While vacationing in Beatenberg, Switzerland, in 1901, Handley Moule was called to become the eighty-fifth bishop of Durham. The office was one of personal interest to him because Nicholas Ridley, after whom Ridley College in Cambridge was named, had been designated to be bishop of Durham but “received first the martyr’s crown.” Moule’s Cambridge teacher Joseph Barber Lightfoot had been bishop of Durham from 1879 to 1889. Lightfoot was followed by Brooke Foss Westcott, a man called by Moule “a saint, as true a servant of the Lord and of his brethren as the great Culdee St. Aidan.”
In his introductory letter to the clergy and people of the Diocese of Durham, Moule wrote:
I need and seek your prayers. Ask for me especially . . . a real effusion in me of that grace of the Spirit whereby Christ dwells in the heart by faith; a strength and wisdom not my own for my pastorate, and for the preaching of Christ Jesus the Lord; and a will wholly given over for labour and service at our Master’s feet.
As bishop of Durham, Handley Moule was not a great organizer and administrator like Bishop Lightfoot. Moule found office work taxing and diocesan finance distasteful. He was not at home in political matters, although he served as a member of the House of Lords. Neither did he excel in ecclesiastical discussions. He was not a leader of people like Bishop Westcott. Moule was not always a good judge of character. He was easily imposed on, and some believed he was too quick to agree for the sake of peace. But, he wrote, “I have few greater happinesses than when I find myself in spiritual oneness with a Christian from whom, on grave subordinate points, I differ.” His successor as bishop of Durham said that Handley Moule maintained his evangelical convictions “without compromise, and expressed them without bitterness. No man could doubt either the strength of his faith or the largeness of his charity.”
Handley Moule excelled in pastoral ministry. He was more a shepherd of souls than a bishop of a diocese. His people, clergy and laity alike, knew that he loved them. He was the epitome of kindness toward all, listening to people’s cares and concerns and responding with thoughtful and helpful words. He wrote on average thirty letters a day, to all kinds of people with all kinds of needs and problems. A layman said that “he was almost too saintly to be a bishop.” According to John Baird, Moule “showed how good goodness can be.”
Mary Moule died suddenly on July 14, 1914. “He was devotedly attached to her,” wrote a friend, “but he accepted her departure as though she had merely preceded him on a journey.” A few years later, Handley Moule, though painfully ill, preached before the king and queen at Windsor Castle. Moule went from Windsor to his brother’s home in Cambridge, where he died a short time later on May 7, 1920. It was Ascension Day. The biography of Handley Moule by Harford and MacDonald concludes appropriately and beautifully:
St. Luke ends his Gospel showing the Lord’s Ascension as the end of his life on earth, and opens the Acts showing the same story from the other side, the beginning of his work in heaven. So it is with members of Christ. The solemn funeral service speaks of faith and hope—in the case of our Bishop, triumphant hope. And John Bunyan [The Pilgrim’s Progress] paints in true colors the upper side of such a death as the Bishop’s—when he went to stand before his Heavenly King . . . “Now I saw in my dream that these two men went in at the gate, and lo, as they entered they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also those that met them with harps and crowns, and gave to them the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream that all the bells of the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, ‘Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.’”
The major works on the life of Handley Moule are Handley Carr Glyn Moule: Bishop of Durham, by John Battersby Harford and Frederick Charles MacDonald (1922); Handley Carr Glyn Moule (1841–1920), by Marcus L. Loane (1940); The Spiritual Unfolding of Bishop H.C.G. Moule, D.D., by John Baird (1926); and Letters and Poems of Bishop Moule, edited by John Battersby Harford (1922). The phrase “bright messenger of God” is found in Baird’s book on page 124.
David B. Calhoun is Professor Emeritus of Church History at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. A minister of the Presbyterian Church in America, he has taught at Covenant College, Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University), and Jamaica Bible College (where he was also principal). He has served with Ministries in Action in the West Indies and in Europe and as dean of the Iona Centres for Theological Study. He was a board member (and for some years president) of Presbyterian Mission International, a mission board that assists nationals who are Covenant Seminary graduates to return to their homelands for ministry. Dr. Calhoun is also the author of various histories concerning several historic churches and a book on John Bunyan (Grace Abounding: John Bunyan and His Books).
To view this full article on a single page, click here.
For a pdf of this article, click here.
To receive electronic or hard copies of Knowing & Doing, click here.
To browse the Knowing & Doing archives of articles, click here.