Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Mackennal, Alexander
MACKENNAL, ALEXANDER (1835–1904), congregational divine, born at Truro on 14 Jan. 1835, was the third of seven children of Patrick Mackennal, a Scotsman from Galloway. His mother was Cornish. In 1848 the family removed to London, and Mackennal entered the school of William Pinches, Ball Alley, George Yard, Lombard Street; among his school-fellows was John Henry Brodribb (afterwards Sir Henry Irving [q. v. Suppl. II] ). After passing through another school, at Hackney, he entered Glasgow University in October 1851, learning much from John Nichol [q. v. Suppl. I] and leaving in 1854 without graduation, but recognised as a leader among his fellow-students in liberal thought and politics. His first bent was towards medicine, but in 1852, when acting as tutor in a highland family of Scottish baptists, he resolved upon the congregational ministry, and entered Hackney College (1854); while there he graduated B.A. (October 1857) at London University. As a student he was influenced by Thomas Toke Lynch [q. v.] and deeply by Frederick Denison Maurice. His first settlement was at Burton-on-Trent (May 1858); a strongly Calvinistic section of his flock was not in Sympathy with his breadth of view, and, after his removal, seceded to form a presbyterian congregation, but in the village chapel at Branstone, connected with Burton, he found lifelong friends. In 1862 he removed to Surbiton, Surrey, where John Carvell Williams [q. v. Suppl. II] was one of his deacons. Here he transferred his congregation from a hall to a church building largely planned by himself, and co-operated with Dean Stanley, Robert William Dale [q. v. Suppl. I], and others in a volume of addresses to working people. In 1870 he succeeded James Allanson Picton as minister of Gallowtree-gate Church, Leicester. He established a local mission, and became secretary of the Leicester and Rutland County Union of his denomination. He declined to stand as a candidate for the Leicester school board, being equally opposed to the Cowper Temple compromise and to the secular system, maintaining throughout life that the true solution of the educational difficulty was to be found in 'the frank recognition of schools of different types.' He did much for the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, of which he became president in 1876. In 1877 he moved to Bowdon, Cheshire, where he remained till death, declining calls to London and elsewhere. In 1887 he filled the chair of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, and in the same year received the degree of D.D. from Glasgow University.
Two years later he made the first of several visits to America in 1889, representing the Congregational Union at the triennial council of American congregational churches. This visit formed a turning point in Mackennal's career. It led to the holding of an international congregational council in London (July 1891), of which Mackennal as secretary was the efficient organiser. He took part n the reunion conferences begun at Grindelwald in 1891, but his ideal was a co-operative rather than a corporate union. The 'historic episcopate' stood in the way of amalgamation. Subsequently he worked for a federation of the evangelical free churches initiated at a congress in Manchester in Nov. 1892. The constitution of the National Free Church Council, adopted at Nottingham in March 1896, was drawn up by him; for six years (1892–8) he acted as secretary, and was president in 1899. Meanwhile he had become in 1891 chairman of the council of Mansfield College, Oxford, in succession to Dale, and on two occasions delivered courses of lectures in the college ('ministerial jurisprudence' and 'pastoral theology').
Despite his varied energy, Mackennal remained through life a close student, a finished preacher, and an assiduous pastor. His thoughts on critical and theological questions were ax once broad and deep; exaggeration and excitement he abhorred, and he had no liking for 'reckless evangelising' of the Moody type. In his limitation of the Divine omniscience he falls unconsciously into a Socinian position (Life, p. 137). In politics he was no prominent figure, but a consistent advocate of an anti-war policy. He died at Highgate on 23 June 1904, and was buried at Bowdon. He married in 1867 Fanny (d. 12 Jan. 1903), daughter of Dr. Hoile of Montrose, and widow of Colin Wilson, by whom he had three sons and two daughters.
In addition to single sermons and addresses, he published : 1. 'Christ's Healing Touch, and other Sermons,' 1871 (sermons at Surbiton). 2. 'The Life of Christian Consecration,' 1877 (sermons at Leicester). 3. 'Sermons from a Sick Room,' Manchester, 1880. 4. 'Memoir,' prefixed to 'Sermons by George James Proctor,' 1881. 5. 'The Christian Testimony : Four Pastoral Lectures,' Manchester, 1883. 6. 'The Biblical Scheme of Nature and Man,' Manchester, 1886 (four lectures). 7. 'Life of John Allison Macfadyen,' D.D., 1891 (father of his own biographer; an excellent piece of work). 8. 'The Story of the English Separatists,' 1893, 4to. 9. 'The Seven Churches in Asia : Types of the Religious Life,' 1895; 1898. 10. 'Homes and Haunts of the Pilgrim Fathers,' 1899, 4to (illustrations by C. Whymper). 11. 'The Kingdom of the Lord Jesus,' 1900. 12. 'Sketches in the Evolution of English Congregationalism,' 1901 (Carew lecture at Hartford, Conn.). 13. 'The Eternal Son of God and the Human Sonship,' 1903.
[D. Macfadyen, Alexander Mackennal, Life and Letters, 1905 (two portraits); Congregational Year Book, 1905; Dale, Hist. Eng. Congregationalism, 1907, pp. 745–7; Addison's Graduates Univ. Glasgow, 1898; The Times, 14 Jan. 1903; 25 and 27 June 1904; Proceedings, First Nat. Council of Free Churches, 1896; Free Church Federation Movement, Historical Sketch, 1900 (portrait).]