Tag Archives: Church of England

The First World War and the Bishops

This is a further blog post in a series to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The Library and Record Centre together hold substantial material relating to the War, which is summarised in the research guide available on our website.

The records include minutes of Bishops’ Meetings. This was a gathering of diocesan and suffragan bishops in England and Wales, held biannually. The meetings were chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury: during the War, Randall Davidson. The minutes provide an insight into the issues facing the Church following the outbreak of War.

The first wartime meeting took place in October 1914 (ref: LPL BM 6/57) and show its impact on Church activities, for instance the postponement (for a year, it was thought – in the event it eventually took place in the 1920s) of a proposed Mission of Help to the Church in India.


The agenda of the first wartime Bishops’ Meeting, 20 October, 1914 (ref: LPL BM 6/57)

Wartime subjects which already commanded the attention of the Bishops included preparation of special forms of prayer for public use and the possibility of a National Day of Intercession.

The minutes include a copy of a circular letter sent out by Archbishop Davidson on the subject of clergy as combatants, expressing his view that to volunteer as a combatant was “incompatible with the position of one who has sought and received Holy Orders”: the special calling of the ordained ought to be regarded as their “special contribution to their country’s service”. Offers to serve as chaplains in the Army or Navy were at that time “far more numerous than could possibly be accepted”. Those not yet ordained but nearing the end of their time at theological colleges were encouraged to complete their training, but those at an earlier stage of study could be encouraged to enlist as it was thought that “great advantages” could be gained from service, and the fact of having borne arms would not subsequently disable a man from receiving Holy Orders. There was, given the “unprecedented” state of affairs, extensive discussion on the work of Army chaplains (in both the Territorial Army and the new Kitchener Army) and the position of the Chaplain General.

Fees for marriage licences (which enabled greater flexibility in the location and timing of weddings) for soldiers and sailors summoned at short notice to go on active service were discussed. It was advocated that officials adopt some liberality and sacrifice some fees “as only the reality of the crisis and its temporary character can justify”. The Archbishop counselled, however, that such reduction ought not to be used to “expedite marriages otherwise unsuitable”.

Further discussion involved the role of the clergy in facilitating the issue of Government assistance (in the form of separation allowances) to the wives and families of men in the Army and Navy on active service. Dissemination of information on this had been done at the personal request of Lord Kitchener. The question of assistance to unmarried partners of soldiers and sailors ensued, a “difficult and delicate question”. Resolution of this issue the Bishops explicitly considered in some degree as being of a private character within their meeting; but they endorsed this approach of supporting unmarried women, “where there was evidence of a settled home” and unless “such a course would gravely imperil the standards of moral life, both among the men of His Majesty’s Forces and in the nation”.

Use of school buildings and churches by the troops, already requisitioned by the military in a few cases, was mentioned. More specific were prospective requests to use parish churches for the celebration of the Roman Mass for Belgian refugees which, it was argued, could not easily be granted.

The subject of War memorials was raised, and attention called to the importance of parish clergy keeping lists of those from their parishes who served during the War.

Brief reference was made to the peculiar difficulties in which certain ecclesiastical industries (for instance organ building and the making of stained glass) found themselves owing to the War.

A “long and important” discussion followed on the subject of increased drinking, especially among the wives of absent soldiers and in some cases among army recruits. The implications for the opening hours of public houses and on alternative recreations in the camps were raised. Similarly, “moral dangers and difficulties” with regard to the camps and billeting were of concern to the Bishops, with attention paid to means of “helping the young girls of the country”, perhaps by the provision of “women patrols”.

Discussion on these subjects, and on additional topics such as precautions in case of invasion and the moral and spiritual care of German prisoners, continued to resonate in the records as the War proceeded.

Descriptions of the Bishops’ Meetings records are available in the archives catalogue. Other items in this series are featured in the Library’s First World War timeline.

The response of the Church of England to the War was featured on the Radio 4 Sunday programme.

