Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Blast from the Past: The Curious Case of the Old High Churchmen (1533-1833)

This was the piece that defined this blog for some time. I've been coming back to this piece, revising it, re-shaping it, etc. for some time.

The English High Church Tradition 

This reflection stems from a personal fascination with Anglican High Churchmanship, partially stemming from my own experience of the Anglican tradition in its High Church form. My own experience of Anglicanism was heavily influenced by a combination of Anglo-Catholicism and three-streams convergence theology. My own intellectual fascination with this topic began nearly a year ago when I read Peter Nockle’s, “The Oxford Movement in Context,” a truly fascinating read, obligatory for anyone who is interested in this subject. In my mind, I began to question the “trinity” of Anglican churchmanship (high, broad, low) discovering older paradigms which challenged our contemporary summation of the complex phenomenon known as Anglican churchmanship. Another influence on my thought and consequently the hypothesis presented in this work was the article, “High Church Varieties: Continuity and Discontinuity in Anglican Catholic Thought,” by Mattijs Ploeger. Ploeger’s work reinforced my previous suspicion of the homogeneity of the High Church tradition in Anglicanism. Through a variety of primary and secondary sources, I have come to the conclusion that the Anglican High Church tradition is not homogeneous and therefore the particular strand known as “Anglo-Catholicism” should not be the sole proprietor of the label. I propose that Anglo-Catholicism is only one facet of Anglican High Churchmanship which has come to dominate High Churchmanship but that does not encompass the whole of it.

The necessary question which arises in discussing churchmanship is a simple one, what is High Churchmanship? The question might seem simple but the proposed answer is anything but simple. Likewise, the modern association with ceremonial seems entirely inadequate and in disconnect with the original meaning of the terms. As it has already been mentioned, Anglo-Catholicism is often equated with High Churchmanship; however, I have come to question this assertion. I also propose a sharp historical contrast between pre-Tractarian High Churchmanship and post-Tractarian High Churchmanship, which primarily manifests itself with the appearance of Anglo-Catholicism and Ritualism. As I mentioned above, I believe the High Church strand of thought in the Anglican tradition is anything but homogenous and I propose temporal, geographic, and theological substrata within this type of Anglican churchmanship, which I intend to explore in this work.

Historical Summary 

The differences between “high” and “low” church were not necessarily evident in the time of the Reformation, but we can see a general trend of development beginning with the reforms under Henry VIII.

Most of us are familiar with Henry VIII and his dilemma with Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon, at least if you've seen the popular series, The Tudors. Henry's role in the English Reformation is extremely complex and subject to historical interpretation beyond the scope of this work, however, it seems that he was generally in favor of modest reform while maintaining traditional ceremonial. Many important things happened during his reign which set the stage for the further reforms under Edward VI and later monarchs. First, Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer to the archbishopric of Canterbury on October 1, 1532, who was quickly recruited to help determine the best way forward in regards to the King’s “great matter”. After just two years of legislation, 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 manifestations of early reform include the Dissolution of the Monasteries led by Cromwell. Henry issued several doctrinal statements beginning with the Ten Articles of 1536 and later the Six Articles of 1539. They were conservative documents but looked to German Lutherans for inspiration. There wasn’t a concept of “churchmanship” as we know it during Henry’s reign but there were divides between the clergy’s reaction to the reforms. Eamon Duffy mentions “traditionalists” and “reformists” in his book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580. It is important to note that no modern church party has exclusive claim to the English Reformers, for example, it is erroneous to say that the Reformers were “Evangelicals” in the nineteenth century meaning of the term (they were “evangelical” in the sense that they loved the Gospel). 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. However, the Elizabethan church, at least in the beginning, can hardly be classified as “Anglican” especially before the finalization of the Articles of Religion in 1571. Hylson-Smith adds his reflection on this period of the Church, “The 'complex of ideas described by the word "Anglican" did not exist in the Elizabethan church, any more than the word did'. The early Elizabethan church was 'an enforced coalition of contrary religious traditions and tendencies, crudely distinguishable as very protestant, not-so-protestant and crypto-papist.” 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 apparent at the end of Charles I’s reign. Churchmanship at the time was beginning to develop, "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’. 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 a "high" view of the Established Church and would not tolerate deviations from the standard liturgy. Kenneth Hylson-Smith introduces the concept of High Churchmanship around this point in the history of the Church of England,

