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Cranswick, Geoffrey Franceys (1894–1978)

by Louis V. Daniels

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Geoffrey Franceys Cranswick (1894-1978), Anglican bishop, was born on 10 April 1894 at Petersham, Sydney, third and youngest son of Edward Glanville Cranswick, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Edith, née Harvard, both English born. George Harvard Cranswick was his elder brother. Geoffrey was educated at Hayfield preparatory school, The King's School, Parramatta, Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1916). An active member of the Australasian Student Christian Movement, he was State representative on its general committee and president (1915) of the men's branch of the Sydney University Christian Union. He was appointed tutor at Moore Theological College in March 1916 and became the S.C.M.'s travelling secretary next year; he joined the Rejected Volunteers' Association and worked on the land in his spare time.

In 1918 Cranswick sailed for England where he entered Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Made deacon in 1920 and ordained priest on 2 October 1921, he became curate at West Ham under Canon Guy Rogers. The parish continued to support him as its 'own missionary' after his appointment in 1923 to King Edward's School, Chapra, India, a vocational training institution run by the Church Missionary Society. On 7 December 1927 at St Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta, he married Rosamund Mary Robotham; their only child Peter was born in 1933.

Cranswick returned to England in 1938 and was employed as organizing secretary for the C.M.S. in the dioceses of Canterbury, Chichester and Rochester. Later that year he took over responsibility for some three hundred missionaries in India and Iran. He served as an air-raid warden at Orpington, Kent, during World War II. His work for the C.M.S. brought him into contact with the archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, and with the bishops William Wilson Cash and Horace Crotty; in 1943 they selected him as the eighth bishop of Tasmania. He was consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 25 January 1944 and enthroned in St David's Cathedral, Hobart, on 16 May.

Described as 'direct and vital', Cranswick held liberal theological and political views which embroiled him in controversies in the conservative Tasmanian diocese. He soon overcame opposition to participation in the Tasmanian Council of Churches and, by October, had introduced pulpit exchanges between Anglican and other Protestant clergy. His support for ecumenism in Southern India caused division at his first synod, leading him to describe the ignorance of his clergy as 'pathetic'. A further row followed his repeated criticism of the local Catholic Church's insistence on denominational commemorative services on Anzac Day.

An ardent proponent of the United Nations Organization and of the World Council of Churches, in 1947 Cranswick attended the general synod of the Anglican Church in China as a member of a delegation led by Archbishop Halse; a second visit in 1956, in the depths of the Cold War, would lead him to endorse communist rule in China as a great improvement on what he had seen in 1947. He visited England for the Lambeth Conference in 1948 and later that year was a delegate at the first assembly of the World Council of Churches. In 1950 he sponsored a controversial visit to Tasmania by Bishop Yashiro, the presiding bishop in Japan.

In 1956 Cranswick was drawn into the events surrounding the summary dismissal of Sydney Sparkes Orr from the University of Tasmania. A former member (1945-52) of the university council, he had been Orr's spiritual adviser since 1953, and seemed initially to support the dismissal. By November 1959, however, he was convinced that a miscarriage of justice had occurred and made a public call for a new inquiry. Although the university rejected his request, and despite trenchant criticism of his position by the press and the Southern Law Society, Cranswick was supported by the Catholic archbishop (Sir) Guilford Young and other church leaders.

Cranswick retired in 1962, well satisfied with his ecumenical achievements. A slender, erect man, with an abiding commitment to ending religious and secular divisions, he continued to live in the local diocese. He was president of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society (1946-62) and the Australia-China Society (1968-73); he was also an opponent of conscription and the war in Vietnam, a critic of the White Australia policy and an advocate of the formal recognition of the People's Republic of China. Survived by his wife and son, Cranswick died on 19 July 1978 in Hobart; after a service at St David's Cathedral, he was cremated. His portrait by Alfred Reynolds is in Church House, Hobart.

Select Bibliography

  • W. H. C. Eddy, Orr (Brisb, 1961)
  • Church of England in Tasmania, Synod, Diocesan Council, Year Book, 1943-62
  • Church News (Hobart), 133, no 7, Aug 1978
  • L. V. Daniels, Cranswick the Ecumenist (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Tasmania, 1974)
  • minutes of the Tasmanian Council of Churches, and the Congregational Assembly, council and executive, and the Methodist Church Assembly and executive, and the Australian Church Union, Tasmanian Branch (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Society of Friends minutes (National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Louis V. Daniels, 'Cranswick, Geoffrey Franceys (1894–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cranswick-geoffrey-franceys-9855/text17435, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 26 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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