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Hazlewood, John (1924–1998)

by Muriel Porter

This article was published online in 2022

John Hazlewood (1924–1998), Anglican bishop, was born on 19 May 1924 in London, elder son of George Harold Egerton Hazlewood, export clerk, and his wife Anne Winifred, née Edeson. The family moved to Wellington, New Zealand, in 1931, when his father was appointed general manager for New Zealand of an English paper manufacturing firm. With his brother Ian, who also became an Anglican priest, John was a choirboy in Wellington Cathedral. Educated as a boarder (1938–42) at Nelson College, he was a prefect and scholarship winner in his final year.

Having joined the Air Training Corps while at school, Hazlewood enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) on 23 October 1942. From July 1943 he trained as a navigator and bomb-aimer in Canada and he was commissioned in May 1944. He was sent to Britain in June for operational training and was promoted to temporary flying officer in November, but when his training was completed, World War II was in its final months, and he was not posted to an operational squadron.

On leave in England during the war, Hazlewood attended worship at All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London, a parish church with a strong tradition of High Anglicanism. He found his spiritual home in that tradition. After the war he relinquished his RNZAF commission on 16 January 1946, having commenced studies in theology at King’s College, Cambridge (BA, 1948; MA, 1952), with the support of a New Zealand government bursary. From there, he trained (1948–49) for the Anglican ministry at Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxford, and was ordained deacon (1949) then priest (1950), both at Southwark Cathedral, London.

Following a year as curate in the slum parish of St Michael and All Angels Church, Camberwell, London, in November 1950 Hazlewood moved to Sydney, where his parents were living. He was curate (1951) of St Jude’s Church, Randwick, then vicar (1951–53) of Holy Trinity, Dubbo. In 1953 he returned to England and his former position at St Michael and All Angels, before becoming vice-principal (1955–60) of St Francis’ Theological College, Brisbane. He was appointed dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Rockhampton, in 1960, a position he held until 1968. On 28 January 1961 at the Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, Brisbane, he married Shirley Dorothea Shevill, a medical practitioner and sister of the then bishop of North Queensland, Ian Shevill. The couple adopted two sons.

As dean (1968–75) of Perth’s St George’s Cathedral, Hazlewood became both a controversial figure and a media personality, particularly when he introduced rock masses to the cathedral in December 1970. The first, a ‘Rock Mass for Peace,’ was attended by as many as three thousand people and attracted national attention. Seven large-scale masses followed in 1971, and the ‘Rock Mass for Love’ on 21 March resulted in a successful long-playing record featuring the rock band Bakery and a jazz ensemble. The rock masses were widely criticised in the media, by members of the Cathedral congregation, and by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Perth, Launcelot Goody, but they were endorsed by the Anglican archbishop Geoffrey Sambell, who described the first mass as ‘magnificent’ (Tonkin 2001, 156). Hazlewood himself reflected in 1975 that rock music was ‘the most dynamic and immediate form of expression for the young today’ and that its composers had become ‘the prophets of an age’ (Nairn 1972, 42).

‘Smooth, witty, well-informed … [and] persuasive’ (Parker 1975, 9), the dean courted controversy in other areas, publicly attacking the advertising industry, the trade union movement, and national church leaders. He described police who raided a house of marijuana smokers as ‘officious baboons’ and criticised national service as it ‘begins with an immoral lottery’ (Parker 1975, 8–9). The church historian John Tonkin has argued, however, that despite the radical innovation of the rock masses and Hazlewood’s progressive social views, his ‘doctrinal commitments were fundamentally traditional’ (Tonkin 2001, 159).

Elected bishop of Ballarat in 1975, Hazlewood later reflected that his move to the conservative diocese was ‘an extraordinary kind of transition for me’ (Tonkin 2001, 160). He became a leading opponent of the ordination of women in the Anglican Church, a position he maintained throughout his episcopate. In his address to the Ballarat Synod in 1988, he described Christianity as ‘unashamedly patriarchal’ and claimed that women’s ordination cut right across ‘the basic principles of our religion’ (Hazlewood 1988).

Hazlewood resigned as bishop in 1993, a year after women priests were permitted under national church legislation. His domestic chaplain Peter Treloar later reflected that this change in the church, as well as Hazelwood’s declining health and the suicide of his elder son in 1990, had caused him to lose ‘some of the spring from his step’ (2019, n.p.). Treloar also recalled Hazlewood’s ‘faults of excess and generosity: he drank too much and he smoked too much’ (2019, n.p.). Predeceased by his wife (d. 1995) and survived by his younger son, Hazlewood died at Ballarat on 4 September 1998 following a stroke and was buried in Ballarat new cemetery.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Hazlewood, John. Presidential Address to the Synod of the Diocese of Ballarat, 16 October 1988. Copy held on ADB file
  • Murray, James. ‘Groovy Dean Rocked His Congregation.’ Australian, 16 September 1998, 16
  • Nairn, John. ‘Perth’s Dean of Rock.’ Walkabout 38, no. 5 (1 May 1972): 42–44
  • Parker, Pat. ‘Rock Mass Dean Changes His Tune.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 21 May 1975, 8–9
  • Tonkin, John. Cathedral and Community: A History of St George’s Cathedral, Perth. Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Press, 2001
  • Treloar, Peter. ‘A Personal Memoir of Bishop John Hazlewood.’ Unpublished manuscript, 2019. Copy held on ADB file
  • Treloar, Peter. ‘Obituary: Bishop John Hazlewood, Bishop of Ballarat.’ Age (Melbourne), 11 September 1998, 22

Additional Resources

Citation details

Muriel Porter, 'Hazlewood, John (1924–1998)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hazlewood-john-32189/text39798, published online 2022, accessed online 29 January 2023.

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