The Labour Church: The Movement & Its Message, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Labour Church

The Movement & Its Message, 1st Edition

By Neil Johnson


234 pages

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pub: 2017-10-10
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This book aims to unpack the core message of the Labour Church and question the accepted views of the movement by pursuing an alternative way of analysing its history, significance and meaning. The religious influences on late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century British Socialism are examined and placed within a wider context, highlighting a continuing theological imperative for the British Labour movement.

The book argues that the most distinctive feature of the Labour Church was Theological Socialism. For its founder, John Trevor, Theological Socialism was the literal Religion of Socialism, a post-Christian prophecy announcing the dawn of a new utopian era explained in terms of the Kingdom of God on earth; for members of the Labour Church, who are referred to as Theological Socialists, Theological Socialism was an inclusive message about God working through the Labour movement.

Challenging the historiography and reappraising the political significance of the Labour Church, this book will be of interest to students and scholars researching the intersection between religion and politics, as well as radical left history and politics more generally.


'I mistakenly began Johnson’s book expecting it would be a general history of this duality in the journey of the party – however, the first half is a detailed account of a small forgotten by-way off the main highway - one which I found fascinating…Johnson’s book is both a tribute to Trevor, an interesting account of his life and work and an analysis of the continuing interweaving strands of faith and political struggle.'

Linda Shampan,Labour Heritage Bulletin, Autumn 2018.

Table of Contents


1. The Religions of Socialism: Answering the Labour Question

2. John Trevor: Prophet of Theological Socialism

3. Theological Socialism: Gospel of the Labour Church

4. The Theological Socialists: Labour Church Disciples

5. Forgotten Histories of the Labour Church (post-1914)

6. Conclusion

Appendix 1 - a written reconstruction of the first Labour Church service

Appendix 2 - D. F. Summers' reconstruction of a Labour Church service

About the Author

Neil Johnson was born and raised in the North East of England; for the past 20 years he has lived with his family in Birmingham where he serves as a Methodist minister. He was awarded his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2015, having been supervised through his research on the Labour Church movement by Professor Hugh McLeod. In 2017, he became an Honorary Research Fellow of the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics

The series Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics has two areas of interest. Firstly, this series aims to publish books which focus on the history of movements of the radical left. ‘Movement of the radical left’ is here interpreted in its broadest sense as encompassing those past movements for radical change which operated in the mainstream political arena as with political parties, and past movements for change which operated more outside the mainstream as with millenarian movements, anarchist groups, utopian socialist communities, and trade unions. Secondly, this series aims to publish books which focus on more contemporary expressions of radical left-wing politics. Recent years have been witness to the emergence of a multitude of new radical movements adept at getting their voices in the public sphere. From those participating in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, community unionism, social media forums, independent media outlets, local voluntary organisations campaigning for progressive change, and so on, it seems to be the case that innovative networks of radicalism are being constructed in civil society that operate in different public forms.  

The series very much welcomes titles with a British focus, but is not limited to any particular national context or region. The series will encourage scholars who contribute to this series to draw on perspectives and insights from other disciplines.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Communism & Socialism
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Labor & Industrial Relations
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Radicalism
RELIGION / Christian Life / Social Issues
RELIGION / Christian Church / History