Montefiore, Hugh (William) 1920–2005

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Montefiore, Hugh (William) 1920–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born May 12, 1920, in London, England; died May 13, 2005, in London, England. Bishop, college administrator, educator, and author. A former Anglican bishop, as well as dean of Gonville and Caius College, Montefiore was an outspoken figure in the Anglican Church who was often controversial for speaking out on such issues as the environment and women in the priesthood. Born to Jewish parents, he shocked his family by converting to Christianity while a student at Rugby School. He attributed this conversion to having seen Jesus in a vision in which He told the young boy to follow him. After serving in the British Army in Burma during World War II, he attended St. John's College, earning an M.A. in 1947. Two years later he was an ordained deacon, and in 1950 he entered the priesthood while serving as a curate at St. George's. He was soon assigned to be chaplain and tutor at Westcott House, Cambridge, where he became vice principal from 1953 to 1954. He remained at Cambridge as a fellow and dean of Gonville and Caius College from 1954 to 1963, as well as lecturer in the New Testament from 1959 to 1963. Leaving academia behind, Montefiore, who had already been made bishop of Worcester from 1957 to 1960, continued in posts as bishop of Newcastle and of Coventry until 1970. During most of the 1970s, he was bishop Suffragan of Kingston-upon-Thames, and from 1978 until 1987 he served the church as bishop of Birmingham. By all counts, Montefiore was an active and sincere man of the church, but his willingness to frankly express his opinions sometimes created controversy and probably cost him a promotion to archbishop. For example, while still at Cambridge, he once commented that Jesus might have been a homosexual, but that he suppressed any sexual urges and remained celibate. Believing that the earth was God's creation, he also became an outspoken environmentalist, later chairing the Friends of the Earth board of trustees from 1992 to 1998. Montefiore's dire warnings about the future of humanity should civilization insist on degrading the environment were dismissed as alarmist, but on the other hand, he disappointed the Friends of the Earth when he came out in favor of nuclear energy. In addition to this, he upset the Anglican Church by frankly discussing issues of sex, gender, and war in his public speeches and books. In his later years, Montefiore devoted much of his time caring for his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer's, while remaining active in the church as honorary assistant bishop to the diocese of Southwark. Among his numerous published works are Truth to Tell: A Radical Restatement of Christian Faith (1966), Can Man Survive?: The Question Mark and Other Essays (1970), The Probability of God (1985), Preaching for Our Planet (1992), Looking Afresh (2002), and the autobiographical works O God, What Next? (1995) and On Being a Jewish Christian (1998).



Independent (London, England), May 16, 2005, p. 34.

Times (London, England), May 14, 2005, p. 76.

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Montefiore, Hugh (William) 1920–2005

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