Charles Gore

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The Rt Revd
Charles Gore
Bishop of Oxford
Charles Gore
Charles Gore
Province Canterbury
Diocese Oxford
Appointed 17 October 1911 (confirmed)
Term ended 1 July 1919
Predecessor Francis Paget
Successor Hubert Murray Burge
Orders
Ordination 1878
Consecration 23 February 1902
Personal details
Born 22 January 1853
Wimbledon, London, England
Died 17 January 1932 (aged 78)
Nationality English
Denomination Church of England
Parents Charles Alexander Gore and Augusta Lavinia Priscilla Gore (née Ponsonby)
Previous post
Sainthood
Feast day 17 January, 16 January
Venerated in Church of England, Episcopal Church (United States)

Charles Gore (22 January 1853 – 17 January 1932) was one of the most influential Anglican theologians of the 19th century, helping reconcile the church to some aspects of biblical criticism and scientific discovery, while remaining Catholic in his interpretation of the faith and sacraments.[citation needed] Also known for his social action, Gore became an Anglican bishop and founded the priestly Community of the Resurrection as well as co-founded the Christian Social Union.

Early life and education[edit]

Charles Gore was born into an Anglo-Irish family[1] as the third son of the Honourable Charles Alexander Gore and Augusta Lavinia Priscilla (née Ponsonby), a daughter of the fourth Earl of Bessborough. His eldest brother, Philip, became the fourth Earl of Arran, and his brother Spencer was the first winner of the Wimbledon Championships.

Gore's parents sent him to Harrow School, London,[1] then to Balliol College, Oxford, where he supported the trade-union movement.[2]

Theologian at Pusey House[edit]

In 1875, Gore was elected a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford,[2] and lectured there from 1876 to 1880.[3]

Gore was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1878.[2] From 1880 to 1883, he served as vice-principal of Cuddesdon Theological College.

When, in 1884, Pusey House was founded at Oxford as a home for Pusey's library and a centre for the propagation of his principles, Gore was appointed as principal, a position he held until 1893. As Principal of Pusey House, he exercised wide influence over undergraduates and the younger clergy and it was largely under this influence that the Oxford Movement underwent a change which to surviving Tractarians seemed to involve a break with its basic principles. Puseyism had been in the highest degree conservative, basing itself on authority and tradition and repudiating compromise with the modern critical and liberalising spirit. Gore, starting from the same basis of faith and authority, found from experience in dealing with the doubts and difficulties of the younger generation that this uncompromising attitude was untenable and set himself the task of reconciling the principle of authority in religion with that of scientific authority, by attempting to define the boundaries of their respective spheres of influence. To him the divine authority of the Catholic Church was an axiom and, in 1889, he published two works, the larger of which, The Church and the Ministry, is a learned vindication of the principle of apostolic succession in the episcopate against the Presbyterians and other Reformed church bodies, while the second, Roman Catholic Claims, is a defence, in more popular form, of Anglicanism and Anglican ordinations and sacraments against the criticisms of Roman Catholic authorities.

So far Gore's published views had been in consonance with those of the older Tractarians, but in 1890 a stir was created by the publication, under his editorship, of Lux Mundi, a series of essays by different writers attempting to bring the Christian creed into a right relation to the modern growth of knowledge, scientific, historic, critical, and to modern problems of politics and ethics. Gore himself contributed an essay on "The Holy Spirit and Inspiration" and, from the tenth edition, one of Gore's sermons, "On the Christian Doctrine of Sin", was included as an appendix. The book, which ran through twelve editions in little over a year, met with a mixed reception. Traditional clerics, both Evangelicals and Tractarians, were alarmed by views on the incarnate nature of Christ which seemed to them to impugn his divinity and, by concessions to the higher criticism in the matter of the inspiration of scripture, appeared to them to convert the "impregnable rock" (as Gladstone had called it) into a foundation of sand. Sceptics, hhowever, were not impressed by a system of defense which seemed to draw an artificial line beyond which criticism was not to advance. The book nonetheless produced a profound effect far beyond the borders of the Anglican churches and it is largely due to its influence, and to that of the school it represents, that the Anglican high church movement developed on Modernist rather than Tractarian lines from then on.