The Society of Saint John the Evangelist archive now catalogued

Fr. Benson SSJE

Fr. Benson SSJE

The end of November marked the completion of an 11-month project to catalogue the records of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). The Cowley Fathers, as SSJE were more popularly known, were founded by Richard Meux Benson in Oxford in 1866, when Benson and two other Fathers took vows of silence, poverty and obedience and began the first Anglican male monastic order since the Reformation. The brotherhood would last almost 150 years before, sadly, coming to a close in England in 2011 (although a thriving community still exists in America).

The Society expanded from its Oxford base and established houses in London, India, South Africa, America, Canada and Japan. From each of these houses the Fathers ventured out into the community, ministering wherever asked, as well as welcoming people into their midst – providing safety and education for children and places of retreat and contemplation for clergy and lay people alike.

It is from India and South Africa that perhaps some of the most fascinating material in the collection emanates, with letters sent back from the ‘missionary frontier’ by pioneering Fathers in the 1870s and 1880s providing a vivid recollection and glorious image of the early work of the missions of the Society. Under particularly harsh conditions – cholera was just one ever present threat – the Fathers would cover large swathes of land carrying out the work of God wherever and whenever the opportunity arose.

A SSJE mission poster

A SSJE mission poster

That is not to say the activities of SSJE were well received in all quarters, with letters revealing confrontations with the Indian establishment arising when Fathers took to the streets to distribute ‘religious material’. Further challenges came from within the life as a monk living under Rule, with Fathers tasked to undertake ‘active evangelicalization’ whilst at the same time adhering to their vow of silence. Nevertheless, the legacy left by SSJE is clear across several continents, with many of the schools and churches built by the Fathers still fulfilling the same functions as they had so many years ago.

In addition to the wonderful correspondence, the collection also features a comprehensive set of the Society’s Rule and Statue books and minute books which combine to explain the governance of the Society, a large number of photographs and slides showing the Fathers at work at the missions, and a large volume of religious texts, particularly from its renowned leader Fr. Benson, in the form of sermons, addresses and meditations.

The project was jointly funded by the charitable trust administering SSJE funds, the Fellowship of St. John, and the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library, and the collection is housed at the Church of England Record Centre, South Bermondsey.  To access the material, please consult the Lambeth Palace Library archives and manuscripts catalogue.

The papers of Reverend Joseph McCulloch

The Reverend Joseph McCulloch

The Reverend Joseph McCulloch

Margaret Thatcher, Yehudi Menuhin, Joan Bakewell, Diana Rigg, Bernard Levin, Denis Norden, Lord Longford…the list reads like the guest-list for a very important event, or the personal contacts of a prominent politician – not a working class clergyman from Liverpool. In fact, these are just a few of the famous names that crop up in the recently catalogued archive of the Reverend Joseph McCulloch.

Perhaps best-known for the Bow Dialogues,  a series of public debates featuring well-known personalities that were recorded weekly at the St Mary-le-Bow, London, between 1964-1979, McCulloch was also a prolific writer, broadcaster and passionate campaigner for Church reform. From the beginning of his career McCulloch was a controversial figure, and was once  described as the enfant terrible of the Church of England.

Born in Liverpool in 1908, McCulloch read Theology at Exeter College, Oxford, before being ordained in 1933. Early on in his career he ran into difficulty due to his outspoken nature. As a young curate he was obliged to leave one parish when his parishioners recognised themselves in a pseudonymous novel that he had written and he had to leave another curacy when the Rector, returning from abroad, was upset by some of McCulloch’s initiatives in his absence. Later, he was dismissed as an army chaplain in World War Two for sending the Chaplain General a critical report on religion in the armed forces.

McCulloch’s published work, broadcasts and opinions on Church reform were spirited and compassionate, and did much to establish him as a household name. He was a regular columnist for She magazine, several local newspapers and was often commissioned by the BBC. McCulloch wanted the church to become more open and accessible and was an early supporter of women’s ministry. He published an abridged version of the Bible and many other works, seventeen of which are held in the Library’s printed book sequence, and the manuscripts and drafts of several other works can be found in his papers.

