|Salem Goldworth Bland|
August 25, 1859|
Lachute, Quebec, Canada
|Died||February 7, 1950
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Known for||Popularizing the Social Gospel in Canada|
He was born in Lachute, Quebec the son of H.F.B. Bland, a Methodist preacher. As a child he lost the use of one of his legs, likely due to polio. He had the useless leg amputated at age thirty and replaced it with an artificial limb. He was raised in Kingston, Ontario and studied at Queen’s University and McGill. He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1880 and served as a preacher in a series of churches in Ottawa and Quebec. In 1903 he accepted a position at Wesley College in Winnipeg as a professor of church history and of Greek.
Originally a relatively conservative Methodist, at Wesley he embraced Higher Criticism. It was also in Winnipeg that he became committed to activist Christianity and the Social Gospel movement. He became a popular guest preacher across western Canada. At Wesley he tutored a number of students including J. S. Woodsworth, William Irvine, and William Ivens who became early leaders of the social-democratic CCF. Bland also became a regular writer for the Grain Growers' Guide, then the main organ of the progressive farmers' movement. This activism led him into conflict with the leaders of Wesley College and he was dismissed in 1917 after a long battle with principal Eber Crummy.
Bland moved to Toronto where he became the preacher at the Broadway Methodist Tabernacle, one of the largest Methodist churches in the city and one serving the large working class community of western Toronto. He remained there until 1923, when he moved to the smaller Western Methodist Church. He became a prominent figure in the new United Church of Canada. In 1935 he convinced the general assembly to pass a motion condemning capitalism. He also led the campaign in favour of the ordination of women, and succeeded in 1936.
He also remained deeply involved in social activism. He was a supporter of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War and a leader of the Canadian Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. Firmly anti-war, he refused to encourage Canadians to enlist in the Republican cause. Rather he focused on raising humanitarian aid for those affected by the conflict. Most notably the Committee supported a home for some 100 war orphans in Barcelona that was named Salem Bland Home. He became close friends with exiled American activist Emma Goldman, and when she died in Toronto in 1940 it was Bland who delivered the eulogy at her funeral. He also wrote a column for the Toronto Star called "The Observer" from 1924 to 1950. A well-known figure in Toronto, he had his portrait painted by Group of Seven artist Lawren S. Harris in 1926. The painting is today in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
- "Rev. Salem G. Bland, 90 Champion of Labor, Dies." Toronto Daily Star. February 7, 1950. pg. 3
- "Holy Writ." Jim Foster Toronto Star. Feb 9, 1992. pg. D.6
- Davis, Ann (1992). The logic of ecstasy: Canadian mystical painting, 1920-1940. G - Reference, Information and Interdisciplinary Subjects Series. University of Toronto Press. pp. 22, 23. ISBN 0-8020-5916-3.
- The New Christianity or The Religion of the New Age. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1920.
- James Henderson, D.D.. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1926.
- Allen, Richard. The Social Passion: Religion and Social Reform in Canada 1914-28. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.
- Allen, Richard (2008). The view from Murney Tower: Salem Bland, the late Victorian controversies, and the search for a new Christianity. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. p. 524. ISBN 978-0-8020-9748-4.