Bampton Lectures, Radley parish and Westminster Abbey[edit]

In 1891 Gore was chosen to deliver the Bampton lectures, and he took for his subject the "Incarnation of Christ." In these published lectures, Gore developed the theology of Lux Mundi, attempting to explain how Christ, though incarnate God, could err - e.g. in his citations from the Old Testament. The orthodox explanation had been based on the religious principle of accommodation. This, however, had not solved the difficulty that if Christ on earth was not subject to human limitations, especially of knowledge, he was not as other men, not subject to their trials and temptations. Gore addressed this through revisiting the Kenotic Theory of the Incarnation. Theologians had attempted to explain what St. Paul meant when he wrote of Christ (Philippians 2:7) that he emptied himself (kenosis) and took upon him the form of a servant. According to Gore this means that Christ on his incarnation, although sinless, became subject to all human limitations and stripped himself of all attributes of Godhead, including omniscience, the Divine nature being hidden under the human.[4]

The Bampton Lectures led to a tense situation, which Gore relieved in 1893 by resigning his principalship of Pusey House and accepting the position of vicar of Radley parish near Oxford.

In 1894 Gore became a canon of Westminster Abbey. Here he gained commanding influence as a preacher and in 1898 was appointed one of the court chaplains. In July 1901 he was appointed a Chaplain-in-Ordinary to King Edward VII,[5] though he resigned as such on elevation as bishop in January 1902.[6]

Community of the Resurrection[edit]

In 1892, while Principal of Pusey House, Gore founded a clerical fraternity, known as the Society of the Resurrection. The society became a religious community, and he became the first superior, only resigning when appointed Bishop of Worcester in 1902. Its members were Anglican priests bound by the obligation of celibacy, living under a common Benedictine rule and with a common purse. Their work was pastoral, evangelistic, literary and educational. The Community followed Gore to Radley in 1893, most of them remaining there when he moved to London in 1894. In 1898 the House of the Resurrection at Mirfield, near Huddersfield, became the centre of the community.

Although the community follows a liturgical day familiar to Catholic monks, Charles Gore and the other founders wanted it to engage in social action. Five of the six founding members belonged to the Christian Social Union, hence the decision to settle in the industrial north, between Wakefield and Huddersfield.[7]

In 1903 a college for training candidates for the Anglican priesthood (College of the Resurrection), was established at Mirfield, and, in the same year, a branch house for missionary work was set up in Johannesburg in South Africa.

Bishop in Worcester, Birmingham and Oxford[edit]

Portrait of Bishop Gore by Glyn Philpot.

In November 1901 Gore was nominated to succeed J. J. S. Perowne as Bishop of Worcester.[8] The appointment caused some controversy, due to his teachings and relationship to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury (he was a cousin of Lord Salisbury´s daughter-in-law).[3] The Church Association and the Liverpool Laymen´s League were among societies lodging formal protests before his confirmation.[9] After subsequent legal hearings, Gore was consecrated as Bishop at Lambeth Palace on 23 February 1902,[10] and enthroned the following week.

He received the degree Doctor of Divinity (DD) from the University of Oxford in December 1901.[11]

In 1905 Gore was installed as the first Bishop of Birmingham, a new see, which he had helped to create by dividing his see of Worcester. The second parish church of Birmingham, St Philip, became the cathedral. While adhering to his views on the divine institution of episcopacy as essential to the Christian Church, Bishop Gore from the first cultivated friendly relations with the ministers of other Christian denominations, and advocated co-operation with them in all matters when agreement was possible.

In social questions Gore became a leader of the group of High Anglicans known loosely as Christian Socialists. In 1889 at Pusey House Gore had helped found the Christian Social Union. He worked actively against the sweating system, pleaded for European intervention in Macedonia, and in 1908 was a keen supporter of the Licensing Bill.

In 1911 he succeeded Francis Paget as Bishop of Oxford.

On 28 September 1917 Gore licensed 21 women as lay readers called the "Diocesan Band of Women Messengers". These were possibly the first female lay readers in the Church of England. The last one, Bessie Bangay, died in 1987 aged 98.

