Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Curious Case of the Old High Churchmen (Part I 1533-1833)

I've recently been on a bit of an historical quest during my free time to discover more about the elusive Old High Church party. Today, it is common in Anglican circles to discuss churchmanship with roughly three categories: high, broad, and low (sometimes you run across the term 'central' too). These are terms that nowadays usually refer to ceremonial practices whereas in ages past they were more theological terms referring to the churchman's position in regards to the Established Church. We know of Evangelicals and Liberals too, who have passed from former times up until the current scene. Generally speaking, evangelicals are labelled as low churchmen today, liberals are broad churchmen, and catholics are high churchmen. However, this was not always the case with Anglican churchmanship. The nomenclature here is betrayinig to what these terms meant historically. Much of this confusion came after the ceremonial and ritual revivial of the Oxford Movement. This movement started in 1833 and introduced a number of changes to the Anglican churches. The scope of this movement is not the purpose of this post but it does interrelate at certain points. What interests me is the disappearance of the old High Churchmen from the scene after the Oxford Movement. They were influential before the movement but are completely dissipated after the movement.

This post seeks to begin a series of discussions about this group of churchmen and to try to give an accurate portrayal of their beliefs and practices. I've recently been reading the book, The Last of the Prince Bishops: William Van Mildert and the High Church Movement of the Early Nineteenth Century written by E.A. Varley, which documents the life of the last prince bishop of Durham. William Van Mildert lived from 1765-1836) and held the bishopric of Durham from 1826-1836. He is an excellent symbol of Old High Churchmanship and also ironically a good symbol of their demise as he died during the midst of the Oxford Movement.

Historical Summary

It is necessary at this point to provide a brief summary of the history of the Reformation in England and a brief history of the Church of England up until the point of the beginning of the Oxford Movement.

Most of us are familiar with Henry VIII and his dilemma with Anne Boelyn and Catherine of Aragon, at least if you've seen the popular series, The Tudors. Henry's role in the English Reformation is practically nonexistent, except for the fact that he provided for the political autonomy to further carry on the Reformation after his death. However, many important things happened during his reign which allowed for the Reformation later. First, the appointment of Thomas Cranmer to the archbishopric of Canterbury on October 1, 1532. After several years of legislature, the break with Rome was finalized in 1534 with the Act of Supremacy which declared Henry, "supreme head in earth of the Church of England." This act did not start a theological reformation but it did provide the base from which that would come. Later the Dissolution of the Monasteries commenced under Cromwell. Henrician reforms are hard to categorize by later standards. He issued several doctrinal statements beginning with the Ten Articles of 1536 and later the Six Articles of 1539. They tended to agree with Lutherans on some points such as the number of sacraments. The main difference was Henry’s insistence on celibacy as divinely instituted. A note on churchmanship during his reign, technically there was none. Churchmanship really describes one’s reaction to the Settlement of 1559 or 1662 later. However, there was division among the clergy about the reforms taking place. Eamon Duffy talks of “traditionalists” and “reformists” in his book, The Stripping of the Altars. Also, the English Reformers would not fall into any of the later churchmanship categories as some modern churchmen claim. They preceded the settlement and therefore churchmanship. They were reformists, obviously, but were also the foundation of all later churchmen because up to the Oxford Movement, no churchman had a negative view of them. Henry's reign produced the English Litany (1544), English Bible (1537), standardization of the Salisbury or Sarum Use as the national use, and the introduction of many of the cast of characters for Edward's Reform.

