John Habgood

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The Right Reverend and Right Honourable
The Lord Habgood
Archbishop of York
John Stapylton Habgood (1981).jpg
Habgood in 1981
ProvinceProvince of York
DioceseDiocese of York
Installed18 November 1983
Term ended1995
PredecessorStuart Blanch
SuccessorDavid Hope
Other postsBishop of Durham (1973–1983)
Consecrationc. 1973
Personal details
Birth nameJohn Stapylton Habgood
Born (1927-06-23) 23 June 1927 (age 91)
Member of the House of Lords
In office
8 September 1995 – 3 October 2011

John Stapylton Habgood, Baron Habgood, PC (born 23 June 1927) is a retired British Anglican bishop, academic, and life peer. He 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[edit]

Habgood was born on 23 June 1927, the son of Dr Arthur Henry Habgood and his wife Vera.[6] 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.[7] In 1961 Habgood married Rosalie Mary Anne Boston (died 2016), he has two daughters and two sons, including Francis Habgood, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.[6]

From 1954 to 1956 Habgood was a curate at St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington, London.[8] From 1956 to 1962 he was Vice-Principal of Westcott House theological college in Cambridge. From 1962 to 1967 he was Rector of St John's Church, Jedburgh. In 1967 he became Principal of Queen's College, Edgbaston, a theological college, until his appointment to the episcopate as Bishop of Durham in 1973.[6]


Having been passed over by Margaret Thatcher for appointment as Bishop of London in 1981, Habgood was elevated to the more senior role of Archbishop of York in 1983. The other name put forward for her consideration was that of former England cricketer, David Sheppard, by then Bishop of Liverpool. Sheppard's socialist views - he later sat in the Lords as a Labour Peer - did not commend him to Thatcher.[9] As Archbishop of York, Habgood was seen as a leader in keeping more conservative Anglicans within the church during growing divisions over the issue of women's ordination to the priesthood.[10] Habgood retired as Archbishop of York in 1995.


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.[11] 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.[12]

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).[13] 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.[14] He was endorsed in a leader in The Times on 10 July 1990.[15] 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."[16]

Religion and science[edit]

Habgood is a member and past president of The Science and Religion Forum.[17] 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).[18] 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".[19]


  • 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"[20]

  • 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)[21]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ New bishop consecrated The Times (London, England), Wednesday, 2 May 1973; p. 20; Issue 58771
  2. ^ Of Choristers – York, The Minster School Archived 25 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Court Circular. The Times (London, England), Thursday, 22 December 1983; p. 12; Issue 61719
  4. ^ "No. 54156". The London Gazette. 13 September 1995. p. 12433.
  5. ^ "Former Archbishop of York retires from House of Lords". The Press. 3 October 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "HABGOOD, Baron". Who's Who. A & C Black. Retrieved 24 July 2017.Subscription or UK public library membership required
  7. ^ University News. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, 19 March 1952; p. 6; Issue 52264
  8. ^ Church web site
  9. ^ Guardian obituary David Sheppard 7 March 2006.
  10. ^ "Habgood to retire as Archbishop of York". Independent. 30 September 1994.
  11. ^ Longley, Clifford (31 March 1990). "Habgood by a head". The Times. p. 10.
  12. ^ Longley, Clifford (4 May 1990). "Habgood's mitre in the Canterbury ring". The Times. p. 1.
  13. ^ "Four left in Runcie race". The Sunday Times. 6 May 1990.
  14. ^ "Bishops to help select archbishop". The Times. 23 June 1990. p. 3.
  15. ^ "A Sceptic for Canterbury", The Times, 10 July 1990, p. 15.
  16. ^ "Carey appointment welcomed by Runcie". The Times. 26 July 1990. p. 2.
  17. ^ "Reviews in Science and Religion (Num. 49, May 2007, page 17)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2008.
  18. ^ Faith and Science in an Unjust World, World Council of Churches, 1980, ISBN 2-8254-0629-5, pp. 119–122
  19. ^ The Times Literary Supplement 23 July 2008, John Habgood
  20. ^ 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. co-edited with Roy Abraham Varghese. This book is mentioned in a 28 December 1992 Time magazine article: Galileo And Other Faithful Scientists
  21. ^ British Library web site accessed 17:08 GMT Friday 13 July 2011

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Arthur Gribble
Principal of Queen's College, Birmingham
Succeeded by
Anthony Bird
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Ian Ramsey
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
David Jenkins
Preceded by
Stuart Blanch
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
David Hope