The Churches at the Cross-Roads

Keith Robbins considers the plurality of the Edwardian church, its relations with the state, and its responses to social change.

Congratulating Cosmo Gordon Lang in 1909 on his appointment to the see of York, Lord Curzon stated that he took great pleasure, as the years advanced, in seeing his friends inhabiting 'spacious places'. But, even with a Scottish minister's son installed at Bishopthorpe, all was not right with the world. Most observers thought that the future of the churches would depend more upon those who inhabited slums or suburbs than upon those who inhabited spacious places. It was even suggested, as if it had not been suggested before, that the churches were in a crisis. There was so much emphasis upon the 'new' as the century opened that the survival of such venerable institutions seemed in jeopardy. While they had, after a fashion, surmounted the intellectual and organisational challenges of the nineteenth century, the death of Queen Victoria seemed to end an era in a more than conventional sense. It could hardly be claimed that King Edward set the highest example of piety. One Liverpool minister even went so far as to accuse him publicly of licentiousness. Certainly, there was a new tone at Court which caused consternation, discreetly, in episcopal palaces.

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