Canon John Halliburton

Anglican scholar-priest who encouraged dialogue with Rome

John Halliburton served the Church of England for nearly 45 years as a priest and scholar, a Tutor at St Stephen's House, Oxford, as Principal of Chichester Theological College and latterly a Canon and Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral. However the Church of England may have changed during that time, there was a constancy in Halliburton's deep commitment to the ministry and in his catholicism of spirit (in the sense of generosity), which combined to form and shape a life of service that enriched the lives of many others.

Robert John Halliburton, priest and scholar: born London 23 March 1935; ordained deacon 1961, priest 1962; Curate, St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney 1961-67; Tutor, St Stephen's House, Oxford 1967-71, Vice-Principal 1971-73; Lecturer, Lincoln College, Oxford 1973-75; Principal, Chichester Theological College 1975-82; Canon and Prebend of Chichester Cathedral 1976-82, Canon Emeritus 1982-88, Canon and Prebend of Wightring and Theology Lecturer 1988-90; Priest-in-Charge, All Souls, St Margaret's-on-Thames 1982-89; Canon Residentiary and Chancellor, St Paul's Cathedral 1989-2003, Canon Emeritus 2003-04; Priest-in-Charge, St Andrew's, Pau 2003-04; married 1968 Jennifer Ormsby Turner (one son, two daughters, and one son and one daughter deceased); died Pau, France 26 September 2004.

John Halliburton served the Church of England for nearly 45 years as a priest and scholar, a Tutor at St Stephen's House, Oxford, as Principal of Chichester Theological College and latterly a Canon and Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral. However the Church of England may have changed during that time, there was a constancy in Halliburton's deep commitment to the ministry and in his catholicism of spirit (in the sense of generosity), which combined to form and shape a life of service that enriched the lives of many others.

Robert John Halliburton was born in Wimbledon in 1935, moved to Kent during the Second World War and from Tonbridge School to Selwyn College, Cambridge, to read Modern Languages, changing to Theology for Part II. After National Service he went to St Stephen's House, Oxford, to prepare for ordination and while there he was also a member of Keble College, writing a doctorate entitled "Augustine and the Monastic Life" under the supervision of the Lady Margaret Professor, Canon F.L. Cross.

In 1961 he was ordained curate of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, where he was to serve until 1967 in a large and active high-church parish. While there he was able to continue to pursue his scholarly interests, spending a period at the Catholic University of Louvain; but it was right that he should return to St Stephen's House (first as Tutor and then, in 1971, as Vice-Principal) for in this context he was able to foster in others his commitment to a pastoral and teaching ministry founded on the intellectual resources, particularly of the patristic period, of the Christian tradition.

These foundations are, of course, the common heritage of Christians (Roman, Protestant and Orthodox), and Halliburton's knowledge in this area, and also his appreciation of developments in continental Catholic scholarship, made him an ideal and obvious consultant (from 1971 to 1981) to the dialogue between the Church of England and Rome which grew from the openings of the Second Vatican Conference. His chief scholarly interest was in the study of liturgy and he wrote widely in this area, as well as publishing in 1986 The Authority of a Bishop as a contribution to the ecumenical conversations in which he was engaged.

It was while he was newly back to St Stephen's House that, in 1968, he married Jenny. His devotion to scholarly matters was considerable, and the van in which they went on honeymoon was known as "Augustine". But John's devotion to, and delight in, family life was constant thereafter, and if he hoped to pass on to his four children his love of scholarship, in particular of the classics, he was equally ready to chase disobedient dogs in the Parks in Oxford, climb drainpipes to rescue a three-year-old daughter who couldn't undo a lock, and to demonstrate world-class long-jump techniques on beaches in Wales (his own lack of athleticism notwithstanding).

In 1975 he was appointed Principal of Chichester Theological College. Such institutions have probably never been easy places, but the late Seventies must count amongst the most difficult of times in their histories. None the less, intellectually, pastorally and financially the college emerged stronger and healthier as a result of his seven years of skilled and sensitive guidance. Halliburton's influence on a generation of students was profound and many remained in close touch with him up until his death.

The move in 1982 to All Souls Church, St Margaret's, Twickenham, gave him greater opportunity to write and lecture and during this time he continued as an active member of the Church of England's Doctrine Commission, which he had joined in 1978.

His thinking was directed to the theology of pastoral care and mission (and he published Educating Rachel on the subject in 1987), but his thinking was itself rooted in a ministry of visiting and befriending. The parish had its smart quarter, so to speak, and Halliburton would call on Greg Dyke "to see how the heathens are", as is fondly remembered, but he was known just as well on the council estates. Bereavement, divorce, sickness, even court appearances, these are the occasions when people of all sorts turn to clergy known to be, as John Halliburton was, accessible, wise, patient and understanding.

St Margaret's was a happy place and time for Halliburton and his growing family, but his appointment in 1989 to a canonry of St Paul's (where he was Chancellor with a particular responsibility for education) was something which pleased him and was proper recognition of his experience, authority and talents.

It is a pity that in the wider world his contribution to St Paul's is chiefly known through the filter of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, St Paul's (1999), of the sort which, except to the most innocent, is known to bear little relation to reality. He became noted as the canon opposed to the ordination of women, and it was indeed the case that for serious and thoughtful reasons, arising especially from his concern for relations with the Roman Catholic Church, he was and remained doubtful as to the wisdom of the Church of England's actions on this matter.

But he was no campaigner or polemicist on the issue, and was in no way taken up with it as a concern. Those who knew his ministry at St Paul's will rather remember his talent for diverse friendships, his pastoral care for the community of staff and volunteers, his contribution arising from his own enthusiasms to preserving and enhancing the cathedral's artistic heritage, and the application of his considerable learning to the cataloguing of the important (and up till then, rather neglected) Wren library.

It is nearly five years ago that his youngest daughter, Charlie, as she was known, was killed in a road accident (a son had died in infancy), and he bore this sadness with, perhaps, too much of the stoicism which he had doubtless learnt as a child. (Something of the depth of his feelings was evident enough, however, in the passionate and accomplished playing at the piano of the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann and Schubert; though he might also be heard playing jazz.)

But this private grief made John and Jenny and their home and family no less open to others in need of counsel, support and friendship, and quietly and unostentatiously, he continued his ministry as it had always been: one of faithfulness in prayer, worship, care and teaching, all grounded in a generous intellectual openness not only to the riches of Christianity but of the wider culture.

He died after a short illness having served a little over a year as Anglican chaplain in Pau, south-west France, where he went on his retirement from St Paul's in 2003. He bore his illness with the character that those who knew him would have expected.

If the Church of England has changed in his nearly 45 years of service to it, it will have changed for the worse if it no longer fosters ministries as humane, cultured and faithful as his.

Michael Banner



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