Michael Ramsey

Michael Ramsey

Arthur Michael Ramsey, Baron Ramsey of Canterbury PC (14 November 1904 - 23 April 1988) was the one hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed on 31 May 1961 and was in office from June 1961 to 1974.

Michael Ramsey was born in Cambridge in 1904. His father was a Congregationalist and mathematician and his mother was a socialist and suffragette. He was educated at Repton School (where the headmaster was another future Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Francis Fisher) and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society and where his support for the Liberal Party won him praise from Herbert Asquith. His elder brother, Frank P. Ramsey (b.1903, d.1930) was a prominent mathematician and philosopher. During this time in Cambridge he came under the influence of the Anglo-Catholic dean of Corpus Christi College, Edwyn Clement Hoskyns. On the advice of Eric Milner-White he trained at Cuddesdon, where he became friends with Austin Farrer and was introduced to Orthodox Christian ideas by Derwas Chitty. He was ordained in 1928 and became a curate in Liverpool, where he was influenced by Charles Raven.

After this he became a lecturer to ordination candidates at The Bishop's Hostel in Lincoln. During this time he published a book, The Gospel and the Catholic Church (1936). He then ministered at Boston Stump and at St Benet's Church, Cambridge, before being offered a canonry at Durham Cathedral and the Van Mildert Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at Durham University. After this, in 1950, he became the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge,[1] but after only a short time, in 1952, he was appointed Bishop of Durham. In 1956 he became Archbishop of York and, in 1961, Archbishop of Canterbury. During his time as archbishop he travelled widely and saw the creation of the General Synod. Retirement ages for clergy were also introduced.

After retiring as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1974 he was created a life peer, as Baron Ramsey of Canterbury (Canterbury in Kent), enabling him to remain in the House of Lords where he had previously sat as one of the Lords Spiritual. He went to live first at Cuddesdon, where he did not settle particularly well, then for a number of years in Durham, where he was regularly seen in the cathedral and talking to students. But the hills were rather steep for him and he and Lady Ramsey accepted the offer of a flat at Bishopthorpe in York by his successor John Habgood. They stayed there just over a year, moving finally to St John's Home, attached to the All Saints' sisters in Cowley, Oxford, where he died in April 1988.

During his retirement, he also spent some time at Nashotah House; an Anglo-Catholic seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin where he was much beloved by students. A first-floor flat was designated "Lambeth West" for his personal use. A stained-glass window in the Chapel bears his image.

Michael Ramsey's funeral was held in Canterbury Cathedral. He was cremated and his ashes buried in the cloisters, not far from the grave of William Temple. On the memorial stone are inscribed words from St Irenaeus: "The Glory of God is the living man; And the life of man is the vision of God."