Liturgical reform commenced almost immediately after Henry's death with the first Prayer Book in 1549 and revised in 1552. Cranmer released his 42 Articles of Religion in 1553, only to be revoked by Queen Mary after ascending to the throne in the same year. Elizabeth followed her as queen and reinstated Protestantism with the Act of Uniformity and the 1559 Prayer Book. Cranmer's 42 Articles were revised to 38 in 1563 and then the current 39 Articles of Religion were agreed by Convocation in 1571. This was the beginning of Anglicanism as we know it. Tensions were building up during Elizabeth's reign but because of her policy of toleration, there was no conflict. During James' reign, churchmanship differences became more pronounced and eventually full-blown conflict became apparetn at the end of Charles I reign. Churchmanship at this time was related to church polity, mostly. A brief summary of churchmanship at the time, "On the right stood the recusants, those who still remained faithful to the Church of Rome. Next came ‘those who in a later age have been called high churchmen, but were then more generally known as Arminians’. Next came the episcopalian Calvinists, those who were content with the episcopal nature of the Church of the Elizabethan settlement. Next came the Calvinists who still looked for their model of a reformed Church to the European models of presbyterian and congregational churches. Still further to the left came the sectaries, separatists or independents: ‘whereas the upper-middle-class man tended to adopt an Erastian form of presbyterianism, the lower-middle-class man often became a separatist’ (Davies, 1937, p.193). Finally came ‘the lunatic fringe – the Fifth Monarchy men, the Seekers, the Levellers, and so forth’"

The presbyterians won for a time under the leadership of Cromwell and the Protectorate. The prayer book was abolished and bishops replaced by presbyteries. This came to an end in 1661, when Charles II ascended the throne and reinstated the Prayer Book in 1662 and bishops. This narrowed the theological comprehensiveness of the Church to exclude presbyterians and congregationalists and those who were not in favor of the prescribed liturgy. This led to the expulsion of over 2,000 ministers from the Church. There was a debate at the time as to what to do with Puritans and Dissenting Christians. This debate led to the first codification of churchmanship terms. There was a group of churchmen who wanted to revise the prayer book to allow for more diversity of opinion and eventually graft these groups back into the national church. They presented a revised prayer book in 1689, called the Liturgy of Comprehension. Another group of churchmen were opposed to these efforts of comprehension and stated that the puritans and dissenting Christians must use the authorized liturgy of the Church (1662 BCP). Those who favored comprehension were called latitudinarians or "low churchmen" because they had a "low" view of the Established Church which allowed them to vision compromises to include more in the Church. Those who opposed were called "high churchmen" because they had an "high" view of the Established Church and would not tolerate deviations from the standard liturgy. The High Churchmen won and there was no effort at comprehension.

The reigning monarch at that time was James II. A Dutch Prince, named William, invaded England and James II fled to France. (This is a very simplified explanation of the situation!). He was held captive by William but later released and fled. William convened a parliament and many Englishmen supported him as the new king because they believed that James had abdicated the throne by fleeing. William was eventually proclaimed king, however, many High Churchmen could not, in conscience, swear loyalty to him because they did not believe that their oath to James had expired. Thus a large number of high church bishops and priests seceded from the Church, they became known as the Non-Jurors. The Non-Jurors went on to have a life of their own in their schismatic sect apart from the national church. While the national church fell into the power of the Latitudinarians, the High Church Non-Jurors were divided amongst themselves about the question of Prayer Book revision. The pro-revision group or Usagers, wanted to revise the English liturgy along the lines of the 1549 rite and introduce four alleged apostolic usages to the liturgy. The four usages included: he mixed chalice, the prayers of epiklesis and invocation and prayers for the dead. The opposing group, called the Non-usagers,wanted no change to the English liturgy.

Meanwhile, in the national church, the "long eighteenth century" began. This is a term used by historians to refer to the period of time from Toleration Act of 1689 until the 1830s. During this time the Church was battling Enlightenment issues of science and deism. This age was generally characterized by "cautious and

latitudinarian Anglicanism." It was in this climate that the clergyman, John Wesley, lived and preached. Wesley was originally an high churchman, who started the society of Methodists who met for regular Bible study and encouraged fasting and regular Communion. After a conversion experience, Wesley became one of the forerunners of the Evangelical Movement which stressed individual conversion in response to the Holy Spirit. Wesley's Methodist Society was meant to be a renewal movement within the Church of England but after being denied a bishop for his American followers, Wesley provoked a schism by consecrating his own bishops. Some Evangelicals left the national church for other dissenting bodies or the new Methodists. It is important to remember that many of these evangelicals stayed within the Church of England because, "on the whole they rejected Wesley’s concept of a travelling ministry, regarding the parish as the place where the Lord’s work was primarily to be carried on." Another feature characteristic was that, "Anglican Evangelicals were generally Calvinists, whereas Methodists were generally Arminians." So, at this point, we have the churchmanship terms, High Church, Low Church or Latitudinarian, and Evangelical.

