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Story: Haddon, Arthur Langan

Page 1: Biography

Haddon, Arthur Langan


Church of Christ minister, theological college principal, writer, ecumenical leader

This biography, written by Gavin D. Munro, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.

Arthur Langan Haddon was born on 3 October 1895 at Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia, the son of Walter Haddon, an engine driver, and his wife, Mary Langan. After attending Bourke Street Public School, he worked in Sydney from 1912 for the New South Wales Immigration and Tourist Bureau.

Haddon was brought up an Anglican, but attendance at a Sydney Church of Christ culminated in a public profession of faith and his baptism by immersion. In 1916 he entered the College of the Bible in Melbourne to train for ministry. There he gained prizes as the top scholar in each year of his theological studies. He was also an exhibitioner and prize winner in philosophy and sociology classes at the University of Melbourne, graduating BA in 1923 and MA in 1925, both with first-class honours. He served in parish ministry in Melbourne from 1920 to 1922, and as director of Christian education for the Churches of Christ in New South Wales from 1923 to 1926. Haddon was married in Melbourne on 15 December 1923 to Hilda Warn Petterd.

In 1926 the Dominion Conference of the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand resolved to establish a theological college in Dunedin. Haddon was appointed principal, a position he would hold from March 1927 until his death in 1961. The task involved securing the support of congregations throughout New Zealand for the college, encouraging prospective students, and preparing and presenting courses. For much of his time as principal the lecturing programme was shared with no more than one colleague. Because of financial constraints, the principal and lecturer served part-time in parish ministry and Haddon was a minister at the North East Valley Church of Christ for more than 20 years.

He had a major formative influence on the college's graduates and became a prominent leader within his own small denomination. As well as serving on various national committees, he was president of the Dominion Conference in 1930 and 1953, and editor of the church's monthly journal, the New Zealand Christian, from 1938 to 1961. He became known in the wider community of Churches of Christ through attendance at world conventions and articles written for Australian and American journals. He also went on lecture tours of colleges in the United States and received an honorary doctorate of divinity from Butler University, Indianapolis, in 1949.

Haddon was lecturer, and later director, at the Otago School of Religious Education, an interdenominational venture founded in 1930 to provide training for Sunday-school teachers. He was involved in the negotiations leading to the founding of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Otago in 1946 and was appointed honorary lecturer and examiner in church history. Having gained a reputation as a preacher, he received invitations to preach in other churches. Prominent in the local ministers' association and in the Otago branch of the National Council of Churches in New Zealand, he was a spokesman for the Christian community. In the 1940s and 1950s he wrote the weekly column 'Talk of the Town' in the Otago Daily Times over the pen-name 'Civis'. From 1945 to 1961 he chaired the local branch of the New Zealand Council of Organisations for Relief Services Overseas (CORSO). In 1953 he was among those awarded the Coronation Medal.

Arthur Haddon was an early supporter of the ecumenical movement. He introduced a course on ecumenics at the college in 1941, and when the National Council of Churches was formed that year he was a member of its executive; he went on to be chairman from 1945 to 1947. He also attended two assemblies of the World Council of Churches: in Evanston, Illinois, in 1954, and in New Delhi in 1961. He wrote numerous articles and booklets about the ecumenical movement. When the Associated Churches of Christ joined the Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians in negotiating for union in 1955, Haddon gave a positive lead, writing a supplement to the study booklet Shall we unite? and representing his denomination in the negotiations.

Hilda Haddon died in 1950, and in Auckland on 16 May 1953 Haddon married Ruth Windle Cosh, née Warner, a widow from New South Wales. On 17 December 1961 Haddon gave a sermon at the Dunedin Church of Christ, which was broadcast on radio. Having just finished, he collapsed and died at the pulpit. He was survived by his second wife and two children of his first marriage.

Not all within his own church were happy with Haddon's leadership. He faced frequent opposition because it was felt that his openness to modern scholarship and his ecumenical activities revealed disloyalty to Church of Christ teachings. A reserved man, he seemed aloof to some. He was, none the less, the most prominent leader of the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand in the twentieth century.

How to cite this page:

Gavin D. Munro. 'Haddon, Arthur Langan', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4h1/haddon-arthur-langan (accessed 13 July 2024)