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George Campbell Morgan
"A gifted Preacher and Teacher"
During the early years of this century Westminster Chapel became known as the white elephant of Congregationalism. Many gifted men were approached about the pulpit vacancy but none appeared interested. Serious consideration was given to selling the site and using the proceeds to build smaller churches away from the centre of London.
Under God's providence, with the situation at its most critical, Dr. George Campbell Morgan accepted the challenge and the call to Westminster Chapel. He began his ministry on the last Sunday of October 1904. Dr. Morgan was a gifted preacher and teacher; he was a schoolmaster before ordination, with a tall imposing presence and perfect speaking voice. He was a Congregationalist by persuasion and was well-known in England. In the United States where he had worked closely with D.L. Moody and his son William in their evangelistic work. His life-long friend, the Rev'd Albert Swift, came with him as co-pastor.
Dr. Morgan was in charge of the preaching and teaching while Swift supervised the Sunday School and youth work. A sisterhood visited the poor and sick. Among those who remained faithful to the Chapel during the wilderness year before Dr. Morgan's arrival was Mr. Alfred Hewitt and in September 1878 he was appointed full time evangelist. In March 1881 the Westminster Chapel Mission opened with Hewitt in charge. Miss Mildred Cable, a distinguished member of the China Inland Mission, joined the church early in Dr Campbell Morgan's ministry.
A Friday night Bible school was instituted (Friday was chosen because few other churches had Friday evening meetings) and it became the forerunner of the present-day Westminster Chapel School of Theology. The first edition of the Westminster Record appeared in January 1905, founded by Dr Morgan and edited by him and Swift. Tithing for missionary work began then and has continued ever since.
Albert Swift left the Chapel in 1907. Dr. Morgan continued bravely without his beloved friend. The First World War (1914-18) increased Dr Morgan's considerable workload and after a debilitating illness at the beginning of 1917. To the dismay of the membership, Morgan announced his resignation from the Chapel. When his health revived, he moved to America - but he was destined to return.
In 1928 Dr. Hubert Simpson assumed the pastorate but he was a sick man, still suffering from the effects of the First World War. Dr. Simpson's writings reveal a sensitive man who had been under great stress as a chaplain to a Guards Brigade in France and later as chaplain to a war hospital.
Finding the Westminster Chapel so difficult, he approached Dr. Campbell Morgan who happened to be attending a conference in England, with a view to his sharing the Westminster pastorate. In 1933 the new partnership began but Dr Simpson was soon forced to retire completely. With the retirement of the pastor so ended Dr Morgan's formal association with the Chapel but he continued to minister and a few years later was formally inducted as the minister once again.
Dr. Morgan was well aware of the hazards of a second pastorate with the same fellowship and acknowledged this at the church meeting. The character of his second term differed from his first. There was less emphasis on social activities. This reflected, in part, the improving conditions in the area but undoubtedly the main influence was the changing attitudes within Evangelical circles.
Howard H. Rowden of the London Bible College opens his essay on Dr. Morgan's old friend, Albert Swift, with this telling observation: 'It is one of the minor curiosities of recent church history that evangelical Protestants, who provided some of the leading activists of the 19th Century, had, by the middle of the 20th Century, gained the reputation of being socially aloof and even opposed to Christian involvement in almost any kind of social or political action'.
The church buildings were renovated and enlarging congregations returned. The wonderful voice, the logical exposition, sustained the large congregation, but the physical strain became more noticeable as the years went by. It was spiritual inspiration when he asked Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a young minister from South Wales, to come to help him and eventualy take over.