Dissent or Conform?: War, Peace and the English Churches 1900-1945

By Alan Wilkinson

A study of how the English churches approached the problems of dissent, conformity and pacifism during the period of the two world wars.

ISBN: 9780718892074


Dissent or Conform examines how churches reacted to, and were affected by, the two world wars. Its underlying theme, however, is how the Church can be a creatively dissenting community, focusing on how easily the church can turn into a conforming community that only encourages the occurrence of uncreative dissenters, the ones who criticize the power without offering solutions which lead to a real change.

Wilkinson opposes this trait of the church, especially given the impact that it has on society as a messenger of the gospel. To this end, the author depicts religious groups during three periods of time: English Nonconformity among the free churches before WWI, pacifists and pacifiers between the two wars and Christianity during WWII, focusing on how church history interacts with the developments in history and society.

This book is of particular interest to social and church historians of the 20th century, and to all interested in the history and ethics of war and pacifism. It will also appeal to those interested in the interaction between church and society.

Additional information

Dimensions 216 × 140 mm
Pages 380

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Alan Wilkinson is an Anglican priest and the former Diocesan Theologian for Portsmouth, as well as the former Chaplain of St Catharine’s College Cambridge and Principal of Chichester Theological College. He has taught previously at the universities of Cambridge, Bristol and Portsmouth and for the Open University, and now lives in Chichester with his wife, Fenella. He is the author of The Church of England and the First World War (reprinted 2014 by the Lutterworth Press), an in-depth exploration of the ambiguous role played by the Anglican Church in the war and the pastoral issues which arose from its unprecedented horrors.


Foreword by Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Part I: The Free Churches and The First World War
1. The Dilemmas of Dissent
2. Dissent and the First World War
3. The Assimilation of Dissent

Part II: Pacifists and Pacifiers Between the Wars
4. Never Again!
5. Christian Pacifism
6. Can Dictators be Pacified?

Part III: English Christianity and the Second Word War
7. The Retreat From Liberal Optimism
8. A Very Different Kind of War
9. War-time Ministries
10. The Costs of Victory

11. Beyond Tragedy?

Additional Bibliography


Endorsements and Reviews

It is notoriously difficult for today’s historians to write about war and their own century without bias, haste, or nostalgia. Yet Alan Wilkinson has managed admirably to do so … It will encourage readers to move away from the encapsulated and often idealized world of ‘church history’ to the study of ‘the church in history’.
Robert Runcie, former Archibishop of Canterbury

It is rare to find a book so historically informative and yet as immediately relevant as this.
The Baptist Times