Out of the Mouth of Woodbine Willie

“Woodbine Willie” is a strange name for an Anglican priest. The nickname was given to

G. A. Studdert Kennedy (18813 - 1929)

G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883 – 1929)

G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929) by the battered troops of the British forces to whom he ministered in World War I.

The name came from the “Woodbine” cigarettes he gave to the troops. Woodbine Willie grew up among the desperately poor. He had two great passions: the church and social reform. He never winced and, oh, how he was loved by what were then known as “the common people.” He was a fighter for social justice and human rights, but he also advocated civil conversation, what he called “a plane” upon which people of differing views and good conscience would come together to resolve a problem.  Think about the current national debate in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown.

There is, and there must be, a plane upon which we can think and reason together upon questions arising out of our wider human relations, social questions, that is, apart from and above party prejudice and sectional interest. If it is not so, and there is no such plane, and we can not think of these big questions outside the prejudices and passions that arise in party strife, then it is safe to assert that there will never be any solution of the problems whatsoever. The idea that politics in the true sense – that is, the art of managing our human relationships on a large scale – must remain a separate department of life, distinct from morals and religion, is ultimately irrational and absurd, and is an idea with which no  responsible teacher ought to have anything to do. – Sermon, “The Church in Politics: a Defense”

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, Feb. 5, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska will do its best to provide “a plane” for reasonable discussion of the epidemic of gun violence in America. 7:00 – 8:30 PM. Hope and pray that it be an evening where we step back to discuss “the big questions outside the prejudices and passions that arise in party strife.”

4 thoughts on “Out of the Mouth of Woodbine Willie

  1. Indeed, indeed, some things never change. I hope the discussion at Chaska was truly civil. As I said in my last comment, this issue is particularly difficult because so much of it is rooted in emotions, those of sadness and horror AT the violence, and fear OF the violence. (I cannot believe those who want to enjoy hunting think they need assault weapons.) (By the way, neither BJ nor I can grasp enjoying killing. Shooting with a camera, well that’s quite something else. 🙂


  2. Great article Gordon. As you know I have many conservative opinions but a long time ago I surmised that it would be our own inability to have “civil conversations” that would lead to the demise of the United States of America.


    • Chuck, I just spoke this a moment ago while commenting on your comment re: the Second Amendment piece I re-blogged. We need more Woodbine Willies in this world. One of the things I most respect about him was that he seems to have done TWO things well that see as my own calling. He spoke his conscience boldly and clearly, AND he did his best to bring people together on “the plane” for reasoned discussion of critical public issues. Strangely enough, the issue for his time was…would you believe it? Socialism and Capitalism. Some things never change 🙂


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