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Mervyn Stockwood

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mervyn Stockwood
Bishop of Southwark
Mervyn Stockwood.jpg
In office1959–1980
PredecessorBertram Simpson
SuccessorRonald Bowlby
Other postsHonorary assistant bishop in Bath & Wells
Ordination1936 (deacon); 1937 (priest)
Personal details
Born(1913-05-27)27 May 1913
Bridgend, Glamorgan, Wales
Died13 January 1995(1995-01-13) (aged 81)
Bath, Somerset, England
DenominationChurch of England
ParentsArthur and Beatrice Stockwood
ProfessionPriest, writer
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge

Arthur Mervyn Stockwood (27 May 1913 – 13 January 1995) was a Church of England priest who served as vicar of St Matthew's Church, Moorfields, then of Great St Mary's, Cambridge, and finally as Bishop of Southwark, retiring in 1980.

Early life

Mervyn Stockwood was born in Bridgend, Wales. In 1916, during the First World War, his solicitor father was killed in the Battle of the Somme. He was introduced to Anglo-Catholic worship at All Saints' Church, Clifton, which reinforced his love of ritual and sense of the dramatic. He was educated at the Downs School and Kelly College in Tavistock, Devon; in 1931 he entered Christ's College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1934.[1]

A flamboyant figure, he was for a time a Labour councillor, having developed socialist ideas while at theological college.

Ordained ministry

Having studied for the Anglican ministry at Westcott House, a theological college in Cambridge, Stockwood was ordained deacon in 1936 and priest in 1937. He was a curate, then the vicar, of St Matthew's Church, Moorfields, Bristol, for nineteen years.[1] He was also missioner to Blundell's School in Tiverton, Devon.[2] In 1955 he was appointed vicar of Great St Mary's, Cambridge, where his preaching drew large congregations of undergraduates, gaining him a national reputation.[3]

Bishop of Southwark

In 1959, at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, the British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, appointed Stockwood to the Diocese of Southwark.[4] Under him, Southwark became one of the best known dioceses in the Church of England. Stockwood encouraged both the radical and conservative wings of the church. On the one hand he encouraged priests wearing jeans in public, marches against racism and the training of "worker priests" in the Southwark Ordination Course, yet he was also the first Church of England diocesan bishop to preach at the National Pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, of which he later became an honorary guardian. Stockwood however did not hesitate to send the police to close an Anglo-Catholic church in Carshalton and employed the term "perversion to Rome".[citation needed] Under his diocesan chancellor, Garth Moore, a number of trials of clergy followed, usually followed by a service of deposition from their holy orders in the cathedral.

During the 1960s the term "South Bank religion" was connected with Stockwood's diocese and those in his circle espousing a more liberal theology.[5] He was liberal in his view of the morality of homosexual relationships, favoured homosexual law reform and included homosexual couples among the guests at his dinner parties. On at least one occasion he blessed a homosexual relationship, but Stockwood himself said he was celibate.[5] He somewhat incongruously, however, in his Sermons from Great St. Mary's,[6] preached in Cambridge, did not hesitate to cast a slur on the characters of kings James I and Richard II whom he associated with this tendency.

Stockwood was adept at making unusual and radical, but usually highly successful, appointments. John Robinson was appointed as his suffragan at Woolwich in 1959.[4] Later Stockwood chose David Sheppard as Bishop of Woolwich in 1969 (after John Robinson's return to Cambridge), Hugh Montefiore as Bishop of Kingston in 1970, Michael Marshall to Woolwich in 1975 and Keith Sutton to Kingston in 1978.

Stockwood appeared on the BBC chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning on 9 November 1979, with Christian broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge, arguing that the film Monty Python's Life of Brian was blasphemous. He told John Cleese and Michael Palin at the end of the discussion that they would "get [their] thirty pieces of silver".[7]

Later life and legacy

In 1980 he retired and went to live in Bath. In his autobiography, Chanctonbury Ring, Stockwood claimed to have had numerous paranormal experiences.[8] A supporter of the Churches' Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Study, he said of the matter, "Our job is to examine the evidence without presupposition or jumping to conclusions. The weakness of the Church has been its refusal to consider the evidence and discuss it."[citation needed]

Shortly before his death he was one of ten Church of England bishops "outed" (i.e. alleged to be a closet homosexual) by the radical gay organisation OutRage!.[9] Michael De-la-Noy's biography, Mervyn Stockwood: A Lonely Life (September 1997), paints him as a socialist who loved the trappings of wealth, privilege and royalty.[10]


  • Chanctonbury Ring: An Autobiography. Hodder and Stoughton. 1982. ISBN 978-0-340-27568-9.


  1. ^ a b "Stockwood, (Arthur) Melvyn". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/57972. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ obituary at[dead link]
  3. ^ de-la-Noy, Michael (14 May 2005). "Obituary: The Rt Rev Hugh Montefiore". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b de-la-Noy, Michael (14 January 1995). "Obituaries: The Right Rev Mervyn Stockwood". The Independent.
  5. ^ a b Hiliard, David (2001). "Stockwood, (Arthur) Mervyn". In Aldrich, Robert; Wotherspoon, Garry (eds.). Who's Who in Contemporary Gay History. Vol.2: From World War II. London: Routledge. p. 389. ISBN 9780203994085. |volume= has extra text (help)
  6. ^ Sermons from Great St. Mary's (Fontana, 1968)
  7. ^ John Cleese, Michael Palin & Richard Burridge "Life of Brian" Debate Reflections (BBC Radio 4, 2013) on YouTube
  8. ^ The Way We Live Now: The Medium Is the Massage Considering Her Financial Predicament
  9. ^ Edge, Simon (10 January 2008). "The Church's true colours". New Statesman.
  10. ^ De-la-Noy, Michael (1998). Mervyn Stockwood: A Lonely Life. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-264-67461-2.

External links

Religious titles
Preceded by
Bertram Simpson
Bishop of Southwark
Succeeded by
Ronnie Bowlby

This page was last edited on 1 March 2021, at 15:23
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