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«by Meegan Elizabeth Griffin A dissertation submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of M. Phil.(B) in The History of Christianity. ...»

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The Ministry of J.H.Jowett at Carrs Lane

Congregational Church,

Birmingham, 1896-1911.


Meegan Elizabeth Griffin

A dissertation submitted to the University of

Birmingham for the degree of M. Phil.(B) in

The History of Christianity.

College of Arts and Law,

University of Birmingham.

May 2012.

University of Birmingham Research Archive

e-theses repository

This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third

parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation.

Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.

Reproduced Frontispiece from John Henry Jowett, C.H., M.A., D.D.

by Arthur Porritt London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1924.


Frontispiece: The Reverend J.H. Jowett, C.H., D.D.

CONTENTS Page Introduction. 1.

1. The Preacher. 7.

2. The Ministry of a Transfigured Church. 19.

3. The Ministry of a Transfigured Home. 32.

4. Temperance: The Abomination of the City. 43.

5. Free Church Unity. 55.

Conclusion. 67.

Notes Conventions.

1. Due to the inconsistent use in all sources of the apostrophe in the spelling of Carr’s or Carrs Lane the Church will be referred to by its modern usage as Carrs Lane throughout.

2. Similarly the Minute Books for the period 1896-1911 at Carrs Lane are all headed as Carrs Lane Church, even though traditionally Congregational Meeting places were referred to as chapels, so all references will be made as Church.


Reference 147, page 44 is made to my M.A. dissertation in West Midlands History, University of Birmingham, 2008, which dealt with the work of the Women’s Total Abstinence Society at Carrs Lane from 1896-1911. Although it was a study of the temperance movement it concerned women’s issues only, and no material is included in ‘Temperance’, Chapter 4 of this study


In nineteenth-century Birmingham, Carrs Lane Congregational Church played an important part in the life of the city. It had achieved prominence through the preaching and works of two of its successive pastors, the Reverend John Angell James serving from 1805 to 1853 and Dr. Robert William Dale 1854 to 1895. They were acknowledged leaders not only of Congregationalism within the Midlands area, but also on the wider and international Nonconformist religious scene. Dr. R.W. Dale became a leading proponent of the civic gospel, which stressed the need for cooperation between religion and civic responsibility.

When he stepped down due to failing health in 1895, the position of leader at Carrs Lane was unquestionably going to be a hard act to follow. The challenge was to be taken up by John Henry Jowett (1864-1923) and this study will examine his ministry at Carrs Lane Congregational Church from 1896 to 1911, and evaluate his time there.

Jowett came to Carrs Lane after a very successful pastorate of six years spent at St.

James’s Congregational Church, Newcastle. His reputation there had spread throughout his own denomination and among the Free Churches. Yet how would he as a young man of thirty-one years be received at Carrs Lane, and how would he adjust to the responsibility of taking on such a large ministerial and prestigious appointment? From Carrs Lane Church Records held at Birmingham Central Library, the period from 1896 to 1911 would appear to have been one of the most important and productive of Jowett’s life. He was not only the leader of Carrs Lane, but also involved in the wider aspect of work within the Congregational Union of England and Wales, as well as supporting the Birmingham Federation of Evangelical Free Churches, and being a representative on the National Council of Evangelical Free Churches. These aspects of his work will be considered in determining how effective he was as a preacher, a pastor in a leading Nonconformist church, and the influence he exerted in the changing world of Nonconformity at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Although a biography was written about Jowett following his death, it was written by Arthur Porritt a personal friend, and so is filled with adulation.1 However, it does provide a useful chronology and helps to place Jowett in a social and cultural setting. Jowett described himself as an Evangelical, but what did this mean? In The Changing Shape of English Nonconformity 1825 -1925, Dale Johnson shows how the theological outlook of evangelicalism changes throughout the nineteenth century to become a more diverse concept than that spurred by the eighteenth-century Evangelical Revival.2 At the beginning of the twentieth century the earlier systematic and logically precise evangelical theology of Calvinism within Nonconformity had changed to such a degree that it allowed for widely varying theological positions, which according to Richard Helmstadter resulted in the breakdown of the Nonconformist Conscience as a way of life.3 So how does Jowett’s selfdescription fit in with this changed situation, what was his theology, and how was his Nonconformist way of life in which he associated conscience with the theory of evangelicalism expressed? David Bebbington has identified four common features within the tradition of evangelicalism which he systematically determines as conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed, crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible, and activism, the expression of the gospel in Porritt, Arthur, John Henry Jowett, C.H. D.D., (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1924).

Johnson, Dale A., The Changing Shape of English Nonconformity, (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Helmstadter, Richard, ‘The Nonconformist Conscience’ in Parsons, Gerald, ed. Religion in Victorian Britain, IV, Interpretations, (Manchester University Press, 1988), p.66.

effort.4 A straightforward analysis of Jowett’s leadership would be to adopt Bebbington’s methodology and equate them with Jowett’s self-view. However, to confine study to this quadrilateral of qualities would not only deny Jowett the element of individualism which set him apart and gave him special recognition on the contemporary scene, but also the extent to which he was involved with an evolving evangelical situation.

