Faith into Action: the 1925 Welsh Church Leaders’ Peace Appeal to America

The Churches of Wales from 1922 had supported the peace building campaigns of the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) through an ‘Annual Offering’ campaign in the month leading up to Armistice Day (11 November) – congregational contributions to which funded much of the Welsh League’s acivities – as well as many local churches and chapels setting up their own local branches of the League of Nations, organising public lestures on world issues, educational and fundraising activities such as Daffodil Days.

In 1925, following on from the tremendous success of the 1924 Welsh Women’s Peace Appeal to America, faith leaders were keen to emulate a simlar approach from the churches of Wales. The opportunity was proposed in September 1925 by Professor Charles Webster at Aberystwyth University – a prominent member of the Welsh League of Nations’ board – to influence the American Churches through an appeal to their Federal Council meeting, to be held in Detroit in December 1925. With just 2-3 months to organise, a community campaign on the scale of the 1923-24 women’s peace appeal was not feasible – but the idea was struck to approach the church leaders of each denomination in Wales, to sign a shared interfaith decalaration.

The Wesh Church Leaders’ Peace Appeal is profoundly significant not just as a document – and indeed a work of art – from Wales’ Peace Heritage, but also as one of the first manifestations of interfaith cooperation following World War One and the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, building on the longstanding Welsh non-conformity movement. This peace declaration to America is therefore perhaps as significant for its ‘peace building’ impact in Wales, in uniting long divided religious voices – and of course, the local congregations Wales-wide who would have followed the bishops’ leads, to build connections between churches and chapels locally.

Watch short film about the 1925 Churches Peace Petition, by Abby Craig-Jones

The 1925 Welsh Churches Peace Appeal to America was a Memorial Petition signed by leaders of religion in Wales, presented to the Federal Council of Churches in America – representing 37 faiths and congreagtions US wide – at their annual gathering in Detroit in December 1925. Supported by congregations Wales-wide, the Appeal called for US churches’ support in advocating for America to join and lead the League of Nations in the aftermath of WW1, to prevent outbreak of further global conflicts.

WCIA’s recently digitised collection on People’s Collection Wales contains an account of the campaign by Rev Gwilym Davies, Hon Director of the Welsh League of Nations Union (who presented the memorial in Detroit), as well as correpsondence and the 22 original letters submitted by signatories (many containing drafts of the declaration text itself), from which their autographs were transposed onto the printed memorial – the copy of which can be viewed today among the collections and displays at Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff, under the care of WCIA (the Welsh Centre for International Affairs).

NB – some archives are marked ‘private – not for publication’. The instruction relates to the period over Autumn 1925 whilst the Appeal was being finalised (like an embargo on a contemporary Press Release). This was to prevent correspondence being used in isolation, or taken out of context of the WLNU’s Campaign in the lead up to the Dec 1925 presentation of the Memorial in America – and to maximise publicity surroundig events in Detroit. The digitised copies can now be viewed to illustrate the process of creating the memorial, and of cooperation between denominational leaders in Wales in pursuit of peace.