"Certainly, prior to the Restoration, 'High Churchmanship' was largely a response to Puritanism on the one hand and Roman Catholicism on the other. It was, to this extent, a defensive upholding of a via media, a sort of Church of England middle ground consensus, without having such a definite form and content as either Puritanism or Roman Catholicism. Puritanism to a certain extent, but more especially Roman Catholicism, had very clear beliefs, codes of practice, and systems of authority, structures and organisation. High Churchmanship lacked all of these marks of a fairly clearly defined tradition and school of thought, and was undoubtedly somewhat imprecise, unstructured and unselfconscious. It has in fact been asserted that the term 'High Church Party' 'was not used in an ecclesiastical sense until the last years of the seventeenth century, and the party so described was not sufficiently distinguished from the rest of the Church of England to require a name until that time'... Throughout the latter part of the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth century High Churchmen were characerised by their opposition to Latitudinarianism and by their alliance with Toryism against Whig and nonconformist assertions..."

The High Churchmen won and, weary from the Civil War and the Cromwellian period, 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 as a 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 1833, or the beginning of the Oxford Movement. During this time the Church was battling Enlightenment issues of science and deism. This age was generally characterized by "cautious and

Latitudinarian Anglicanism,” although this characterization has been questioned by many historians and, for all intents and purposes, it is probably a false description of this rich period of Anglican history.  It was in this climate that the clergyman, John Wesley, lived and preached. Wesley was originally a 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."

Besides Wesley’s movement, there was a strong High Church tradition in the Church of England in the “long eighteenth century,” which grew and flourished during this period. 

Theological Portrait of the English Old High Churchmen 

In this section, I attempt to provide a brief sketch of High Church theology. This is a particularly difficult task because the High Church movement was not (nor is it now) a monolithic movement. In addition to actual theological differences in varying camps, the problem of terminology also causes issue in our post-Ritualistic world. I identify several camps within the old High Church school: a) centrists; b) Tory High Church (Nockles’ concept); c) advanced. The first group includes those who embraced a thoroughly Protestant (and Reformed) theology who placed greater emphasis on the visible church and the visible means of grace. Daniel Waterland is a good example of the centrist position. “Tory High Churchmen” were those who placed an emphasis on the Church of England as the Established Church of England and greatly valued the church-state relationship. Advanced churchmen were those who pushed the edge of the Reformed boundaries of the formularies or who went beyond them, this includes men such as John Johnson in the Established Church and Thomas Brett in the Non-Juring sect. Cornwall summarizes High Church diversity,

“High Church and Non-Juror divines did not present a monolithic theological face to the world. Their thought was characterized by different emphases and nuances. William Beveridge remained rooted in the Restoration Church, combining a Calvinist theology with an emphasis on the visible and apostolic church. Francis Atterbury and Henry Sacheverell continued to espouse the beneficial alliance that existed between church and state, whereas Henry Dodwell, George Hickes, and Thomas Brett defended the church’s subsistence as an autonomous society completely separate from the state….Still…[they] believed that there was any road to God except the one that led through the episcopal and apostolic church that had existed in that nation from before the Reformation.”

Within this theological heterogeneity, I maintain that there was substantial, Protestant consensus among old High Churchmen, with the exception of some extreme Non-Jurors. However, it is important to remember that they were outside the boundary of the Established Church and were not subject to the formularies. In seeking to provide a basic definition of just what a High Churchman was, Nockles provides this definition,

“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).


There has been much historical debate about where to “place” High Churchmen, such as the Laudians, and Anglicans in general, in the “Calvinist” vs. “Arminian” debate. My own reflection is that Anglicanism’s formularies predate both of these theological systems and it is rather difficult to neatly place Anglicanism fully within either. Another problem, in my own view, is the notion that “Calvinism” really reflects the theology of Calvin. It seems that there were several theological shifts within the corpus of Calvinist systematic theology after the death of Calvin, whereby Beza, Calvin’s successor, shifted the emphasis of predestination from soteriology to a matter of theology proper, dealing with God’s sovereignty, rather than as a demonstration of his grace. If I were to classify the Anglican formularies, I would say that they reflect the broad, Augustinian consensus of Reformation theology which broadly accepted a predestinarian scheme for salvation, stemming from the core doctrines of sola gratia and sola fide, but that is rather beyond the scope of this piece.

