Bliss, Kathleen Mary Amelia (Moore) (1908-1989)

Ecumenical pioneer

Born in Fulham, London, a graduate from Girton College, Cambridge, with a first-class degree in theology as well as a good history degree, Kathleen Moore was a Student Volunteer and much involved in the Cambridge Student Christian Movement. Her red hair attracted an admirer, and her challenging theological arguments a devoted life partner in Rupert Bliss, a former naval engineer who had become an Anglican ordinand through the influence of William Temple. Together they went to Tamil Nadu, South India, in 1932 under the London Missionary Society. On furlough in 1939, Rupert introduced his wife to Eleanora Kredale, J.H. Oldham’s assistant. Kathleen succeeded Iredale as assistant editor and then editor of the influential Christian Newsletter (1942-1949). From 1945 to 1959 she worked for the British Council of Churches and then for the BBC (1950-1955). She was a moving spirit at the Amsterdam Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1948 and is credited with the famous phrase, “We intend to stay together.” She was elected to the Central Committee and Executive Committee of the WCC in 1954, and she played an important part in the evolving ecumenical movement. She had a formidable intellect, concerned particularly with laypeople and women, hence her outstanding work as secretary of the WCC commission on the status and role of women in the churches. From 1958 to 1966 as secretary of the Board of Education of the Church of England, she was responsible for policy in the rapidly expanding colleges and universities of the 1960s. Finally, she was senior lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the new University of Sussex (1968-1972). Even retirement did not lessen her concern for ecumenism. Increasingly crippled by arthritis, she was unfortunately unable to finish her biography of J.H. Oldham, her mentor and friend. Her crowded memorial service was testimony to how wide her influence was and how precious her friendship. She was a “foremother” of today’s women theologians and church leaders. In 1949 she was honored with a D.D. by the University of Aberdeen.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.  By E.M. Jackson.


Kathleen Bliss, The Service and Status of Women in the Churches (1952)
We, the People (1963)
The Future of Religion (1969)
“J.H. Oldham,” in Gerald H. Anderson et al., eds., Mission Legacies (1994), pp.570-580.

Martin Conway, ER 42, no.1 (January 1990): 68-77 (obit.)
Susannah Herzel, A Voice for Women (1981).


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