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Doctor of Souls:

Leslie Dixon Weatherhead 1893–1976

By John C. Travell

Doctor of Souls

Doctor of Souls:

Leslie Dixon Weatherhead 1893–1976

By John C. Travell

The full-length biography of the Methodist minister and author Leslie Dixon Weatherhead, exploring his life and the context in which he wrote and preached.

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Print Hardback

ISBN: 9780718829919

Specifications: 234x156mm (9.21x6.14in), 320pp

Illustrations: b&w photos

Published: April 1999


Print Paperback

ISBN: 9780718830045

Specifications: 234x156mm (9.21x6.14in), 320pp

Illustrations: b&w photos

Published: January 2000


During the period after the Second World War, in which English Protestant non-conformity declined rapidly, a handful of exceptional names stand out, and one of the most remarkable was that of the Methodist minister Leslie Dixon Weatherhead.

Both through his ministry at the City Temple, in the heart of London, and more generally through the massive sales of his books, Dr Weatherhead became a dominant figure, with an influence far beyond the British Isles. That the City Temple, a Congregationalist church, was widely seen at the time as the greatest English Free Church pulpit, ensured him a wide audience, while the quality of his preaching, combining emotional and intellectual power, wit and eloquence, won him admirers among all the churches, and led to offers from a number of American and Canadian universities and congregations, as well as numerous honorary degrees from British and American universities. Despite his Congregationalist call, he remained a Methodist minister, and indeed became President of the Methodist Conference.

Perhaps even more important was that he was one of the earliest to recognise the value of the applications for the clergy of the insights of Freud and Jung. His seventy-odd publications, of which The Christian Agnostic and Psychology, Religion and Healing were the most influential, bring out not only the theological liberalism that made him suspect in some circles, but also his understanding of the value of healing and of psychological insights. The result was that his 'lay theology' had a vast following.

Although three other books have appeared about Weatherhead since his death, John Travell's explores all aspects of his life and portrays his historical, religious and theological context in greater depth.

Foreword by Colin Morris
Preface and Acknowledgements

1. Background and Early Influences
2. India and War
3. Return to India 1919
4. Manchester 1922–1925
5. Leeds
6. The Mastery of Sex
7. Weatherhead's Christology: The Oxford Groups
8. Speaking, Writing, Broadcasting
9. From Leeds to London
10. The City Temple
11. The Approach of War
12. The Impact of War
13. St. Sepulchre's
14. On Being a Minister
15. The Final Years of War
16. The Immediate Post-War Years
17. Plans for Rebuilding: Debate, Delays and Frustration
18. Travel Abroad
19. Psychology, Religion and Healing
20. Rebuilding: Thanks to Rockefeller
21. President of the Methodist Conference
22. The City Temple Re-Opens
23. Into Retirement
24. Bexhill
25. The Christian Agnostic
26. The Last Years
27. Envoi
28. Conclusion


Rev Dr John Travell was born in 1930 and bought up in the Methodist National Children's Home, and became a printer. He met his wife at the City Temple during Weatherhead's ministry there. He became a Congregationalist minister in 1966, and was Officer for World Mission for the Congregational Fellowship and has been Co-Chairman of the International Congregationalist Fellowship. The present work is based on his PhD thesis for Sheffield University.

... Offers both committed Christians and religious enquirers inspiration and encouragement. It is a very readable yet scholarly work. John Travell is uniquely equipped to provide fascinating insights into this great nonconformist's life and work. He not only arouses our admiration for this great Christian pastor and preacher but helps us to recognise his humanity. Dr Travel's assessment is balanced and perceptive. His personal involvement doe not cloud his judgement, though it adds warmth and colour to his biography. This book deserves a prominent position on your selves. Margaret Hulmes
Not the first biography of Leslie Weatherhead, but it will certainly be seen as one of the most important. The one, perhaps, that Weatherhead would have wanted to be written. John Travell has done extensive research, obtaining information and insights from a variety of other reliable sources. It contains perceptive pictures of the humanity of the man. John Travell's book traces the development of Weatherhead's thoughts and insights. It presents it in a highly readable form. Doctor of Souls seems set to become a standard. Fellowship and The Congregationalist
Excellent brings out well the character of the man and his achievements. This definitive biography well produced and illustrated. I warmly commend this book, not just to those of my generation who knew of, the man, but to all who are interested in where we have come from and what we may learn from our past. Methodist Recorder
A fascinating biography of a man who possessed great gifts. The many excerpts from Weatherhead's sermons and letters give striking examples of the force of his preaching and clarity of mind and how he dealt with the issues of the day. The biography is a pleasure to read. The text flows with clarity. Rev. John Dunn, in English Churchman
Interesting and well researched William Key, in Joy
A thoroughly researched biography The War Cry
This remarkable story is well told by Travell. The author's indebtedness to his subject is clear on every page. It adds warmth and colour to the telling of this remarkable tale. Church Times
An excellent and exhaustive study, expounding almost everything Weatherhead said or wrote. We must be grateful for this thoroughgoing study. Gordon Wakefield, in The Christian Parapsychologist
A distinguished piece of work. This is the scholarly, definitive, comprehensive biography that Leslie deserved. Written from within the church and from first-hand knowledge and experience of all the areas and disciplines in which Leslie excelled. Superb literary style has not only encompassed and documented the period of Leslie's life and ministry but has portrayed the subject's personality and shown us what made him 'tick'. Rev. Dr. A. Leonard Griffth
This is essential reading for anyone interested in Weatherhead or in preaching. Reform
... this informed, very detailed, and scholarly biography. ... I commend the reading of Doctor of Souls to any minister desiring to refresh and renew his pastoral attitudes, and seeking new inspiration for effective ministry. It is great reading for any Christian wanting to read the details of a life spent in ministry during the most crucial years of the 20th century. John H. Alexander, in The Congregationalist (USA)
... meticulously researched and comprehensive. An easily grasped overview of the ecclesiastical terrain in the early decades of this century. Presbyterian Herald
Leslie Weatherhead was one of the greatest Methodist ministers and Free Churchmen of the twentieth century, indeed of all time. Travell's new life and times represents a long overdue renaissance in Weatherhead studies. A particularly useful and very prominent feature is a summary of each of Weatherhead's principal books as they were published and of the judgements on them of the reviewers. Clive D. Field, in The Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society
John Travell's book will be treasured by many and he has our congratulations and gratitude for such a labour of love. Maurice Kidd, in Way of Life
In a lucid and easy style the author sets Weatherhead's pioneering and often controversial work in its context. This excellent book will not only challenge preachers, but will encourage all who struggle to re-interpret the Christian faith for people today. Malcolm Hickox, in Magnet