Enemy Within? The Appeal of the Discipline of Sociology to Religious Professionals in Post-War Britain

In: Journal of Religion in Europe

This article explores the contingencies shaping a particular moment in post-war British theology, a time when sociological descriptions of contemporary society were given new authority by church leaders and theologians anxious to discover a new way through the challenges facing their churches. Attention focuses on the history of religious sociology in Britain, and on industrial mission, social history, and theological radicalism as they converged in the work of a number of British commentators in the 1950s and 1960s. The article also considers the significance of this development for the theory and historiography of secularisation.

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  • 1

    N. Birnbaum‘Nuffield Conference on the Sociology of Religion 24–27 March 1961’Archives de sociologie des religions6e année no. 11 (1961) 147–8.

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  • 2

    M. HillA Sociology of Religion (London: Heinemann1973) 9.

  • 8

    GreenPassing33.

  • 9

    I. JonesThe Local Church and Generational Change in Birmingham 1945–2000 (Woodbridge: Boydell2012) 62–9.

  • 10

    C.D. Field‘Gradualist or Revolutionary Secularization? A Case Study of Religious Belonging in Inter-War Britain, 1918–1939’Church History and Religious Culture93 (2013) 57–93.

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  • 12

     Cf. H. KayeThe British Marxist Historians – an Introductory Analysis (Cambridge: Polity1984).

  • 13

    Rex‘British Sociology’1003.

  • 14

    K.A. Thompson‘Religion: the British contribution’British Journal of Sociology41 (1990) 531–5; his prime targets were Roy Wallis and Steve Bruce. Thompson was the author of a Weberian study of the bureaucratic development of the Church of England in the twentieth century: ibid. Bureaucracy and Church Reform: the Organizational Response of the Church of England to Social Change 1800–1965 (Oxford: Clarendon 1970).

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  • 15

    S. Fuller‘A Very qualified success: the case of Anthony Giddens and British sociology’Canadian Journal of Sociology25 (2000) 507–16.

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  • 16

     On Chadwick see S.E. FinerThe Life and Times of Sir Edwin Chadwick (London: Methuen1952).

  • 17

     Cf. J. HarrisUnemployment and politics: A study in English social policy 1886–1914 (Oxford: Clarendon1972).

  • 18

     Cf. A.D. GilbertReligion and Society in Industrial England. Church Chapel and Social Change 1740–1914 (London: Longmans1976) 76–81.

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  • 22

    C.F.G. MastermanThe Condition of England (London: Methuen1909) 266.

  • 23

    MastermanCondition of England267–8.

  • 24

    MastermanCondition of England272.

  • 25

    F.E.E. BellAt the Works. A Study of a Manufacturing Town (London: Edward Arnold1907) 10.

  • 27

     See N. HubbleMass Observation and Everyday Life (Basingstoke: Palgrave2006).

  • 32

    V.A. DemantTheology of Society. More Essays in Christian Polity (London: Faber1947) 45.

  • 33

     Cf. C.F. Rogers‘Sociology and Pastoral Theology’ in The Economic Review21 (1911) 41.

  • 35

    R. LloydThe Church and the Artisan Today (London: Longmans1952) 1.

  • 38

    D.H. McLeodClass and Religion in the Late Victorian City (London: Croom Helm1974).

  • 39

    C. Calhoun‘History and Sociology in Britain. A Review Article’Comparative Studies in Society and History29 (1987) 615.

  • 41

    E.R. WickhamChurch and People in an Industrial City (London: Lutterworth1957) 14; ibid. Encounter with Modern Society (London: Lutterworth 1964) p. 35. For a historical critique see J.N. Morris ‘Church and People Thirty-Three Years on: A Historical Critique’ Theology 94 (1991) 92–101.

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  • 42

    WickhamChurch and People166.

  • 44

     Cf. K.S. InglisThe Churches and the Working Classes in Victorian England (London: Routledge1963) 326–7; E. R. Norman Church and Society in England 1770–1970. A Historical Study (Oxford: Clarendon 1976) 463.

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  • 45

     Cf. M.A. SmithReligion in Industrial Society. Oldham and Saddleworth 1740–1865 (Oxford: Clarendon1994) pp. 2–3.

  • 46

    WickhamChurch and People148.

  • 47

    WickhamChurch and People240.

  • 50

     Cf. M. NorthcottThe church and secularisation : urban industrial mission in north east England (Frankfurt am Main: Lang1989); also P. Bagshaw The church beyond the church: Sheffield Industrial Mission 1944–1994 (Sheffield: Industrial Mission in Yorkshire 1994).

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  • 52

    MantleBritain’s First Worker Priests87–92.

  • 54

    S. Brewitt-Taylor‘The Invention of a “Secular Society”? Christianity and the Sudden Appearance of Secularization Discourses in the British National Media, 1961–4’Twentieth Century British History24 (2013) 337.

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  • 55

    Brewitt-Taylor‘The Invention of a “Secular Society”?’337–8.

  • 57

    Brewitt-Taylor‘”Christian Radicalism”’145–6.

  • 58

    Brewitt-Taylor‘”Christian Radicals”’100–1; John Robinson made this assertion of himself in Honest to God (London: scm 1963) 21–2.

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  • 65

    EdwardsHonest to God Debate15–7.

  • 68

    T. BeesonThe Church of England in Crisis (London: David-Poynter1973) 23.

  • 69

    BeesonChurch of England in Crisis58.

  • 71

    GreenPassing72–3.

  • 74

    D. SheppardBuilt as a City. God and the Urban World Today (London: Hodder & Stoughton1974) 36–7 & 43–4.

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