Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

BLAND, SALEM (1859-1950)

Born August 26, 1859, in Lachute, Quebec, and educated in that province, Salem Goldworth Bland moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1903 to teach New Testament and church history at Wesley College after twenty years as a popular Methodist minister in eastern Ontario and Quebec. Over the next sixteen years he had a remarkable impact across the Prairie Provinces, where he was in great demand as a preacher of uncommon eloquence and as a popularizer of liberal theology and the Social Gospel. Well-read in secular as in theological matters, he was at once a proponent of German historical critics of the Bible like Adolf Harnack and of reform Darwinists like Henry Drummond and Benjamin Kidd. He became increasingly radical as a result of his association with agrarian, labor, and social reform activists. His outspokenness about the exploitation of Prairie farmers by the grain trade and of Winnipeg newcomers by employers and landlords who were often active churchmen led to a falling out with wealthy laymen who had at first welcomed him.

Invited to address the convention of the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association in 1913, he sparked an abortive move toward third-party politics. His dismissal from Wesley College in 1917 on grounds of financial restraint was an academic freedom cause celebre across the West. For a time he was a columnist for the Grain Growers Guide and a lecturer on the Chautauqua circuit. He was courted to run in the wartime election of 1917 but deferred to a returned soldier, Major G. W. Andrews, thus signaling the high hopes he held for a major social and political reconstruction after the war under the inspiration of returning soldiers. He would express this view in a small but wide-ranging and controversial book, The New Christianity (1920). Thought by some to be one of the instigators of the Winnipeg General Strike of mid-1919, he had by that time moved to a Toronto pastorate and would soon begin a twenty-year career as a regular columnist for the Toronto Daily Star under the byline of "The Observer." He died in Toronto on February 6, 1950.

See also PROTEST AND DISSENT: Grain Growers Associations.

Richard Allen Hamilton, Ontario

Allen, Richard. "Salem Bland and the Spirituality of the Social Gospel: Winnipeg and the West, 1903–1913." In Prairie Spirit: Perspectives on the Heritage of the United Church of Canada in the West, edited by Dennis L. Butcher, Catherine Macdonald, Margaret McPherson, Raymond Smith, and A. McKibbon Watts. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985: 217–32.

Allen, Richard. The Social Passion: Religion and Social Reform in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.

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