RepositoryChurch of England Record Centre
LevelFonds
Order NoCES
Extent35 boxes
TitleThe Christian Evidence Society
Date1824-2005 [gaps]
DescriptionThe Christian Evidence Society archive consists of minute books from their board and committee meetings; annual reports; financial records; membership records; lecture and conference records; correspondence files; society publications and publications collected by the society, many about other religions; press cuttings about the activities of the Christian Evidence Society and the religious debates in general and photographs of the society's activities and members, as well as some lithograph blocks. There are also several artefacts, including cufflinks, badges and a framed certificate.
AppraisalTo be kept permanently
AccrualsExpected
ArrangementThe archive is arranged into 27 series, which reflect their functions and activities.
AccessConditionsTo view this material, please book a table at the Church of England Record Centre, providing the OrderNo of the documents you wish to see. Further details concerning booking and opening hours can be obtained at http://www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/cerc
LanguageEnglish
FindingAidsNone
PhysicalDescriptionMostly volumes, paper and photographs.
CreatorNameThe Christian Evidence Society (1870-present)
AdminHistoryThe Christian Evidence Society (CES) is an ecumenical society established in 1870 to explain some of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. It was founded by Archbishop Tait, members of the Church of England and other Christian bodies with the aim of tackling and combatting unbelief and secularism in many directions. The society wanted to present the case for Christianity to as wide an audience as possible and deal with the large portion of civil society who belonged to no religious body or were indifferent to religion. They wanted to address those who had doubts about Christianity and refute the arguments of those who denied the existence of God. They also studied the propaganda of atheist, secular and other religious bodies to be able to effectively counter them.

From the beginning the society used contemporary forms of communication to get their message across including: open air lectures; classes; publishing books and tracts; giving lectures in schoolrooms, halls and Church institutions; sermons in churches and in later years developing their website. At first, the society organized lectures aimed at educated classes but then moved onto open-air preaching, something not in the original plans of the society. These open-air lectures became one of the society's main activities aimed at reaching the working classes and countering the activities of the outdoor secularist lecturers. Also during the Second World War the Christian Evidence Society also played a role in supporting the chaplains of the armed forces by supplying them with materials for their services and putting them in touch with Prisoners of War who had no access to chaplains.

Outdoor work ceased in 1976 as it was becoming more and more difficult to find speakers and pay them for their work. They were replaced by midday lectures at St. Margaret Pattens Church in the City of London, but finance became a major issues for the society and in the 1960s and 1970s their activities declined as a result.

In 1981, the trustees held a meeting to decide if there was any future for the society at all. Their only activity at this time was arranging and disseminating their annual Drawbridge Lectures. It was decided to keep the society going and plans were put forward for future activities. One of which was making the Drawbridge Lectures more of a public event by moving them from churches to either Kings College London or St. Paul's Cathedral. Popular figures were sought to speak at these lectures, and in 1984 Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke to a large audience at St. Paul's Cathedral. In the 1990s lectures were given outside London for the first time, in Leeds and Bristol. But by 1996 with audience numbers dwindling, no more Drawbridge Lectures were planned as they were not financially viable. There was an attempt to replace them with a Drawbridge Dinner, aimed at engaging with politicians, but this proved to be a one-off when it happened in 1996.

In 1988 the Cumberland Lodge Conferences were launched which gained the society a lot of media attention as the first was on the influence of soap operas and attracted a wide range of recognisable, high profile participants. In 1992 a second conference was held entitled 'The Reawakening of Religion?'. The results of both were disappointing to the society so no more were organised.

The society was active in publishing their works throughout their existence, and continued publishing pamphlets and booklets into the 1980s and 1990s. These were sold for a small fee, but demand was greater for free publications so the society produced smaller pamphlets and distributed them for free which proved very successful, although was costly. The society continues to publish books and pamphlets and makes some of them available on their website.

In 1995, the society began a new venture by sponsoring a programme on London Christian radio station Premier Radio. The programme had guest speakers answering phone-in enquiries. These programmes were made available on tape by the CES for other radio stations to play and for those outside the London area to listen to. CES booklets also began being promoted on the radio. Along with the society website, launched in 2001 these two activities were fulfilling the objectives of the society.

CES also began giving grants to Christian organisations via their grants committee. Works they fund have to be seen as advancing the stated objects of the CES. The society has had no ordinary members since the 1980 so does not receive any subscriptions. Their main income now is from investments and sale of their publications.

The main activities of the society now are continuing programmes with Premier Radio, publishing pamphlets and articles which present evidence for the Christian faith and developing the website. They also fund and support initiatives which promote the Christian faith and are a source of referece for groups and organisation that provide more detailed information about Christianity.
CustodialHistoryHeld with the society until deposited with the Church of England Record Centre.
AcquisitionDeposited by the Christian Evidence Society c.1985 and in October 2007.
PublnNoteThe above administrative history of the society was compiled with reference to: GANN, J. W. Rev., 'The Christian Evidence Society: A History' (2005); HUELIN, G. 'The Christian Evidence Society from 1870 to 1973' (1983); Church of England Year Book, 1883, 1947.

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CodeNameDates
1130Christian Evidence Society; 1870-1870-
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