English and Welsh Baptists in the nineteen thirties : a study of political, social and religious crisis

Goodman, Michael Leslie (1993). English and Welsh Baptists in the nineteen thirties : a study of political, social and religious crisis. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e040


This thesis sets out to examine the Baptist denomination in Britain during the 1930s. Its contention is that by this stage of their history Baptists were confused both about their denominational identity and about the role they could best play within contemprary society. From what appeared to be a pinnacle of success in the first decade of the century they moved into a period of almost continual decline in both numbers and influence. 'Ibis thesis examines these matters in three stages:

Chapter 1 reviews current literature in the field of study, and places the present work in a wider historical, sociological and political context. It is argued that the Baptist denomination had been in crisis since around the year 1910, that crisis had deepened in the mid-'Twenties once the post-war resurgence of Baptist numbers receded, and that the nature of the crisis was complex, involving the denomination's self-perception and its role within society at both national and local levels.

Chapters 2 to 7 constitute a detailed study of the Baptist denomination during the years 1930 to 1939. Chapter 2 analyses the year 1930 in detail and identifies the major topics to be examined subsequently, focusing variously on Baptist responses to the numerical decline of the denomination, national political trends, social issues, the war debate, and international developments.

It is argued that the crisis of identity already apparent in the denomination deepened throughout the first half of the decade. A marked tendency towards apoliticisation can be discerned at a national level, and a generally diffident response to social and political change is also apparent by mid-point of the decade. '!his confusion and uncertainty within the denomination reached its zenith in 1935 with the finn stand taken by M E Aubrey, General Secretary of the Baptist Union, against the Council of Action for Peace and Reconstruction. The leadership of the Baptist Union was finally committed to the Conservative-dominated National government. The temptation to return to the Liberal Party was seen as romanticism, and to change to a labour allegiance was considered tantamount to affirming communism. This cautious stance penetrated all areas of national leadership thinking.

Chapters 8 to 10: In these chapters conclusions about the national situation for Baptists have first been set against detailed studies of two Baptist churches in South Croydon. The underlying question considered was whether the churches were following a lead given by the denominational leadership or whether both national and local bodies moved in whatever particular direction changes in society might push them. The chief conclusion drawn from these studies is that the churches under consideration were so pre-occupied with the need to maintain their existing structures that there was little time or depth of concern remaining with which to address the national and international issues of the day.

In Chapter 11 these Croydonian findings are compared with those for a number of other Baptist churches. Detailed conclusions to this thesis are then set out in Chapter 12 .

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