Seminar in Dissenting Studies


The Lecture Hall

Dr Williams’s Library, 14 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0AR.

All are welcome.
Wednesday 11 March 2015 
5.15 to 6.45 pm

Fleur Houston (Macclesfield)
‘John Wood Oman, the Prophet of Westminster’

In 1907, John Oman (1860–1939) left his charge at Clayport church, Alnwick, to take up the chair of Theology at Westminster College, the training college for ministers of the Presbyterian Church of England, in Cambridge. In 1922 he was called to be Principal. These years were of particular significance for the Presbyterian Church and the College, and for Oman himself. In 1913 the removal of religious tests for degrees in Divinity gave the College a new status within the University; the intellectual calibre of the Senatus was quickly recognised and that year Oman was the first non-conformist to be appointed to give the University Stanton lectures in philosophy of religion. This paper will argue that up to that date Oman’s thinking was formed by his early years in Orkney and in Edinburgh and his theological education in the United Presbyterian Church.

But the outbreak of War in 1914 dispersed the students, taking Oman to the Front with the YMCA, and then to Birmingham with a remnant of the college community. This severely tested his theological scheme, and in his writing during this period there is a fresh emphasis and a new urgency. His contribution to post-war regeneration was significant and several generations of students were said to be deeply changed by their time at Westminster. The paper will finally attempt to assess the originality of Oman’s work.

 Fleur Houston is a minister of the United Reformed Church. Her book You Shall Love the Stranger as Yourself: The Bible, Refugees and Asylum will be published by Routledge on 25 May 2015. Her earlier publications include ‘John Oman “Thralled to Truth”’, in John Oman: New Perspectives, ed. by Adam Hood (2012), 64-75, and ‘“In the Open Country of Action and Enquiry”: John Oman and the Great War’, in The Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society, 9: 1 (2012), 22-42; and forthcoming work includes an article entitled ‘A visit to the prisons of the Ruhr and the Rhineland – an exercise in Church diplomacy’.

 For more information about the Seminar in Dissenting Studies contact James Vigus ( or see

Anne Page

Anne Dunan-Page is Professor of early modern British studies at Aix-Marseille University

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