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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Publication details for Canon Professor Michael Snape

Snape, Michael (2016). Twilight of the Padres: the End of British Military Chaplaincy in India. In Military Chaplaincy in an Era of Religious Pluralism: Military-Religious Nexus in Asia, Europe, and USA. Brekke, Torkel & Tikhonov, Vladimir New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press. 202-227.

Author(s) from Durham


The twentieth century, the bloodiest century in world history, saw significant developments in the worldwide Anglican Communion that were closely connected to the impact and legacy of war. National consciousness was heightened in Australia and New Zealand, for example, by such events as the Gallipoli campaign and the capture of Vimy Ridge in the First World War, and by the decline of Great Britain’s protective military power in the Second. Inevitably, in their Anglican churches this growing sense of national selfhood fuelled an increasing desire for autonomy from the Church of England. Although the Anglophone and imperial heritage of Anglicanism in the first half of the twentieth century meant that Anglicans very rarely found themselves fighting each other (something that cannot be said of Catholics, Lutherans, or Orthodox Christians) the totality and destructiveness of twentieth-century conflict complicated church-state relations and affected Anglican ethics, theology and liturgy. However, the impact of war upon Anglicans and Anglicanism was uneven across time and space. In scale and reach the World Wars dwarfed all other conflicts, and in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand the human costs of the First World War exceeded those of any other twentieth-century conflict. Whereas the great majority of the world’s Anglicans dutifully followed the British Empire into war in 1914 and 1939, the political independence that accompanied the transition of the British Empire to the Commonwealth, and the emergence of Anglicanism as a largely non-Anglo-Saxon, and non-Anglophone Communion meant that Anglicans were less evenly affected by the ordeal or the threat of war during the latter half of the twentieth century. These factors simply compounded discrepancies that arose from geo-political realities. For example, during the Second World War Anglicans in North America, the Antipodes and sub-Saharan Africa were, unlike their co-religionists in Great Britain, Melanesia and much of Asia, largely insulated from the effects of aerial bombing and enemy invasion. Similarly, Great Britain, the historic cradle of Anglicanism, stood under the greatest threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, just as it had been most vulnerable to aerial attack in both World Wars. However, and despite its lethal vulnerability in geostrategic terms, Britain was at least spared direct involvement in the Vietnam War, which proved deeply divisive in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in the United States. Similarly, in the 1950s and 1960s the expanding Anglican churches of East and West Africa were confronted with insurgency in Kenya and civil war in Nigeria which, in terms of their scale and brutality, had no equivalents in Great Britain, North America, or the Antipodes.