Within historical discussion, at least from an outside reader, it appears that there are a number of theses about this matter. One of them seems to indicate that a distinctive form of Arminianism developed in the British Isles, aptly styled “English Arminianism,” this system denied the doctrine of double predestination and the individualistic piety, characteristic of the more “godly” churchmen, meaning those who sought to further reform the English Church in the Genevan fashion. For example, Archbishop Peter Robinson of the United Episcopal Church in North America, explains further his take on this matter, following the “English Arminian” thesis,

“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.”

Hylson-Smith discusses the latter notion that “English Arminianism” reflects an attitude towards individualism, rather than predestination per se. The idea is that the Laudians rejected the individualistic piety and, instead, focused on the communal and visible means of grace, essentially equating English Arminianism with anti-Calvinism. Hylson-Smith opines,

“The term Arminian has commonly been used to describe this body of anti-Calvinistic opinion, but it does not mean that the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius was normally the source of the ideas so labeled… In England, although the Arminians asserted the orthodoxy of free will and universal grace, they also stressed the hierarchical nature of both church and state against the incipient egalitarianism of Calvinism… ‘the English Arminian mode, as it emerged during the 1630’s, was that of communal and ritualized worship rather than an individual response to preaching or Bible reading.’”

There are also theories which deny any sort of “English Arminianism.” Guyer notes that the works of Arminius were not published widely in England during the seventeenth century (the “definitive” edition of Arminius in English was published in the 19th century). Also, according to Guyer, reducing Anglican theology to anti-Calvinism is contrary to historical fact.

A short word will be said on High Church beliefs regarding justification, which is the key dividing line between Romanism and true religion. Most Anglican divines starting with the Reformers themselves up to the Caroline Divines were strictly Protestant and Reformed in their understanding of the nature of justification. In the post-Restoration Church, later Caroline Divines, such as Taylor and others reacted against the Puritan theology of the Interregnum, or the “solafidianism” that they perceived of as denying the role of good works in salvation. As Jeremy Taylor said that faith without works was, “like a stomach poweder faith only works if it purges and purifies.” Ploeger describes the nuances of this new theology,

“they did not consider the first act of God as the input of a righteous qualitas inhaerens in the human being (which would be the Roman Catholic view), but as the external imputation of Christ’s righteousness unto the human being; however, after that they taught a continuation of the process of justification by means of good works which were provided by gratia infusa.Without the latter, the former had no value and could even be lost.”

Along with the strong link between baptism and regeneration and the new-found emphasis on good works in salvation, many later Evangelicals believed that the Church of England had lost its zeal for Reformed orthodoxy, which later sparked the Evangelical Revival. The emphasis on good works was perceived as moralism by Evangelicals and Dissenting Protestants. Yet, despite these differences, there was far more Protestant consensus among different church parties than differences. High Churchmen condemned Roman doctrines of good works and infused righteousness and affirmed, in general, justification by faith, but rejected what they perceived to be an under-emphasis of good works.


Following the theology of baptism presented in the Book of Common Prayer and Articles, High Churchmen linked the regeneration of the soul and forgiveness of sins with the sacrament of baptism. Two essentially questions usually follow this type of assertion, 1) who can be baptized; 2) what happens in baptism? To the first question, High Churchmen, as all Anglicans, agreed that unbaptized adults and the children of baptized adults are welcome to receive the sacrament. Without entering the paedobaptism debate, High Churchmen believed that infants were possible of being disciples because, although they could not make their own profession of faith, they were capable of receiving the “seeds of repentance and faith” which would grow in them and eventually they would claim this faith for their own in confirmation. In answer to the second question, High Churchmen affirmed a strong connection between the sign and thing signified, believing that the forgiveness of sins was attained in baptism, “which led to new birth in righteousness… [t]he waters of baptism symbolized the washing away of sins, freeing the recipient from the power of sin.” Here Charles Wheatly describes the relationship between the rite and the reception of the benefits,

“For as that is the first office done unto us after our natural births, in order to cleanse us from the pollution of the womb… so when we are admitted into the church, we are first baptized, (whereby the Holy Ghost cleanses from all the pollution of our sins, and renew us unto God, and so become, as it were spiritual infants, and enter into a new life and being; which before we had not).”