Theological Portrait of the English Old High Churchmen

At this point, I want to provide a basic theological portrait of the English Old High Churchmen to provide some context in the historical section of this post. I believe it is important at this point to clarify what the Old High Churchmen believed on certain points which will later diverge from Tractarian teaching on the same subjects. I also have concluded that there was enough theological and ceremonial divergence from the Non-Jurors to separate them from the English High Churchmen. I also find it important to note the theological harmony that existed between High Churchmen and Evangelicals before the turmoil of the Oxford Movement. Later on, Anglo-Catholics would seek to accentuate the differences between the groups, however, at this point they were very much similar. Nockes offers a concise summary of an Old High Churchman,

“A High Churchman in the Church of England tended to uphold in some form the doctrine of apostolical succession as a manifestation of his strong commitment to the Church’s catholicity and apostolicity as a branch of the universal church catholic, within which he did not include those reformed bodies which had abandoned episcopacy without any plea of necessity. He believed in the supremacy of Holy Scripture and set varying degrees of value on the testimony of authorised standards such as the Creeds, the Prayer Book and the Catechism. He valued t he writings of the early Fathers, but more especially as witnesses and expositors of scriptural truth when a “catholic consent” of them could be established. He upheld in a qualified way the primacy of dogma a nd laid emphasis on the doctrine of sacramental grace, both in the eucharist and in baptism, while normally eschewing the Roman Catholic principle of ex opere operato. He tended to cultivate a practical spirituality based on good works nourished by sacramental grace and exemplified in acts of self-denial and charity rather than on any subjective conversion experience or unruly pretended manifestations of the Holy Spirit. He stressed the divine rather than popular basis of political allegiance and obligation. His political principles might be classed as invariably Tory though by no means always in a narrowly political party sense, and were characterised by a high view of kingship and monarchical authority. He upheld the importance of a religious establishment but insisted also on the duty of the state as a divinely-ordained rather than merely secular entity, to protect and promote the interests of the church” (Nockles, 25-26).


The Article on predestination is not very clear and early on there was debate over whether or not the article taught double predestination or just single predestination. Generally speaking, Evangelicals tended to be Calvinists, meaning they espoused double predestination, and Old high Churchmen were Arminians. The key here is that English Arminianism tended to diverge from Dutch Arminianism because it still held to a concept of single predestination. Archbishop Robinson expands, “Theologians such as Lancelot Andrewes objected not to the idea of Predestination as such, but to the doctrine of double Predestination promoted by some Calvinists… they saw double predestination as inconsistent with a loving and merciful God. They also regarded Predestination as preached by some of the Puritans as being anti-sacramental, and the Caroline Divines seem to have held with the idea that Christians exist in a state where we are both saved and being saved. This notion also explains the strong sacramentalism of the Caroline High Churchmen, and of their modern successor of the Central stripe.” For the Old High Churchmen, to be justified by faith alone through Christ implied a call to a holy life, they often emphasized this in their sermons and this emphasis was perceived as moralism by some outsiders.


High Churchmen had strong views of the relation between regeneration and baptism, this was one of the marked differences between Evangelical churchmen and High Churchmen. Evangelicals had as many as four distinct views regarding baptism and regeneration, which are documented in this quote from Peter Toon’s book, Evangelical Theology, 1833-1856 : A Response to Tractarianism,

"First of all there were those who, following the Augustinian footsteps of Archbishop Ussher, affirmed that all who are regenerated are regenerated in or at baptism.38 Baptism was thus seen as the ‘instrument’ of regeneration, as taught in Article XXVII (‘.... as by an instrument, they that receive baptism are grafted into the Church’)... Regeneration is here understood in terms of the implantation by the Holy Spirit of the principle of new life in the soul. This approach, a modification of that found in the Lutheran formularies, connects regeneration with both divine election and with baptism so that all who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God are regenerated in baptism, being born ‘of water and of the Spirit’

