History of Christianity in England - 19th Century and After - 1914 – 1970

1914 – 1970

The current form of military chaplain dates from the era of the First World War. A chaplain provides spiritual and pastoral support for service personnel, including the conduct of religious services at sea or in the field. The Army Chaplains Department was granted the prefix "Royal" in recognition of the chaplains' wartime service. The Chaplain General of the British Army was Bishop John Taylor Smith who held the post from 1901 to 1925.

An attempt to revise the Book of Common Prayer in 1928 was nullified by opposition in the House of Commons.

During World War II the head of Chaplaincy in the British Army was an (Anglican) Chaplain-General, (a Major-General), who was formally under the control of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State. An Assistant Chaplain-General was a Chaplain 1st class (full Colonel) and a senior Chaplain was a Chaplain 2nd class (Lieutenant Colonel).

A movement towards unification with the Methodist Church in the 1960s failed to pass through all the required stages on the Anglican side, being rejected by the General Synod in 1972. This was initiated by the Methodists and welcomed on the part of the Anglicans but full agreement on all points could not be reached. However, conversations and co-operation continued, leading on 1 November 2003 to the signing of a covenant between the two churches.

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