Published September 1, 2000

The Church of England has lost two former archbishops of Canterbury, Frederick Donald Coggan, 90, and Robert Alexander Kennedy Runcie, 78.

Lord Runcie, who was primate from 1980 to 1991, died July 11 after a long battle with cancer. In a letter to Canadian bishops, Primate Michael Peers recalled that the two were occasionally “sparring partners.” Lord Runcie took the Primate to lunch in January and “although he was clearly dealing with both cancer and chemotherapy, he was an alert and gracious host,” the primate wrote. “The remark I carried away was his classically accurate and acerbic comment about a movement within the Church of England: “forward in faith, backward in reason.'”

The 102nd archbishop of Canterbury criticized Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s conservative policies as being bad for the poor. While he held a conservative position on the ordination of women, fearing it would split the church and impede ecumenical talks with Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, he pushed the church to liberalize its stand on remarrying divorced people.

The archbishop held a historic joint service with Pope John Paul at Canterbury in 1982. It marked the first papal visit to Britain since the Anglican Church split with Rome in the 16th century.

Lord Runcie fought in the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross. Ordained as a priest in 1950, he became vice-principal of Westcott House at Cambridge University in 1954 and was appointed bishop of St. Albans in 1970.

Archbishop Coggan died May 17. He led the church from 1974 to 1980. He was associated with the evangelical wing of the church and was a strong supporter of the ordination of women, first proposing it at a Lambeth Conference in 1970.

In 1977, he called for inter-communion between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. He attended the enthronement in 1978 of Pope John Paul, the first archbishop of Canterbury present at such a ceremony since the Reformation.

Ordained in 1935, Archbishop Coggan came to Canada in 1937 to teach New Testament at Wycliffe College in Toronto, returning to England in 1944 as principal of the London College of Divinity. He was appointed bishop of Bradford in 1956 and archbishop of York in 1961.

– with files from The Toronto Star,

ENS, Guardian.


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