The story of Church Society stretches back almost 180 years, to when the rise of ritualism and liberalism in the Church of England put evangelicals under pressure in Victorian Britain. This page explains something of our story, with links to where you can read more.
The short version
The direct forebears of Church Society were Church Association and the National Church League which merged in 1950 to form Church Society. Our forebears were established in the 19th Century to defend the Church of England against ritualistic (Anglo Catholic) teaching which was making inroads into the Church. Much of this campaigning was done through publishing, such as the Church Association Tracts (some of which were written by J.C. Ryle - pictured above), and the journal Churchman (still published today).
In the 20th Century, the Society developed the youth network CYFA and Pathfinders and for many years co-ordinated the work of Diocesan Evangelical Unions/Fellowships. The Society’s publishing work was carried out by Church Bookroom Press.
Most of the great defenders of Protestant Anglicanism in the 19th and 20th centuries were associated with the Society, including Bishop JC Ryle (pictured above), WH Griffith-Thomas, Philip Hughes and Jim Packer.
The original forebear of the Society was the Protestant Association, hence the assertion once made by The Times that we are the ‘senior evangelical body in the Church of England’.
Since the Victorian beginnings of our forerunners we have continued to promote and defend gospel ministry in the Church of England. Today our work is carried out mainly through campaigning, publishing, and patronage.
The longer version
For more depth and detail about our history, read the following published pieces about us.
The First Century of the Churchman – John Wolffe outlines the history of our academic journal
175 Years – David Phillips outlines the history of Church Society’s forebears
Evangelicals, Anglicans and Ritualism in Victorian England – Nigel Scotland traces the history of ritualism in the Church of England and Evangelical opposition to it
William Joynson-Hicks: Man of Principle – David Samuel looks at the first Viscount Brentford and the Church Association laymen who led the opposition in parliament to the Revised Prayer Book of 1928
Image by National Portrait Gallery