Church Society

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Church Society logo.jpg
Motto 'Building on the Foundations.'
Formation 1950 (forebears: 1835)
Type Evangelical Anglican charity; Campaigning, Publishing and Patronage.
Headquarters United Kingdom Dean Wace House, 16 Rosslyn Road, Watford, WD18 0NY, UK
Key people
J. C. Ryle, W. H. Griffith Thomas, Philip E. Hughes, Gerald Bray, Viscount Brentford

Church Society is a conservative evangelical Anglican organisation, and registered charity,[1] formed in 1950 by the merger of the Anglican Church Association (founded 1865) and National Church League[2] (founded 1906 by amalgamation of two earlier bodies).[3][4][5]

The journal of Church Society is Churchman (est 1879[6]). Editors have included Henry Wace and Philip Edgecumbe Hughes. The editor as of 2014 was Professor Gerald Bray.[7][8]

Advocates of Protestant Anglicanism associated with the Society include J. C. Ryle, J. T. Tomlinson, W. H. Griffith-Thomas, Henry Wace, William Joynson-Hicks (Home Secretary), Geoffrey Bromiley, Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, J. I. Packer, Alan Stibbs, John Stott and Alec Motyer.

History and predecessors[edit]

Church Association 'Protestant Van' from a postcard dated March 1907
J. C. Ryle, first Bishop of Liverpool and Church Association Tract author and conference speaker.

The original forebear of the Church Society was the Protestant Association[9] (founded 1835). The forebears of the Society were established in the 19th Century to oppose the introduction of Anglo-Catholic doctrine into the Church of England through bodies such as the Oxford Movement and The Church Union.

The Church Association, founded in 1865 by Richard P. Blakeney,[10] stated in its first annual report[11] that the objectives of the Association were:

“To uphold the principles and order of the United Church of England and Ireland, and to counteract the efforts now being made to assimilate her services to those of the Church of Rome."

W. H. Griffith Thomas, author of The Principles of Theology, an exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles.

As well as publishing information (including its Church Association Tracts[12]) and holding public meetings,[13] controversially, this also involved instigating legal action against Anglo-Catholics. According to the Association this was intended to clarify the law.[14][15] However, the ritualists refusal to comply with the courts verdicts, coupled with the bishops' unwillingness to act, eventually led to such legal action not being pursued.[14]

In 1928 the National Church League, led by its treasurer William Joynson-Hicks[16] (Home Secretary), was successful in Parliament in resisting attempted Anglo-Catholic doctrinal change to the 1928 Prayer Book.[17][18]

The Society (and its forebears) have published theological literature since the 19th Century, including the Church Association Tracts (several of which were written by J. C. Ryle), and its journal, Churchman. Most of the Society's 20th Century titles, including works by W. H. Griffith Thomas, (pictured left) were produced under its publishing arm, Church Book Room Press (CBRP), and from 1976 Vine Books Ltd.[19][20][21]

In 1950 the Church Association and National Church League merged to form Church Society.

Present day[edit]

Churchman journal.

According to its website the Society seeks to uphold its objectives through campaigning, patronage, publishing, conferences and the administration of charitable trusts and properties.[22]

According to its Memorandum[23] the main objective of Church Society is: To maintain the doctrine and worship of the Church of England as set forth in the 39 Articles of Religion, and the Book of Common Prayer, as reviewed and adopted in 1662, and to uphold the supreme and exclusive sufficiency and authority of Holy Scripture as containing all things necessary for salvation.

The Society's interpretation of its declared objectives include controversial positions including opposing the ordination of women, and homosexuality.


The Society issues occasional press releases on its views which its website says seek to present 'a clear biblical perspective on issues affecting both the Church of England and the nation'.[24] The Society has been active in opposing women's ordination as priests (it failed in its legal attempt to overturn the 1992 decision to ordain women[25]) and consecration as bishops,[26][27] which included in November 2012 setting up the campaign group Together 4ward.[28][29][30]

It has also taken a position against homosexuality[31] which led to it opposing the appointment of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,[32][33] and also the appointment of Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans.[34][35] In 2012 the Society, in conjunction with other organisations, campaigned against Government plans to implement same-sex marriage legislation.[36][37][38]

The Society works with other Christian groups on issues where they have the same position, including Reform.[39][40] The Society has critiqued inter-denominational theological movements including theological liberalism[41] and some aspects of the charismatic movement.[42][43]


Through its patronage body Church Society Trust[44] (prior to 1950, Church Association Trust[45]) the Society is involved in the appointment of evangelical clergy in 122 Anglican churches, including St John the Baptist, Hartford[46] Cheshire (pictured), and Christ Church, Düsseldorf[47][48]


The Society today publishes its journal Churchman (pictured above),[49][50] edited by Prof Gerald Bray (pictured left) members' magazine Cross†Way;[51][52] An English Prayer Book[53] (a contemporary Anglican liturgy in the tradition of the Book of Common Prayer); and The Principles of Theology[54][55] (an exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles by W.H. Griffith Thomas). In 2010 the Society established the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Library (REAL)[56] - a project to re-publish evangelical Anglican texts (including the sermons of George Whitefield[57][58]).