Retirement in London[edit]

Gore resigned in June 1919 and retired to London, where he lived at 6 Margaret Street as a tenant of the parochial authorities of All Saints, Margaret Street. There he remained for several years, celebrating regularly in the church and in the sisters' chapel close by, and taking his usual keen interest in the affairs of the church and parish. At the same time Gore attached himself to Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, and was licensed to the Rector of St George's, Hanover Square, in whose parish that Chapel stands, thus becoming for the first time in his life a licensed curate.[1]

Gore was a bundle of contradictions, a Catholic in the Church of England whose questioning of the Old Testament produced in the 1890s a crisis for many believers. In the judgment of his biographer, Gore was a loner who thought he had a vocation to community life. He chose to be buried at Mirfield, in the church of the Community of the Resurrection, though he had never managed to be more than a visitor there.[7]

Death and Legacy[edit]

Gore died in 1932. He left instructions for his body to be cremated, a practice seen as unChristian by some at the time. However, nearly three decades earlier, in a letter read at the 1903 opening ceremony of the Birmingham Crematorium, Gore had written:[12]

What I should desire when I myself die is that my body should be reduced rapidly to ashes, so that it may do no harm to the living, and then in accordance with Christian feeling be laid in the earth.

His wishes provoked the Anglo-Catholic Lord Halifax to exclaim, a little late, "I could shake the life out of him with my own hands.[7] The ashes were taken to Mirfield in Yorkshire for burial per his wishes. His cope and mitre remain at the Grosvenor Chapel.

Published works[edit]

Statue of Charles Gore, by Thomas Stirling Lee, outside St Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham.

Belief in God, Belief in Christ and The Holy Spirit and the Church were reissued in a single volume as The Reconstruction of Belief in 1926.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Crosse, Gordon, "Charles Gore: A Biographical Sketch", by Gordon Crosse, Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1932
  2. ^ a b c Rice, Hugh a. Lawrence, The Bridge Builders: Biographical Studies in the History of Anglicanism, Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1961.
  3. ^ a b "New Bishop of Worcester" The Times (London). Friday, 8 November 1901. (36607), p. 9.
  4. ^ Cf. the Lutheran theologian Ernst Sartorius in his Lehre von der heiligen Liebe (1844), Lehre ii. pp. 21 et seq.: the Son of God veils his all-seeing eye and descends into human darkness and as child of man opens his eye as the gradually growing light of the world of humanity, until at the right hand of the Father he allows it to shine forth in all its glory. See G. F. Loofs, Art. Kenosis in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (ed. 1901), x. 247.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27336. pp. 4838–4839. 23 July 1901.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27393. p. 1. 3 January 1902.
  7. ^ a b c Howse, Christopher, "The Levelling of Mirfield Church", The Telegraph, November 13, 2009
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27389. p. 8979. 20 December 1901.
  9. ^ "Ecclesiastical intelligence" The Times (London). Thursday, 2 January 1902. (36654), p. 5.
  10. ^ "Ecclesiastical intelligence - Consecration of the Bishop of Worcester" The Times (London). Monday, 24 February 1902. (36699), p. 7.
  11. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Friday, 6 December 1901. (36631), p. 7.
  12. ^ "Birmingham Crematorium". The Lancet 162 (4181): 1109. 17 October 1903. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)46268-4. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Grimes, G. F. (1992). Liberal Catholicism: Charles Gore and the Question of Authority, in series, Latimer Studies, 40. Oxford, Eng.: Latimer House. ISBN 0-946307-38-5
  • Wilkinson, Alan (1992). The Community of the Resurrection: a Centenary History. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0334025311. 

External links[edit]

Church of England titles
Preceded by
John James Stewart Perowne
Bishop of Worcester
1902–1905
Succeeded by
Huyshe Wolcott Yeatman-Biggs
New title Bishop of Birmingham
1905–1911
Succeeded by
Henry Russell Wakefield
Preceded by
Francis Paget
Bishop of Oxford
1911–1919
Succeeded by
Hubert Murray Burge