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.
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)
Appendix 1 - a written reconstruction of the first Labour Church service
Appendix 2 - D. F. Summers' reconstruction of a Labour Church service
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.
'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.