2014 Scott Holland Lectures: “Going to War? Exploring Conflict in a Europe of Nations”

In Partnership with the Westminster Abbey Institute, the Scott Holland Trust is delighted to invite you to join us on:

Saturday 4 October 2014, 9.30 am to 3.00 pm, in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey to our Academic Symposium: Going to War? Exploring Conflict in a Europe of Nations

The event will be repeated in Brussels on Saturday 11 October 2014, 10.00am – 4.00pm. Click here for more details.

This symposium will have three inputs, allowing time for short comments and questions between each of them.  A more extended discussion will take place at the end. Please do get in touch if you are interested in taking part in the day. Places can be booked by emailing:


(Please note that the symposium will be repeated in the Chapel of the Resurrection, Brussels the following week with some changes to the timetable and participants.) 


Professor emeritus Hugh McLeod from the University of Birmingham will examine the roots of conflict in nineteenth century nationalism;
Professor John Wolffe from the Open University will speak about commemorating the dead in World War One;
Professor emeritus Grace Davie from the University of Exeter will examine the role of the military chaplain in World War One and more recent conflicts
Vernon White will chair the symposium,
The former Bishop of Europe Geoffrey Rowell will welcome and introduce the day.


9.30-10 gather and coffee (+Geoffrey Rowell)

10-10.45 first lecture; 10.45-11.00 questions (Prof. Hugh McLeod)

11.00-11.45 second lecture; 11.45-12.00 questions (Prof. John Wolffe)

12.00-13.00 lunch

13.00-13.45 third lecture; 13.45-14.00 questions (Prof. Grace Davie)

14.00-14.45 plenary discussion (all participants)

15.00 evensong/depart

Hugh McLeod: Christianity and Nationalism in Nineteenth Century Europe

Nationalism ranks alongside liberalism, conservatism and socialism as one of the most influential ideologies of 19th century Europe. This nationalism took three different, though overlapping forms. There was the nationalism ‘from below’ of the subject nationalities within the multi-national empires which ruled large parts of Europe. There was the nationalism ‘from above’ propagated by the state, especially through the systems of compulsory schooling that were being instituted in most parts of the continent. And there was the drive towards unification in the fragmented states of Germany and Italy. But the ‘imagined community’ (famously defined by Benedict Anderson) could not be created out of nothing. It built upon previously existing identities. And though nineteenth century nationalism is often seen as essentially secular, the most powerful of these identities were frequently religious. Indeed the clergy often played a major role in nationalist organisations and in promoting a national consciousness.

This lecture will explore how nationalism and Christianity came to be intertwined in nineteenth century Europe. National identities were to an important degree defined by reference to specific Christian traditions, their history, their forms of worship, and their heroic figures. At the same time nationalism often came to be seen as an integral part of Christianity. Readiness to die for the Motherland was presented as a Christian duty and, in particular, Christian preachers of this era were strongly influenced by the concept of a God-given national mission, which justified nationalist claims and might sometimes justify war.

John Wolffe: ‘Martyrs as Really as St Stephen was a Martyr?’ Commemorating the Dead of World War One

The title of this lecture comes from a sermon by the Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington-Ingram, preached early in the First World War, reflecting a widespread clerical impulse to frame the memory of the war dead in a Christian context. It will be at the outset contrasted with influential secular nationalist constructions of their sacrifice by Laurence Binyon and others. The main focus of the lecture will, however, be on the steps taken to commemorate the dead in the later stages of the war and its immediate aftermath, especially the circumstances leading to the interment of an Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day 1920, and controversies over the design of cemeteries and headstones that loomed large in the early history of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. It will be shown how in the face of significant pressure for secular forms of commemoration, church leaders were successful in securing significant compromises, but in so doing engendered an enduring ambiguity between Christianity and nationalism.

Grace Davie: The military Chaplain: An Inherently Ambiguous Role

This lecture will explore a different sort of ambiguity: that inherent in the role of the military chaplain. It will do this in three ways. The first relates to the extent of religiousness among those serving in World War One, a discussion that reflects in turn broader and at times conflicting narratives about the process of secularization and the place of war in this. The second considers the role of the chaplain in terms of the two institutions which he or she serves. As David Martin writes: the military chaplain is ‘doubly commissioned by Church and State’ (1997:149). It follows that the ‘angle of eschatological tension’ in which a chaplain stands is particularly sharp. There is an inevitable friction between total obedience to the military and proper obedience to God. This is related to a third point: the tension between the pastoral and prophetic role. Chaplains are there to serve people in the circumstances in which they are caught up, including armed conflict. Few would dispute this. The question of ‘morale’ (itself related to ‘moral’) is rather more intractable. If chaplains are enjoined or feel called to sustain morale, are they effectively participating in the military effort – in the sense that they are enhancing the capacity of a unit that sooner or later will be involved in the use of lethal force?

2017 Lectures: AST at the Mirfield Centre

The 2017 Scott Holland Lectures were organised by the Revd Dr Stephen Spencer and took place at the Mirfield Centre. The event was a sell-out residential conference on Anglican Social Theology (AST) from 20th to 21st January. Participants came from across the country including Truro, London, Gloucester and Durham. The speakers told the story of AST from its Nineteenth century roots in the thought and action of F.D Maurice and the Christian Socialists, through Brooke Foss Westcott and Mirfield’s own Charles Gore, to William Temple and his successors. Jeremy Morris, Alison Milbank, Paul Avis and Stephen Spencer told this story and responded to each other’s papers, building up a sense of ongoing conversation through the conference. Malcolm Brown, Susan Lucas and Matthew Bullimore brought us into the present, paying attention to our neo-liberal context and drawing out the contribution of the movement’s ‘coalition communitarianism’ (Brown) to our increasingly atomistic society at local as well as national level. The lectures by Morris, Avis, Spencer and Brown comprised the Scott Holland lectures, forming the backbone of the conference. Bill Jacob, the chair of the Scott Holland Trust, described the lectures as thoroughly engaging and the organisation of the conference as a brilliant success. Thanks are due to the Mirfield Centre for much of this. Stephen Spencer, Vice Principal of St Hilda College based at Mirfield and conference convenor, will be turning the papers into a book to be published by SCM Press in the autumn.