Social Gospel Movement

From Ohio History Central
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Washington Gladden (1836-1918) was pastor of First Congregational Church in Columbus for 32 years. In 1891, he was a delegate to the international congress of Congregationalists in London. He was also moderator of the Congregational Church in America, helped settle an anthracite coal strike in 1902, and was known as a social reformer.

The Social Gospel Movement was a religious movement that arose during the second half of the nineteenth century. Ministers, especially ones belonging to the Protestant branch of Christianity, began to tie salvation and good works together. They argued that people must emulate the life of Jesus Christ. To honor God, people must put aside their own earthly desires and help other people, especially the needy. The purpose of wealth was not to hoard it but to share it with other, less fortunate people. The ideas that originated from the Social Gospel would heavily influence the Progressive Movement. The Social Gospel Movement also attacked the concept of Social Darwinism.

Followers of the Social Gospel Movement implemented numerous reforms to help other people. One of their most important contributions to society was the creation of settlement houses. Settlement houses provided numerous opportunities for less fortunate people, including access to education, free or low-cost health care, free or low-cost housing, and innumerable other benefits.

Perhaps the leading advocate of the Social Gospel Movement in the United States was Washington Gladden. Beginning in the 1880s, Gladden served as the minister of the First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio. Gladden encouraged his congregants to play an active role in community life by attacking immorality in their fellow citizens and government officials.

See Also


  1. Cashman, Sean. America in the Gilded Age. N.p.: NYU Press, 1993.
  2. Dorn, Jacob H. Washington Gladden: Prophet of the Social Gospel. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 1967.
  3. Painter, Nell Irwin. Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era. N.p.: W.W. Norton, 2008.