Secondly, there were those who, influenced by Henry Budd, and including Edward Bickersteth and Hugh McNeile, also closely connected baptism with both regeneration and eternal electíon.39 They claimed that on the analogy of the baptism of adult believers regeneration (again understood as the implantation of eternal life and incorporation into the mystical Body of Christ) occurred prior to baptism in response to the prayer of God’s people (the prayer beginning ‘Almighty, everliving God ... ) in order that baptism could be a full sign of an inward spiritual change and a seal of God’s gracious promises towards the child.

Thirdly, there were those who understood regeneration as being synonymous with conversion and as being impossible without being accompanied by repentance towards God, saving faith in Jesus Christ and the visible fruit of the Spirit in the life. Biddulph, Wilson and M’Ilvaine, with perhaps the majority of Evangelicals held one or other form of this approach.40 They could not allow that divine life implanted in infancy at baptism could take ten, fifteen or twenty years to manifest itself in a conversion experience. For them regeneration had to be a visible change of character and attitude. The baptism of infants was approached through a simple covenant theology; the promises of salvation were declared and a sign and seal of them given because of the belief in the faithfulness of God to honour his covenant-promise which is ‘to you and to your children’ (Acts 2.39). Thus baptism involved no immediate, inward change but the confirmation of God’s covenant promise that he would, when the child reached an age of discretion, work salvation in the life.

Fourthly, there were those who made a distinction between ecclesiastical (or sacramental) and spiritual regeneration. Henry Ryder, the first Evangelical bishop, felt obliged to do this and wrote of ecclesiastical regeneration: ‘I would… wish to generally restrict the temr to the baptismal privileges and considering them as comprehending, not only external admission into the visible church – not only a covenanted title to the pardon and peace of the Gospel but even a degree of spiritual aid vouchsafed and ready to offer itself to our acceptance or rejection, at the dawn of reason.’"

High Churchmen would stand in agreement with the first position outlined above as espoused by Archbishop Ussher. I have provided the full quote to emphasize that Evangelicals valued baptism as much as High Churchmen but in a different fashion. Likewise, one would not find the concept of “believer’s baptism” in Evangelical literature then. Likewise, Archbishop Robinson adds some clarity to misconceptions about the doctrine of baptismal regeneration,

in the absence of any positive will to the contrary on the part of the minister or of the person being baptised, Baptism confers regeneration; the child or person receiving baptism is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, and is made a child of Christ. If they continue in the profession and practice of the Christian Faith they will be saved. It is the duty of parents and godparents (and by extension of the whole Church) to ensure that the child or person baptized is brought up in the Faith. The one thing we have to be quite clear about though, is that Baptismal Regeneration is not some “hocus-pocus” that works independently of the faith of the Church and the faith of the individual, but part of the economy of salvation left to us by Christ Himself.”

Holy Communion

There were three generally recognized theories about the real presence: receptionism, virtualism, and memorialism (or Zwinglianism). The first was the theory of Calvin, Bullinger, and Bucer, it teaches that, although there is no change in the elements, when the faithful partake of the bread and the wine they receive Christ's body and blood by faith, this was held by a majority of Evangelicals and High Churchmen. Virtualism was the belief of the Non-Jurors and it maintained that although the bread and the wine were not changed into the body and blood of Christ, they were changed to be the power or benefit of Christ is present, as if Christ were present. This allowed for the Non-juror theories of eucharistic sacrifice in addition it, “protects the notion that Christ is really present, but avoids the murky waters of mediaeval philosophy and the concept that the Eucharistic bread and wine, undergoing some sort of change of substance” (Robinson). The memorialist or Zwinglian view was also accepted by some Evangelicals and many Low Churchmen but not by High Churchmen. High Churchmen rejected the idea of ex opera operato and the whole sacramental system of the Romans, maintaining that Christ established two sacraments only. Likewise, they rejected the errors of the Sacrifice of the Mass. They held that the Eucharist was a commemoration of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, once made, as the only relation of sacrifice with the Eucharist. Likewise, the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and an oblation of, “ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee” (BCP).