McCulloch’s later positions were very successful. As Rector of Chatham, Kent, a very large parish, McCulloch was challenged to increase the tiny congregation. He did this in a typically exuberant manner, setting up drop-in sessions in the local pub and putting on plays and recitals which he had written. In 1959 he became Rector of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, which was still derelict after World War Two bomb damage. McCulloch campaigned tirelessly to raise funds to restore the church and the iconic Bow Bells. He was successful and the church was re-consecrated in 1964. Part of the renovations included two pulpits which McCulloch put to great use as a platform for topical debate that came to be known as The Bow Dialogues.

Material relating to the Bow Dialogues accounts for a substantial part of the newly catalogued collection. It contains extensive correspondence, both personal and more formal, with an array of very well-known names from the sixties and seventies, including  Germaine Greer, Enoch Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Judi Dench, Lawrence Olivier and Tom Stoppard.

McCulloch was a character who often pushed the boundaries with his opinions but was genuinely motivated by a passion for the Church and above all great love for humanity. The archive is a fascinating and unique insight into the world of a man who is woefully under-researched.

The Society of St John the Evangelist and nineteenth-century foreign missions

A guest post by Steven S. Maughan, Professor and Chair. Department of History, The College of Idaho.

My current research focuses on the impact of nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholicism on British Christian foreign missions and the British empire. Anglo-Catholics formed a party within the Church of England that from the 1840s advocated a revival of medieval and Catholic styles of religiosity and from the 1860s also supported foreign missions, most notably the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa and Melanesian Mission, but also missions in dozens of overseas dioceses. Their missionary program included reliance on newly formed monastic religious communities for women and men—sisterhoods and brotherhoods. The pioneering use of independent women in the mission field and reliance on university-educated missionaries acted as formative influences on a series of new initiatives that transformed late-Victorian Protestant missions. Among the most important of these new religious communities was the Society of St John the Evangelist (known more popularly as the Cowley Fathers) inaugurated in 1866 by Father R. M. Benson which ultimately established missionary houses in South Africa, India, Japan, and Canada. The SSJE archive, including the early correspondence of Father Benson, has recently been deposited at Lambeth Palace Library where it is being catalogued (see earlier post -Society of Saint John the Evangelist records go ‘live’), and with which, by the generous accommodation of the Library staff, I was able to work over the past few months.

Anglican religious communities, which evoked fierce opposition from evangelicals for their alleged “Popish” excesses, were extremely controversial, and the missions associated with them challenged dominant evangelical emphases on individual conversion and westernization, instead advocating communal religious institutions and syncretized indigenization leading to independent “native” community-based churches. The SSJE was particularly important in this process: first, because it inaugurated the use of English Anglican brothers as missionaries abroad; second, because overseas the Cowley Fathers provided legitimization, support and collaboration with several Anglican sisterhoods, including the Wantage Sisters, which sent even larger numbers of Anglican religious abroad.

This project has developed out of my recent scholarly work—with its focus on Anglicanism, imperial history and British religious cultures—which will culminate in the publication of a more general study of the foreign missions of the Church of England, coming out in February 2014, entitled Mighty England Do Good: Culture, Faith, Empire and World in the Missionary Projects of the Church of England, 1850-1915 (Eerdmans). It is from this more comprehensive foundation that the current project emerges; while I deal in outline in the forthcoming book with the impact of high church Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics on Christian missionary methods and initiatives, it is treated as but one aspect of Anglican missionary religion within the larger context of evangelical missions and their relationship to empire and missionary internationalism.

The papers of John Stott

Portrait of John Stott

John Stott at the 1973 Urbana Student Missions Conference sponsored by the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowships and held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The project to catalogue the personal papers of the renowned evangelical clergyman John Stott has reached a significant milestone, as the first batch of papers is now being made available to researchers via the National Church Institutions’ Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue. To find these records on the catalogue type STOTT in the Order No. field and click on search and you will be presented with a list of relevant records.

