John Clifford

John Clifford

John Clifford (1836-1923), Baptist leader. Portrait by John Maler Collier, given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1924.

John Clifford, (born Oct. 16, 1836, Sawley, Derbyshire, Eng.—died Nov. 20, 1923, London) evangelical Baptist minister and social reformer active in the British labour movement. He was the first president of the Baptist World Alliance.

Clifford began work in a lace factory at the age of 10. In 1855 he was sent to the General Baptist Academy in Leicester, and in 1858 he became minister of Praed Street Chapel, Paddington. By 1877 the growth of his congregation required a new chapel to be opened at Westbourne Park.

President of the Baptist Union from 1888, he was prominent for his defense of the Union from charges of heresy brought by C.H. Spurgeon, an influential preacher who opposed modern biblical criticism. Clifford also took the lead in helping unite the General Baptists of the New Connection with the Union in 1891, and in 1898 he became president of the National Free Church Council. His concern for social reform caused him to associate with the radical wing of the Liberal Party and with leaders in the Labour Party, including James Keir Hardie (1865–1915).

For his advocacy of passive resistance to the Education Act of 1902, which required public funds to support denominational schools, Clifford became a national figure and several times suffered confiscation of his personal belongings. From 1905 to 1911 he served as the first president of the Baptist World Alliance. Among his writings are The English Baptists (1881), The Christian Certainties (1893), and The Ultimate Problems of Christianity (1906).

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