Anglo-Catholicism

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Anglo-Catholicism is the modern name for that tradition within Anglicanism that was previously termed "High Church." The name dates only from 1838 and occurred during the Tractarian or Oxford Movement. Edward Pusey, John Keble, and John Henry Newman were the leaders of this transition from the older high churchmanship with its emphasis on the established Erastian church - state relationship to an emphasis upon the distinctive claims of the church's authority in apostolic succession of bishops.

Earlier High Churchmen had tended to dismiss the claims of Free Church bodies on the ground that they were not a part of the Church of England, duly constituted by law. The Anglo Catholics sensed a real threat to the church rather than a help in this relationship with an increasingly secular state. Instead they insisted that the church's authenticity lay in the essential nature of the episcopacy (Tract , 1833). Ordination by bishops was thus seen to be of the esse of the church without which a church is not a church.

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At the same time less appreciation was given to the principles of the Anglican Reformation, and the movement became suspect in the eyes of many because of the large number of conversions to Rome out of Anglo Catholicism, especially that of John Henry Newman.

Two major works indicate the best in scholarship and theological emphasis of this tradition: Lux Mundi (1889) and Essays Catholic and Critical (1926).

In modern times four strands of Anglo Catholicism have been discerned: (1) The Cambridge Camden Society and its successors, who lay great and somewhat romantic emphasis upon English history and pre Reformation English rites and vestments; (2) liberal Anglo Catholicism, which is less authoritarian and more friendly to liberal theology; (3) evangelical Catholics, who attempt to blend the biblical and Reformation teachings on grace and gospel with the classical dogmas and distinctive polity; and (4) pro Roman Anglo Catholicism, whose main aim is the reunion of Anglicanism with Roman Catholicism, not merely in a general ecumenical way but by the sacrifice of the doctrine of the Anglican Reformation when it conflicts with the Council of Trent.

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Anglo Catholicism has emphasized the doctrine of the incarnation, sacramental theology, and ecclesiastical polity. It has appealed more to clergy than to laity.

C F Allison
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
W L Knox, The Catholic Movement in the Church of England; D Stone, The Faith of an English Catholic; O Chadwick, The Victorian Church; C Gore, ed., Lux Mundi; G Selwyn, ed., Essays Catholic and Critical; O Chadwick, ed., The Oxford Movement; M Ramsey, From Gore to Temple: An Era of Anglican Theology


The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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