Herbert Kelly

Herbert Hamilton Kelly SSM (18 July 1860 – 31 October 1950) was a priest of the Church of England and the founder of the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM).

Herbert Kelly

Theologian and founder of the Society of the Sacred Mission
ProvinceChurch of England
Personal details
Born(1860-07-18)18 July 1860
Manchester, England
Died31 October 1950(1950-10-31) (aged 90)
Kelham, England
Alma materQueens College, Oxford

Early life and education

Kelly was born at St James's Vicarage, George Street, Manchester, the son of the Rev. James Davenport Kelly and his wife, Margaret Alice Eccles. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School. After army training at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Kelly studied History at Queens College, Oxford and was ordained in 1884.[1]

As a theologian Kelly was influenced initially by Charles Kingsley, but to more lasting effect by the writing of Frederick Denison Maurice, especially in his two volumes entitled The Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy and The Kingdom of Christ.[2] Kelly sought to explore the way in which a society and culture created "propositions" about God and then a church "system" that follows from such propositions. Although identified by others as Anglo-Catholic in his outlook, Kelly often stated that God and religion were not the same, challenging his own students to focus on issues of Faith and practical evangelism rather than the technicalities of church doctrine and administration.

Kelly's interest in the ecumenical movement involved him in the Student Christian Movement.

Founder of the Society of the Sacred Mission

While training people for missionary service in Korea and Africa, Kelly founded an Anglican religious order, the Society of the Sacred Mission, in Kennington, London in 1893. As the number of students increased, the order first relocated to Mildenhall in Suffolk and then in 1903, to Kelham Hall, Nottinghamshire. Kelly was succeeded as director of the Society by Fr David Jenks in 1910.

Academic role in Japan

Between 1913 and 1919, at the invitation of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Bishops of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, Kelly served as Professor of Apologetics at the Anglican Central Theological College, Tokyo, Japan.[3]

Kelly's influence on the development of the church in Japan was significant; a number of his students went on to leadership roles and helped to maintain the Nippon Sei Ko Kai's unique Anglican identification and independence through the political turmoil of the 1930s and Second World War. Michael Yashiro, one of Kelly's most loyal students, was elected Presiding Bishop of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai in August 1947.


  • An Idea In the Working: An Account of the Society of the Sacred Mission, its History and Aims; Mowbray, 1908
  • A History of the Church of Christ; Longmans, Green, 1901
  • The Church and Religious Unity; Longmans, Green, 1913
  • The Gospel of God; 1928
  • Catholicity; Student Christian Movement Press, 1932
  • "No Pious Person: Autobiographical Recollections By Herbert Kell", in: Herbert Hamilton Kelly, George Every; The Faith Press, 1960


  1. Strudwick, Vincent (2004). "Kelly, Herbert Hamilton (1860-1950)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required))|chapter-format= requires |chapter-url= (help). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/46944.
  2. Jones, Alan (October 1971). Herbert Hamilton Kelly SSM 1860-1950: A Study in Failure (PDF). Nottingham: University of Nottingham. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  3. ODNB entry by Vincent Stradwick. Retrieved 10 March 2013. Pay-walled.

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