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Lidgett, Dr John Scott, CH
1854-1953; e.m. 1876

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WM minister, born in Lewisham on 10 August 1854, the nephew of Sir, P.W. Bunting. The Lidgett family was closely connected to a number of leading Wesleyan families, such as the Buntings, Budgetts, Chubbs, Hooles, and McDougalls, and he was named after his maternal grandfather, John Scott, whose educational concerns he inherited.

Graduating from London University (BA in 1874, MA in 1875) he was accepted for the WM ministry in 1876, being sent into circuit with no ministerial training. While serving in the Cambridge Circuit he became acutely aware of the gulf between rich and poor and the evils of poverty, bad housing and unemployment. Encouraged and supported by William F. Moulton, he established the Bermondsey Settlement, where he was Warden from 1892 to 1949. He was appointed to the Committee of Privileges in 1894 and to the Legal Hundred in 1902.From 1909 to 1949 he was Chairman of the Third London (later, London South-East) District, relinquishing the post only with great reluctance. His numerous church and civic offices included being President of the WM Conference 1908, Superintendent of the South London Mission 1909-1918 and 1942-1943, President of the first Methodist Conference after the 1932 Union and leader of the Progressive Party on the London County Council 1918-1928. He was a member of the Convocation of London University from 1875 and of the Senate 1922-1946, and Vice-Chancellor 1930-1932. He supported the development of women's colleges and teacher training colleges within the university. His involvement in ecumenical affairs brought him into close contact with Archbishop Randall Davidson.

Sometimes described as 'the greatest Methodist since Wesley', and by Rupert E. Davies as 'the William Temple of Methodism', he was made a Companion of Honour in recognition of his work in Bermondsey and towards Methodist Union. He was editor of the Methodist Times 1907-1918 and in 1911 became editor of the Contemporary Review.

F.D. Maurice was prominent among those who influenced his theology and in 1934 he gave the Maurice Lectures on The Victorian Transformation of Theology. Notable among his other theological works were his Fernley Lecture on The Spiritual Principles of the Atonement (1897), which was censured by the President of the Conference as heretical, and The Fatherhood of God (1902). In 1938 he published his ideas on the social aspects of Christianity in The Idea of God and Social Ideals.He also wrote commentaries on Ephesians, God in Christ Jesus (1915) and Hebrews, Sonship and Salvation (1921), and two autobiographical works, Reminiscences (1928) and My Guided Life (1936). He died at Epsom on 16 June 1953. His name is commemorated in Scott Lidgett Crescent, close to where the Bermondsey Settlement stood.

Scott Lidgett through his extended family was related to some of the leading nineteenth century Wesleyan families. His uncle, Gergel Lidgett (1831-1907), a local preacher, married John Scott’s daughter, Sarah Ann (1830-1897); he was the chairman of the General Shipowners’ Society and Lloyds Insurance Company, as well as a director of the Star Life Assurance. Ellen May Lidgett (1858-1952), an aunt, married Sir John McDougall of the Flour Milling Company. Another aunt, Ann Jacob Lidgett (1839-1936) is thought to have married the son of Samuel Budgett (1794-1851), a prosperous Bristol wholesale merchant. The architect Elijah Hoole Jun (1837-1912), son of the Rev. Elijah Hoole, married the youngest aunt Judith (1845-1932).

Quotations

'Dr. Lidgett's sense of humour is so ready and quick that I asked him how it was that at eighty-seven he was so alert. He replied that it was largely because he did not worry or get into arrears with his work. "Never get into arrears with your letters," he added, "and always keep a quiet mind."

Agnes E. Slack, People I Have Met and Places I Have Seen (1941) pp.109-10

'Lidgett undoubtedly remained "in the active work" for too long, so that he had to be prized out of the Chair of the London South District in 1948. He could be exasperating and unpredictable, and it was not always easy to determine whether he would appear in debate on the reactionary or the radical side. In 1942 he spoke in favour of dancing on Methodist premises to the distress of the narrower evangelicals. What were beyond doubt were his theological integrity, his versatility of achievement and his courage to speak for what he believed to be right. Flew in conversation would contrast him with the other great veteran of the early years of the united Church, Fredereick Luke Wiseman, musician, popular evangelist and churchman too. Wiseman was magnanimous and generous to excess, but if he had pledged himself to support a line in debate, he would sometimes say to a younger speaker on the same side, "You have done so well, there is no need for me to say anything." Lidgett, on the other hand, would never withdraw, but always strike some of his hammer blows in reinforcement.'

G.S. Wakefield, Robert Newton Flew (1971) pp.169-70

Sources

  • Conference Handbook, 1932
  • Methodist Recorder, 11 June 1936, 25 June 1953
  • Rupert E. Davies (ed.), John Scott Lidgett: a Symposium (1957)
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4, 'Documents and Source Material' (1988), pp.644-5
  • John D. Beasley, The Bitter Cry Heard and Heeded (1989)
  • John Munsey Turner, in Trevor A. Hart (ed.), Dictionary of Historical Theology (2002)
  • A. Turberfield, John Scott Lidgett, Archbishop of British Methodism? (Peterborough, 2003)
  • David M. Chapman, In search of the Catholic Spirit (Peterborough, 2004), pp.92-97
  • Brian Frost, with Stuart Jordan, Pioneers of Social Passion (Peterborough, 2006)

Entry written by: JDB
Category: Person

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