William Dwight Porter Bliss

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William Dwight Porter Bliss (1856–1926) was an American Christian Socialist writer, editor, and activist, as well as a pioneer historian of the world socialist movement.

Early life[edit]

William Dwight Porter Bliss was born in Constantinople, Turkey on August 20, 1856,[1] the son of Christian missionaries there. He was educated at Phillips Academy, Andover and the Hartford Theological Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.[2]


Following his graduation in 1882, Bliss was ordained a Congregationalist minister. On June 16, 1886 he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and became a priest on June 8, 1887. He then served at Grace Church in Boston from 1887 until 1890, when he helped organize an inner-city ministry, the Church of the Carpenter, where he served for four years.

During the 1880s, Bliss became interested in the writings of Charles Kingsley and Frederick Denison Maurice, which led him to Christian Socialism, a movement which sought to apply the teachings of Christ to modern social difficulties, caused, they believed, by industrialization and urbanization. In 1889 Rev. Bliss helped organize the first Christian Socialist Society in the United States. He also published and edited The Dawn, the society's official magazine. Rev. Bliss also joined the leftist-leaning Church Social Union, and remained with the Episcopal organization for decades, as well as lectured widely.[3]

Political Career[edit]

In 1887 Bliss ran to become the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts as candidate of the Labor Party, but lost the election. He also worked as an investigator for the Bureau of Labor.

Bliss edited and compiled many publications, as listed below, including the Encyclopædia of Social Reform beginning in 1897.

In 1914, Bliss traveled to Switzerland to work with the YMCA, and served as a pastor and YMCA worker in that country until 1921. During World War I, Bliss ministered to French and Belgian soldiers interned in Switzerland.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

After the War, Rev. Bliss returned to the United States and preached in New York City until his death in that city on October 8, 1926. Bliss is honored together with Richard Theodore Ely with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on October 8.


  • Socialism in the Church of England. Boston: n.p., 1888.
  • What Is Christian Socialism? Boston: Society of Christian Socialists, 1890.[5]
  • The Communism of John Ruskin Boston, 1891[6]
  • What Christian Socialism Is. Boston: Office of the Dawn, 1894.
  • Objections to Christian Socialism. Boston: Office of the Dawn, 1894.
  • The Social Faith of the Catholic Church: Or, the Lesson of Fellowship in Unity: A Sermon for Trinity Sunday. Boston: Office of the Dawn, 1894.
  • What Is Socialism?" Roslindale, MA: The Dawn, 1894.
  • A Handbook of Socialism: A Statement of Socialism in its Various Aspects, and a History of Socialism in All Countries. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895.[7]
  • Arbitration and Conciliation in Industrial Disputes. Boston: Church Social Union, 1895.
  • American Trade Unions. Boston: Church Social Union, 1896.
  • Historical Sketch of Individualist Anarchism (excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Social Reform, 1897)[8]
  • What To Do: A Programme of Christian Socialism. San Francisco: Rembaugh, n.d. [1890s].
  • A Plea for the Union of the Reform Forces with the Democratic Party. New York: Commercial Printing House, n.d. [c. 1900].
  • "What is Done for the Unemployed in European Countries," Bulletin of the Bureau of Labor, no. 76, pp. 741-934.
  • The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform. Co-editor with Rudolph Michael Binder and Edward Page Gaston. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1908.[9]


  1. ^ Patrick W. Carey; Joseph T. Lienhard (1 January 2000). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-0-313-29649-9. 
  2. ^ Paul A. Djupe; Laura R. Olson (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religion and Politics. Infobase Publishing. pp. 49–. ISBN 978-1-4381-3020-0. 
  3. ^ John F. Woolverton, Robert H. Gardiner and the Reunification of Worldwide Christianity in the Progressive Era (Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 2005) pp. 49
  4. ^ http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/bliss-william-dwight-porter
  5. ^ https://archive.org/details/WhatIsChristianSocialism
  6. ^ https://archive.org/details/cu31924002311953
  7. ^ https://archive.org/details/cu31924002310740
  8. ^ http://www.panarchy.org/bliss/individualistanarchism.html
  9. ^ https://archive.org/details/newencyclopedia00blisgoog

See also[edit]

  • Richard B. Dressner, "William Dwight Porter Bliss's Christian Socialism," Church History, vol. 47, no. 1 (March 1978), pp. 66–82. In JSTOR.