which was chosen as a book of the year by the late Anthony Burgess in The Observer, when it was originally published in 1993. The Re-Enchantment of Morality (SPCK 2008) was shortlisted for the 2011 Michael Ramsey prize for theological writing. The Image of Christ in Modern Art was published by Ashgate in October 2013.

Legacy and reputation

His passion for social justice informed his liberal views. At the start of his episcopacy, he brought legal proceedings challenging the Church Commissioners' policy on investment.[14] He and his co-plaintiffs argued that the Church Commissioners placed too much emphasis on purely financial considerations and insufficient emphasis upon the promotion of the Christian faith. Although this challenge failed – the Commissioners already had an ethical investment policy, albeit one which excluded a smaller part of the UK share market than the plaintiffs had wanted to exclude – the Court recognised that it was proper for charities to consider whether their investment strategies would alienate the charity's financial supporters.[15] In 2002 Harries joined the biologist Richard Dawkins in denouncing the Emmanuel Schools Foundation for teaching creationism.

In 2014, Harries stated in the House of Lords that the next British coronation in Westminster Abbey should feature readings from the Quran, the holy book of Islam.[16]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "New bishop consecrated (Archived; subscription only)". Church Times (#6485). 29 May 1987. p. 2. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 18 October 2015. Unknown parameter |subscription= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40719. p. 1222. 24 February 1956. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  3. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41254. p. 7343. 13 December 1957. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41517. p. 6161. 7 October 1958. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  5. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43632. p. 4000. 20 April 1965. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  6. 4th Class Chaplains wear the same rank insignia as captains in other corps of the British Army.
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43657. p. 5063. 21 May 1965. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  8. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 44982. p. 12235. 8 December 1969. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 50902. p. 5541. 27 April 1987. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 55419. pp. 2543–2544. 4 March 1999. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 58037. p. 9193. 6 July 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 58062. p. 10685. 4 August 2006. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  13. Report in the Camden New Journal
  14. [1992] 1 Weekly Law Reports 1241
  15. [1992] 1 Weekly Law Reports 1247
  16. Murray, Douglas (28 November 2014). "Should the next coronation service in Westminster Abbey include readings from the Quran?". The Spectator. Retrieved 30 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Brierley, Michael (ed.) (2006). Public Life and the Place of the Church: Reflections to Honour the Bishop of Oxford. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-5300-5.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Peart-Binns, John S. (2007). Heart in My Head: A Biography of Richard Harries. London: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8154-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Forthcoming.

External links

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Patrick Rodger
Bishop of Oxford
Succeeded by
John Pritchard