John Stott (1921-2011), served at one church throughout his career, as assistant curate at All Souls, Langham Place from 1945, as rector from 1950, and finally rector emeritus from 1975. It was both his dedication to his central London parish and his efforts on the international evangelical scene which garnered Stott such acclaim. His role as honorary chaplain to the Queen from 1959 to 1991, his multiple honorary degrees, including a Doctorate of Divinity from Lambeth Palace, and his selection as one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ in 2005, attest to the extent of his influence.

Records now available include Stott’s travel diaries (1958-2007), which describe his extensive international travels, featuring busy schedules of University missions, preaching engagements, evangelical conferences, seminars and a multitude of other events. This first release of material also contains the records of notable organisations and societies with which Stott was involved as a founder or significant supporter. The diverse range includes the Church of England Evangelical Council, the Christian environmental charity A Rocha, the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, and the Langham Partnership International. The last of these, originally founded in the UK as the Langham Trust, now operates three complimentary programmes, designed to assist in training preachers, educating scholars and providing evangelical literature to the developing world.

Further material includes a series of files amassed in relation to a variety of subjects, ranging from contentious social issues such as divorce and abortion, to debates concerning matters such as annihilation, fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy.

This first release of this material is aimed at enhancing access to a collection which is being catalogued as part of a project due for completion in March 2014. The next release of material will include records relating to evangelical conferences, including the notable 1974 International Conference of World Evangelism in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Recently Catalogued Archives

Lambeth Palace Library staff have catalogued a range of archive material in recent months. Descriptions of this material are now available in the online archives catalogue. They include:

  • Over 1,100 speeches and addresses of Archbishop Carey, 1991-2002
  • Files of the Council on Foreign Relations relating to the Religious Affairs Branch of the British Army of the Rhine, 1946-1950
  • Letters of H E J Bevan, Archdeacon of Middlesex, 1900-1928, on subjects including the Round Table Conference on ritual of 1900
  • Notes by Andrew Coltée Ducarel (Lambeth Librarian from 1757) relating to marriage licensing, 1754
  • Letters of the clergyman Roger Dalison from his tour round the world in 1902-3, which included Australia, New Zealand and the USA
  • A humorous volume compiled by E F Benson (son of the Archbishop) and his friend Philip Burne-Jones supposedly pertaining to the activities of Lord Desborough, c.1908

Our colleagues at at the Church of England Record Centre (CERC) have recently catalogued the archive of the Church of England Advisory Board for Moral Welfare Work and its predecessor bodies.  The archive comprises the papers of the variously named advisory boards concerned with questions of moral welfare, specifically those affecting Christian standards of sexual morality, 1915-1948.

You can search for all the archives mentioned here on our online archives catalogue http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/archives/
For details on accessing the Library, see our website: http://lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/access and for access to CERC please see http://www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/cerc

Recent Acquisitions

Lambeth Palace Library’s collection of printed books, relating to the history and administration of the Church of England as well as supporting or stemming from the Library’s collection of archives, manuscripts and early printed books, continues to grow. Recently acquired items include:

God and war: the Church of England and armed conflict in the twentieth century. Edited by Stephen G. Parker and Tom Lawson. (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012)
The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901 edited by Keith A. Francis and William Gibson (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012)
The late medieval English church: vitality and vulnerability before the break with Rome. G. W. Bernard. (London: Yale University Press, 2012)
Politics and the Paul’s Cross sermons, 1558-1642, Mary Morrissey (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible , Michael D. Coogan ed. (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011)
Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, Thomas Herron and Brendan Kane (Washington, DC : Folger Shakespeare Library, 2013)

The catalogues of printed books and periodicals can be found at: http://bookscat.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/. For details on accessing the Library, see our website: http://lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/access