British clergyman and theologian who served as Archbishop of York (1929–42) and of Canterbury (1942–44); he was one of the principal architects of Anglican theology in the twentieth century.
The son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple (1821–1902), William Temple read classics at Balliol College, Oxford, receiving his degree in 1904. He then joined Queen's College as fellow and lecturer in philosophy. His doubts concerning certain orthodox Christian doctrines, particularly the Virgin Birth, threatened to impede his ordination but he finally entered the Anglican Church in 1909. The previous year, Temple had been elected first president of the Workers' Educational Association, an organization devoted to nonpartisan nonsectarian adult education, a post in which he remained until 1924. Throughout his career, Temple maintained his concern with contemporary social issues, particularly education and unemployment. He joined the Labour Party in 1918 and intervened, controversially, in the General Strike of 1926.
After serving as head of Repton School (1910–14), Temple was rector of St James's, Piccadilly, during World War I, then briefly canon of Westminster before his appointment in 1920 as Bishop of Manchester. During this time he wrote Christus Veritas (1924), which stressed the Incarnation of Christ as the key to an understanding of the Divine. In the 1930s, however, Temple increasingly turned from metaphysical issues to an evangelism quickened by the threat of war. Enthroned as Archbishop of York in 1929, he continued to preach and lecture widely, was an advocate of Church unity, and chaired the Church of England's long-running Commission on Doctrine. In 1942 he succeeded Cosmo Lang as Archbishop of Canterbury. Apart from providing spiritual leadership through the war, he played a part in drafting the 1944 Education Act.