The Coalfields Manifesto (1939)

I came across a reference to this Christian statement against war drafted by Australian Methodist Minister Rev Alan Walker and signed by other clergy in the book Radical Newcastle (2015), page 303n33. The reference there is to the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, September 7, 1939. This appears incorrect. This correct reference on TROVE is: COALFIELD CLERGYMEN ISSUE A MANIFESTO (1939, October 21). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 10. From

Another source of the Manifesto is this: Wright, D. I. Alan Walker: Conscience of the Nation. Adelaide: Openbook, 1997.

This is the newspaper version from Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Saturday 21 October 1939, page 10:


Urge Freedom of Conscience on Universal Training

Coalfield clergymen set out their views on war in a manifesto issued yesterday.

“We may be voices crying in the wilderness, but we hope we may do something to save the Church from the stigma of disrepute, which was the legacy of the last war,” they say.

Opposition, on religious grounds, to conscription is indicated, and the hope Is expressed that “full freedom of conscience be allowed” with any form of universal training.

“THE CHURCH came out of the last war very badly,”, the manifesto says. “She will come out of this one worse unless she is prepared to shout from the housetops that the evangel of Jesus neither sanctions, condones, nor advocates the settlement of disputes by brute force.”

The manifesto is to be sent to the leaders of all parties in the Federal Parliament. Mr. R. James, M.H.R., is to be asked to mention in Parliament that clause of the manifesto dealing with peace and requesting Governments to define their peace aims now, before months, or years of war make sane thinking difficult.

The manifesto is as follows:

We believe that war is contrary to the will of God and the mind of Jesus, and can therefore under no circumstances be justified. It is a spiritual crime of the greatest magnitude and stands in the same category as theft and murder. The ethic of Jesus of love rather than hate, of forgiveness and the sacredness of human life applies to national action no less than individual conduct. As Christians therefore we cannot sanction or condone warfare and deprecate the suggestion that war can be either just or righteous.

We believe that conscription is an unwarrantable interference with the rights and liberties of the subject and declare our opposition on religious grounds to such a project. Should, however, any form of universal training be instituted again we urge that full freedom of conscience be allowed. We admire the tolerance of the British Government’s Conscription Bill and expect the Australian Government to show at least the same sympathetic understanding of the attitude of the conscientious objector.

We believe that owing to the censorship of news and vicious propaganda invariably associated with wars it is impossible to arrive at a balanced judgment. We urge Christian people to avoid any attitude which might lead to hate and recrimination.

We believe that some action should be taken immediately regarding peace terms which may follow the present conflict. We re-assert that total disarmament is the only safeguard to peace and that any penal or vindictive clauses will only sow the seeds of further wars. We call upon the governments concerned to define their peace aims now before months or years of war make sane thinking difficult.

We believe that war does not exempt any government from its duty of providing work for the unemployed. The raising of vast sums of money for defence purposes proves that financial resources are available.

While not condoning war we believe that it is our duty to give our services to help the poor and needy, comfort the bereaved, alleviate human suffering and in any way lighten the burden of those who are the unfortunate victims of this great scourge.

We call upon the nations to repent for national and individual sin, and to pray that the present conflict should end speedily. We believe that prayer for the victory of arms for any one side is un-Christian, but do join our prayers for a just and enduring peace.

Signatories are:

  • Rev A. T. Robens (Methodist, Kurri Kurri)
  • Rev A. Clint (Church of England, Weston)
  • Rev C. Venton Hayman (Congregationalist, Kurri Kurri)
  • Rev J. Faulkner (Presbyterian, Cessnock)
  • Rev Alan Walker (Methodist, Cessnock)
  • Rev E. Watson (Congregationalist, Cessnock)
  • Rev C. N. Collard (Methodist, Weston)