Born in London, Adams studied for eight years at Ardingly College before moving to Hurstpierpoint College for sixth form. A first class honours mathematical scholar at Durham University (University College), he was ordained deacon in 1901 and priest in 1905.
Curacies in County Durham and Lambeth were followed by five years as a missionary priest in Saskatchewan, Canada. Returning to England he was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was followed by an academic career.
In 1925 Adams returned to Canada as the first Bishop of Cariboo (1925-1934). In 1933 he was elected Bishop of Kootenay (1934-1947) and for two years, 1933-1934, he looked after both dioceses - Cariboo and Kootenay. In 1942 he became the third Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia (1942-1951) while continuing his diocesan duties. In 1947 he became Archbishop of Yukon (1947-1952), and subsequently Archbishop of British Columbia after the diocese was transferred from Rupert's Land to British Columbia. He was also Acting Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (1950-1951).