Above: Archibald Campbell Tait
Image in the Public Domain
ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT (DECEMBER 21, 1811-DECEMBER 3, 1882)
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archibald Campbell Tait, a Broad Churchman, occupied the middle ground in an ongoing dispute between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of The Church of England.
Tait, born at Edinburgh, Scotland, on December 21, 1811, was a son of Craufurd Tait (1777-1832) and Susan Campbell (1777-1814) He grew up a Presbyterian, but felt drawn to the Scottish Episcopal Church. Our saint studied at Edinburgh High School; Edinburgh Academy; Glasgow University; and Baillol College, Oxford. At Oxford he converted to The Church of England. Our saint was 19 years old. He remained associated with Baillol College until 1842, serving as a tutor from 1835 to 1842. Tait had become an Anglican deacon and curate in 1836 and a priest two years later.
Tait left Oxford for Rugby School. In 1842 he succeeded Thomas Arnold as headmaster. The following year our saint married Catherine Spooner (1819-1878). He had the misfortune of burying her and all their children.
Tait’s ascent into the Anglican hierarchy continued. From 1849 to 1856 he was the Dean of Carlisle Cathedral. Next our saint served as the Bishop of London (1856-1868), due to an appeal by Queen Victoria. He was already upsetting members of both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of The Church of England by being a Broad Churchman. Of course, had Tait been an Evangelical Anglican, he would have antagonized many Anglo-Catholics anyway. Likewise, if he had been an Anglo-Catholic, our saint would have upset many Evangelicals anyway. What was the man supposed to do and be? He was just not going to satisfy some people. As the Bishop of London Tait performed the job well; he founded churches and provided more clergymen to those congregations in need of them.
From 1868 to 1882 Tait served as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although he initially opposed the disestablishment of The Church of Ireland, he accepted it as being inevitable after Queen Victoria spoke to him. Tait also secured the best possible deal for The Church of Ireland. He also attempted unsuccessfully to have the unwieldy Athanasian Creed removed from the services of The Church of England. Our saint, as part of an attempt to create peace in The Church of England by writing the first draft of the Public Worship Regulation Act (1874), which emerged from the Parliament in an altered, more Protestant, and stricter form, to which he objected. The law, in its final form, created ecclesiastical courts for priests accused of practicing ritualism and led to the imprisonment of four priests, starting in 1877 and ending in 1882. However, Tait secured veto powers and worked to render the law obsolete. Backlash against the Act completed the process of rendering it obsolete.
Tait died at December 3, 1882, at Addington, Surrey, England. He was 70 years old. He had labored to bring peace to The Church of England, a denomination with three distinct branches. His efforts proved the truth of the statement that for every action there is an equal and opposite criticism.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 6, 2016 COMMON ERA
ALL SAINTS’ SUNDAY
THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC
THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHUTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS
THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples
that they might be one, as you and he are one:
Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you,
may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
that the world may believe in him whom you have sent,
you Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever Amen.
John 17:6a, 15-23
—A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), page A48