Carrs Lane Church records for the period of Jowett’s ministry provide a comprehensive account of the day to day workings and administration of what was a considerable undertaking, comparable to that of running a large successful business. They reveal the autonomous nature of Congregationalism as well as the multi-faceted aspects of church life, and show the practical skills required of a pastor in a large, inner city Congregational Church, and just how exhausting they were. Yet they are an inadequate representation of a minister’s life because they show a non-verbatim record of proceedings, thus failing to reveal personal feelings or beliefs. It is from the sermons he delivered whilst at Carrs Lane that give a better understanding of Jowett’s true nature and work. I propose therefore to use his sermons as a basis for this study, a great many of which fortunately can still be found in print. The church magazine reproduced one in every monthly issue from 1903 and these copies are readily available at the Special Collections Department of Birmingham Central Library as well as at Carrs Lane Church Library. Others were printed as special collections in books, some of which are also still available as hard copies at Libraries but more conveniently now to be found on-line at Internet Archive. His most important addresses to the Congregational Union and the National Council of Evangelical Free Churches are also to be found on-line as well as in their respective published Year Books.

Bebbington, D.W., Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), p.3.

These Year Books are a valuable resource in terms of comparing trends and opinions in Nonconformity which may have influenced Jowett’s approach to the ministry. Newspaper items before 1900 are available on-line and although later coverage in the Birmingham Daily News is available on microfilm at Birmingham Central Library, specific items of interest which might mention Jowett and provide greater insight to his ministry are more difficult to pinpoint.

Whilst this study is focussed on the period of Jowett’s ministry it is significant that whilst Carrs Lane Congregational Church was an Independent church, Jowett’s work cannot be considered in isolation. Nonconformist historians of the period seem generally agreed that church attendance was in decline at the beginning of the twentieth century, a situation of which Jowett as an active member of the Congregational Union would have been well aware.

Yet the membership figures for Carrs Lane show a steady yearly increase whilst he was there, so to what extent could this be attributed to his personal manner, his leadership qualities, or preaching, the so-called ‘Pulpit Prince’ effect? Other churches may have seen their congregations dwindling but James Munson believes that the period from 1890 to 1914 was the hey-day of Nonconformist power and influence.5 Yet how was such power and influence being achieved, was Jowett skilfully using other available Nonconformist resources to enforce his position at Carrs Lane? Munson’s explanation of the cultural influences on Nonconformity provides an indication of the ways and means that were available to Jowett to help achieve this.

In order to understand Jowett’s theological approach Alan Sell’s book Nonconformist Theology in the Twentieth Century is useful as a comprehensive explanation of the different Munson, James, The Nonconformists, (London: SPCK, 1991), p.2.

stances that ministers could take.6 Yet despite the many years of theological college and university training that Jowett received, it will be shown that whilst theologically erudite he did not comment on matters of theological import or indulge in any Biblical criticism. In effect he reduced his theology to a simple faith in the Grace of God, which he wanted to share with everyone. The extent to which Jowett’s theological position influenced his evangelical style of preaching and work ethic is observed in relation to Evangelical Nonconformists as described by David Bebbington in The Nonconformist Conscience and Evangelicalism in Modern Britain.7 Jowett did not compromise his evangelicalism by confusing his interests with his theology, and maintained a separation which becomes evident when looking at his commitment to the Evangelical Free Church movement. His political, social and temperance interests were all nurtured and satisfied by his involvement with the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches. He was a staunch Liberal and maintained an avid interest in politics, but unlike Dr. Dale he never took an active part in the political life of Birmingham. He was deeply concerned with temperance and education issues, as well as standards of preaching, the role of women in the Church and family values. The extent of these interests is particularly noticeable in his sermons and can be put into greater perspective by reference to the study of Free Church Unity by E.K.H. Jordan.8 Under the auspices of Free Church policy Jowett was able to express his own opinions but does not appear to have ever used the pulpit as a political platform.

Sell, Alan,P.F., Nonconformist Theology in the Twentieth Century, (Milton Keynes: Paternoster,2006).

Bebbington, D.W., The Nonconformist Conscience, (Herts.: George Allen and Unwin, 1982), Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, (London and New York: Routledge, 1989).

Jordan, E.K.H., Free Church Unity, (London: Lutterworth Press, 1956).

The evidence from these sources should reveal Jowett’s contribution to Carrs Lane, his capabilities and his individuality. This individuality set him apart from other pastors to a degree that he was invited to a State Dinner at Buckingham Palace by King George V before he left to take up the pastorate of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York in 1911.9 It was an individuality which had also allowed him to become acquainted with political and leading public figures both in England and America, thus widening his position on the wider international scene. This position was undoubtedly due in part to the years of experience he gained whilst ministering in Birmingham at Carrs Lane Congregational Church. This study of Jowett at Carrs Lane from 1896 to 1911 will show a comprehensive understanding of the man and his ministry and establish his place in the history of English Nonconformity.

–  –  –

‘Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, To preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ’ – Ephesians.3.8.

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