The Society's administration of charitable trusts and properties includes a fund to provide financial support for convalescing children[59][60] and a fund to assist Anglican Ordinands.[61] The Society developed the youth network CYFA and Pathfinders and also co-ordinated the work of Diocesan Evangelical Unions/Fellowships.[62] The Society holds an annual conference and other occasional meetings.[63][64] The Society is run by an elected council[65] (voted by its members annually). As of 2014 the President of the Society was Viscount Brentford, and the Director was Revd Lee Gatiss.[66][67][68] After previously being located in central London, the Society's headquarters moved to Dean Wace House, Watford, UK.


  1. ^ Church Society Charity Commission entry
  2. ^ "National Church League
  3. ^ Lambeth Palace Library website entry
  4. ^ The central records of the Church of England: a report and survey ed. C. J. Kitching, Church of England, Pilgrim Trust (Great Britain) - 1976 - "1950 by merger of Church Association (f. 1865) and National Church League (f. 1906). NCL was an amalgamation of National Protestant Church Union (f. 1893) and Church of England League (f. 1904, formerly Ladies' League 1899)."
  5. ^ Church Society Family Tree
  6. ^ Churchman Back articles vol 1
  7. ^ Churchman Editorial Board
  8. ^ Latimer Fellowship, Christchurch, New Zealand reference
  9. ^ Protestant Association
  10. ^ Richard Hobson of Liverpool's account of the founding of the Church Association
  11. ^ "Church Association Report"
  12. ^ "Church Association Tracts"
  13. ^ J. C. Ryle Church Association address
  14. ^ a b J. C. Whisenant, A Fragile Unity - Anti-Ritualism and the Division of Anglican Evangelicalism in the Nineteenth Century (Paternoster Press, 2003) p8
  15. ^ Church Association Tract 259, p3
  16. ^ William Joynson Hicks webpage with NCL annual report reference
  17. ^ "William Joynson-Hicks : On the doctrine of the proposed 1928 Prayer Book
  18. ^ Hansard 1803-2005: contributions in Parliament by William Joynson-Hicks: Prayer Book Measure, 1928
  19. ^ CBRP change to Vine Books referred to in Churchman Editorial, issue 4, 1976
  20. ^ CBRP titles referenced in
  21. ^ Open Library entry for CBRP
  22. ^ Church Society website
  23. ^ Memorandum
  24. ^ Press Releases
  25. ^ Church Society's Legal Action over women priests
  26. ^ Sunday Telegraph quote, 17 November 2012
  27. ^ BBC News, 20 November 2012. 'Church Society welcomes vote against women bishops.'
  28. ^ Together 4ward website - About
  29. ^ Channel 4 News website, 22 November 2012. 'Why I support the vote against women bishops.' By Pete Myers
  30. ^ ITV News website, 21 November 2012. 'No' campaign group pleased with Synod's decision.'
  31. ^ BBC News website, 19 June 2006. 'Anglican split has become necessary.'
  32. ^ Daily Telegraph article, 18 October 2002. 'Church Society pledges 'direct action' against Dr Williams.'
  33. ^ Evangelicals Now, September 2008. 'Rowan William's' teaching on sexuality.'
  34. ^ Thinking Anglicans website reference
  35. ^ Virtueonline article, April 2004.
  36. ^ Keep Marriage Special 2012 - Church Society website entry
  37. ^ The Guardian article, 23 June 2012. 'Argument for gay marriage would also legalise incest and polygamy, claim bishops and MPs'
  38. ^ Chairman of Keep Marriage Special quoted in The Daily Telegraph, 24 August 2012
  39. ^ Reform website - what we do
  40. ^ Joint Press Release with Reform and FWS 2005
  41. ^ Church Society Conference talk (audio via The Theologian website)
  42. ^ Churchman article on the Alpha Course cited in the Banner of Truth magazine
  43. ^ Church Society issues: Holy Spirit / Liberalism
  44. ^ Church Society Trust webpage
  45. ^ British History Online reference (under 'advowson')
  46. ^ St John the Baptist, Hartford
  47. ^ Christ Church Dusseldorf website
  48. ^ Church Society Trust patronage list
  49. ^ Churchman webpage
  50. ^ Churchman article used and cited in Creation Ministries International article
  51. ^ Cross†Way webpage
  52. ^ Church of England Newspaper article July 2011
  53. ^ entry
  54. ^ entry
  55. ^ J.I. Packer Preface (Anglican Church League, Australia - reference)
  56. ^ Anglican Church League, Australia - reference
  57. ^ Evangelicals Now review, December 2010
  58. ^ The Gospel Coalition review, April 2012
  59. ^ A. C. T. children's charity entry
  60. ^ Mumsnet reference
  61. ^ Charity Commission entry for Church Society funds and properties
  62. ^ Church Society history webpage
  63. ^ Evangelical Times report, October 2011
  64. ^ Church Society Conference talk (audio via The Theologian website)
  65. ^ Church Society organization
  66. ^ Lee Gatiss Commissioning Report Evangelical Times
  67. ^ - Lee Gatiss reference as Director of Church Society
  68. ^ Crossway Books - Lee Gatiss reference as Director of Church Society