1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sumner, John Bird

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SUMNER, JOHN BIRD (1780-1862), English archbishop, elder brother of Bishop Charles Sumner, was born at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and educated at Eton and Cambridge. In 1802 he became a master at Eton, and in the following year he took orders. He was elected a fellow of Eton in 1817, and in 1818 the college presented him to the living of Maple Durham, Oxfordshire. After holding a prebendaryship of Durham for some years, he was consecrated bishop of Chester in 1828. During his episcopate many churches and schools were built in the diocese. His numerous writings were much esteemed, especially by the evangelical party, to which he belonged; the best known are his Treatise on the Records of Creation and the Moral Attributes of the Creator (London, 1816) and The Evidence of Christianity derived from its Nature and Reception (London, 1821). In 1848 he was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, in which capacity he dealt impartially with the different church parties. In the well-known “Gorham case”[1] he came into conflict with Bishop Henry Phillpotts of Exeter (1778-1869), who accused him of supporting heresy and refused to communicate with him. He supported the Divorce Bill in parliament, but opposed the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill and the bill for removing Jewish disabilities.


  1. George Cornelius Gorham (1787-1857) was refused institution by Bishop Phillpotts because of his Calvinistic views on baptismal regeneration. The court of arches upheld the bishop, but its decision was reversed by the privy council.