Apostolic Succession and Catholicity

There have been two approaches to the episcopacy in Anglican history, the first called the bene esse view has been the most held view by both High Churchmen and Evangelicals alike. The other view is the esse view which was held by the Non-jurors and some High Churchmen. The first view maintains with the Ordinal that, “it is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church,” it holds that bishops are good, ancient, and desirable for the church but not essential for the existence of the Church. Within the Church of England, ministers are required to be ordained by their diocesan bishop and bishops are to be consecrated by at least three other bishops, however, the bene esse view maintained that other reformed churches still held valid orders even though they had departed from the historic episcopacy; the fact that they held to the catholic faith was enough to make their church’s orders valid. The other view, the esse, view affirms that bishops are necessary for the existence of the Church, obviously looking to St. Ignatius as a guide here, “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyraeans). The esse view would look at reformed ministers with suspicion of their validity. Another important element in High Church rhetoric about orders was the distinction between national reformed churches and dissenting bodies. They were willing to grant validity to national reformed churches such as the Church in Geneva or Holland and the Lutheran churches but not to dissenting bodies in England such as English Presbyterians and Baptists. The thought was that the foreign reformed churches had to depart from the episcopacy to maintain the catholic faith and thus had just cause. The dissenting bodies had separated themselves from the reformed Church of England with no warrant. Laud even held that the superintendent in the Lutheran church was the bishopric in substance but not in name.

Obviously the Tractarians adopted the latter position; however, they did so with a twist which separated them from the earlier High Churchmen. First, they adopted essentially the Roman position which maintained that through the apostolic succession, priests who were ordained gained an ontological change within themselves to have the priestly power to consecrate the elements into the body and blood of Christ. This departed from High Church teaching in a number of ways, first, High Churchmen did not accept a sacerdotal priesthood and therefore rejected the Sacrifice of the Mass and the local presence of Christ in the elements. They denied an ontological change of the priest at ordination but rather thought of apostolic succession as the link with the apostolic church. Secondly, Newman began to equate the problem with foreign churches not as the lack of episcopacy but as being Protestant, which he believed was opposed to the Church of England and catholicity. The High Churchmen rejected such claims and were very comfortable with being Protestant and accepted the general teachings of the Reformation. In 1841, there was a controversial idea presented to Parliament, involving a shared bishopric in Jersualem. This controversy was a manifestation of the theological issues involved between Old High Churchmen and the Tractarians. The idea of the bishopric was that it was to be a shared see between the Church of England and the united Evangelical Church of Prussia which was Lutheran. The candidate for the bishopric was to alternate between the respective churches. In general, Old High Churchmen favored the scheme as an opportunity to provide the episcopate for the Lutheran churches. Tractarians opposed it on two grounds. First, it was an “unequal yoke” with Protestantism which Newman was denouncing as heretical now. Secondly, the Tractarians viewed the bishopric as an insult to the Eastern Orthodox Christians there.

Anglican High Churchmen differed with the Roman Catholic Church over the understanding of what the catholic church really is. The Roman Catholic Church necessitates a dogmatic center from which catholicity flows. High Churchmen, following the Caroline Divines, did not view catholicity in this manner; rather, they viewed the catholic church as a federation of separate, national churches each upholding the fundamentals of catholic faith and apostolic order. Therefore, the Anglican Church was not “The Catholic Church,” but rather a part of it. The High Church concept of catholicity did not imply a necessary intercommunion in between the separate national churches. Neither does one jurisdiction of the universal church have seniority over another.

