A History of the Moot
The Moot was a private discussion group with a membership of Christian laymen, clergy and intellectuals. Its influence was reliant upon the membership it attracted. The Origins of the Moot lay in the1937 Oxford International Conference on 'Church, Community and State' and the Council of the Christian Faith and Common Life.
The members met for residential weekend discussions from 1938-1947. They met for a total of twenty-four times during this period. The Moot had its most active period from 1938-1944. During these years it was usual for the Moot to meet between two and four times each year.
The Moot was convened by J.H. Oldham (1874-1969) in order to consider post war social reconstruction within a Christian framework. It was composed of eminent philosophers and intellectuals such as T.S. Eliot, Karl Mannheim, R.H. Tawney and Sir Fred Clarke. Membership overlapped with the Council of the Churches on the Christian Faith and the Common Life. Individual members circulated papers for comment by correspondence and for discussion in meetings held three or four times a year. A large proportion of the papers circulated were later published in supplements of the Christian Newsletter. This ecumenical publication was produced under the auspices of the Council of the Churches on the Christian Faith and the Common Life, from October 1939. It was edited by J H Oldham, and subsequently by Dr Kathleen Bliss, with the purpose of bridging the gap between organised religion and the general life of the community.
Education had and important place in the Moot's deliberations with the subject appearing in almost every Moot discussion. It was not however the principal focus of its concerns. It only featured occasionally as the central theme of a meeting. It was the civilising tasks which schools and other social institutions should perform, rather than structural and organisational issues, which featured most frequently in the Moot's discussions of education.
Throughout it existence members discussed the proposal to form "The Order". Had such proposals been successful “The Order” would have taken the form of an organisation, outside the Church, whose purpose it would be to stimulate the creation of a "new Christendom". Whether this organisation was to replace the Moot or to compliment it is unclear.
A minority of members saw the Moot becoming a political organisation, perhaps even the basis of a new political party. This was unpopular with the majority who wanted a membership which could include people from the political left and right. This feeling certainly complies with Oldham’s original wish to stimulate discussion by having members with different opinions. From the outset members found it hard to agree on very much beyond the importance of the issues under discussion. This lack of agreement has been identified as a testimony to the width of opinion among the members and the freedom with which their views were expressed.
Moot ended in 1947. The decision had been encouraged by Oldham himself. He disliked the way many institutions were unwilling to conform to the universal principal of death and rebirth. He saw this as a major handicap in the building of a “New Christendom”. It is doubtless that the decisive factor, in discontinuing the Moot, was the death of Karl Manheim. Manheim had been a central figure in The Moot attending (along with Oldham) every meeting between September 1938 and December 1944.
Find out more about the Moot Papers