Bishop Francis Chavasse was one of the leading evangelicals on the episcopal bench during the first quarter of the twentieth century. In 1900 he was chosen to succeed J. C. Ryle as bishop of Liverpool, where he consolidated the evangelical priorities that Ryle had set for this new urban diocese. To his first diocesan conference Chavasse announced that his evangelical views were ‘deeply rooted’, ‘mine by inheritance and education, by conviction and by experience’. Nevertheless, in a city dominated by protestant versus catholic tensions, Chavasse's episcopate was noted for its eirenic and conciliatory tone. His indefatigable pastoral care and widespread popularity amongst the inhabitants of Liverpool won him the epithet, ‘the People's Bishop’. One of his more permanent legacies to the diocese was its massive cathedral, the foundation stone for which was laid by the king in 1904.
It was in Oxford, however, that Chavasse's reputation as an evangelical leader was first established. In 1877, aged just thirty, he was appointed rector of St Peter-le-Bailey, Oxford, one of the ‘quadrilateral’ of large evangelical churches in the centre of the city. Here he developed an influential ministry amongst undergraduates, just as his friend and mentor, Canon Christopher, had done at St Aldate's. Although not known for his oratory, Chavasse's practical preaching drew crowds. His favour amongst students was such that Christopher often quipped, ‘Brother, mind you don't enlarge your church, for if you do I shall have no congregation left.'
In 1889 Chavasse was invited to be principal of Wycliffe Hall in north Oxford. This evangelical theological college had been founded a dozen years before, but under Robert Girdlestone it struggled to survive. Chavasse had not Girdlestone's reputation for biblical scholarship, yet his personal popularity and preaching ministry were a strong attraction to ordinands. The Hall was soon put on a sure footing and went through one of the most vibrant periods of its varied history. One of Chavasse's many initiatives was to help establish the Oxford Pastorate in 1893 as an evangelical chaplaincy for the university, which in turn encouraged men towards Wycliffe Hall. Although offered preferment as suffragan bishop of Crediton and dean of Chichester, Chavasse believed he was of greater usefulness in Oxford.