Political Theory

Many times, Old High Churchmen are described as “Erastians” in their political outlook. This is at best a gross oversimplification of their political views and at worst a blatant misrepresentation of their ideas of the relation between Church and State. Erastianism is named after Thomas Erastus, a Swiss theologian, who believed that the State was superior to the Church. While, it is true that the relation between the Church and the State in England could sometimes be characterized by Erastian principles. I cannot effectively summarize Old High Church principles here in any sense adequate that is deserved. I recommend heartily Peter Nockles’s book, “The Oxford Movement in Context,” which will give a rich and thorough study of the matter. In short, though, this quote from, “The Last of the Prince-Bishops,” gives a good summary of High Church attitude towards the Settlement,

"He [Van Mildert] dreamed the Church of England as the soul of the State, as the servant of every citizen, the custodian of true learning and wisdom, as an act of loving homage offered to God in the consciousness of unworthiness but with a confidence founded on Divine Grace. Never blind to the disparities between the Church as he dreamed and as he knew her, he spent his time, energy and (when he had any) money trying to bring her into closer comformity with his vision of her true nature and mission; but he never lost the passionate love for the Church of England, her liturgy, her history, her faithful membership both lay and clerical, which first drew him into her ordained ministry."

The Church as the “soul of the State,” is something entirely different from simple Erastianism. Likewise, High Churchmen viewed the monarchy as being a sacral, quasi-sacramental, office, provided by God to nurture the Church.

Ceremonial and Liturgy

Before the Cambridge Camden Society, most Church of England parishes looked alike and used the same ceremonial, that provided specifically by the Prayer Book. The decorations and ritual were scant. The minister stood at the north end of the Table in surplice and scarf and read the Communion service from there, using only the manual acts in the Prayer of Consecration. Mattins and Evensong were read from the desk. There was an attempt in the later 18th century and early 19th to revive some aspects of Laudian ceremonial which had fallen into disuse likewise there was a resurgence of “Prayer Book loyalty” meaning the strict following of the rubrics and holy days. The Laudian idea of the “beauty of holiness” allowed some ceremonial which was not expressed in the Prayer Book. Old High Churchmen were keen to follow the 1604 canon which required reverence at the name of Jesus:

“[In the] time of Divine Service the Lord Jesus shall be mentioned, due and lowly reverence shall be done by all persons present, as it hath been accustomed; testifying by these outward ceremonies and gestures, their inward humility, Christian resolution, and due acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and eternal Son of God, is the only Saviour of the world, in whom alone all the mercies, graces, and promises of God to mankind, for this life, and the life to come, are fully and wholly comprised” (Canon 18, Canons of the Church of England, 1604).

A High Churchman, “bows at going into the Chapell, and at the name of Jesus” (Every, 1). To an Old High Churchman a good church which represented the “beauty of holiness” contained, “a decent chancel, altar hangings, and communion rails,” (Nockles, 210). There was some escalation of this as the 1800’s approached where in Bath, a cross was put over the altar and pulpit in Daubeney’s church (Nockles), likewise, Old High Churchmen complained about the Evangelical attitude towards images and crosses. However, old High Churchmen did not support the aims of the Ritualists and viewed their suggestions as a breach of common prayer just as they had criticized Evangelicals earlier of departing common prayer. The Old High Church attitude to the Book of Common Prayer was generally positive, although privately some High Churchmen did express an affinity for the 1549. However, most High Churchmen viewed the 1662 as having sufficiently corrected abuses in the 1552 and a faithful witness to the catholic and apostolic faith of the Church of England.

It is also important to remember that the Tractarians were not concerned with ritual at first and generally did not follow the path of the Ritualists, at least first generation Tractarians. Pusey is known to have rejected the Ritualist movement and continued to minister in surplice and scarf during his ministry.


The Last of the Prince Bishops: William Van Mildert and the High Church Movement of the Early Nineteenth Century

Evangelical Theology, 1833-1856 : A Response to Tractarianism

The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship, 1760-1857


Mr. Mcgranor said...

No, an Old High Churchmen sees Church and State as one. With the Dominion of Christ, the Church comes to and with the State as its temporal hand. Not with the State as head, but the Church. Newman--or whoever gets the credit--was successful in his insurrection. Newman's people will be defeated after they do their damage. Unless you can get some free-willers to eradicate them with the ferocity of Lollardy.

The Hackney Hub said...

Tractarianism sees the Church as independent of the State. The old High Church see the Church and State as one, with the Monarch being the supreme governor of both (above the bishops).