The relationship between sign and thing signified led to a variety of interpretations, as Toon explains here, giving the Evangelical interpretations,

“"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. Likewise, Archbishop Robinson (UECNA) 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.”

Waterland, representing a centrist-High Church position on matters such as sacramentology and other theological concerns, presents a centrist understanding of the relationship between the sign and the thing signified,

“Regeneration on the part of the grantor, God Almighty, means admission or adoption into sonship, or spiritual citizenship: and on the part of the grantee, viz. man, it means his birth, or entrance into that state of sonship or citizenship. It is God that adopts or regenerates, like as it is God that justifies. Man does not adopt, regenerate, or justify himself, whatever hand he may otherwise have (but still under grace) in preparing or qualifying himself for it. God makes the grant, and it is entirely his act: man receives only, and is acted upon; though sometimes active in qualifying himself, as in the case of adults, and sometimes entirely passive, as in the case of infants. The thing granted and received is a change from the state natural into the state spiritual; a translation from the curse of Adam into the grace of Christ. This change, translation or adoption carries in it many Christian blessings and privileges, but all reducible to two, viz. remission of sins, (absolute or conditional,) and a covenant-claim, for the time being, to eternal happiness. Those blessings may all be forfeited, or finally lost, if a person revolts from God...; and then such person is no longer in a regenerate state, or a state of sonship, with respect to any saving effects: but still God’s original grant of adoption or sonship in Baptism stands in full force, to take place as often as any such revolter shall return, and not otherwise: and if he desires to be as before, he will not want to be regenerated again, but renewed, or reformed. Regeneration complete stands in two things, which are, as it were, its two integral parts; the grant made over to the person, and the reception of that grant. The grant once made continues always the same; but the reception may vary, because it depends upon the condition of the recipient.”

Jones goes on to explain some of the nuances of Waterland’s distinction which help flesh out the intricacies of his system. Waterland distinguishes between “conversion” and “regeneration”. The former being the Evangelical new birth and the latter representing, “the ancient word which the Church had traditionally applied the act of sacramental Baptism itself.”


Like other Protestants, all juring High Churchmen, and most Non-Jurors affirmed two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These ordinances fulfilled the requirements for being a sacrament according to reformed theology. Confirmation, not being a sacrament, was an ancient and desirable custom, but was not a sacrament. High Churchmen still viewed it as a necessary rite, conferring upon the believer the Holy Ghost and a completion of baptism. It is notable that some Non-Jurors went beyond Protestant orthodoxy and included confirmation as a sacrament, most notably Thomas Deacon, who believed it should be administered to infants, as was the custom in the Eastern Churches. Wheatly explains the common understanding of the effects of confirmation, “baptism conveys the Holy Ghost only as the spirit or principle of life; it is by Confirmation that he becomes to us the Spirit of strength, and enables us to stir and move ourselves.” Confirmation was also strongly linked to the doctrines of apostolic succession and episcopal ministry, for confirmation could only be performed by bishops. Confirmation made one a member of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church and could only be conferred by a catholic bishop. The role of the bishops here served as a “confirmation” of the catholicity of the English Church.

Although confirmation was such an essential rite to the life of the believer, there were many hindrances to actually receiving it, hence the rubric in the Prayer Book, “And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” In addition to having sometimes huge dioceses, English bishops had duties in Parliament, in the House of Lords, which slowed down their triennial parochial visits. In addition to this, many bishops lacked the enthusiasm to regularly offer confirmation in their dioceses. Although the prayer books from 1549 to 1662 required confirmation for the reception of Communion, most bishops, especially in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Churches, espoused a catechetically-driven membership, whereby communicants were prepared for the reception of the Sacrament by knowledge of the Church’s catechism rather than by receiving the rite of Confirmation. Although confirmation was neglected by Protestant bishops in this period, there were conformist apologies of the rite, most notably, Whitgift, who argued that confirmation was an ancient profession of faith after a period of catechism. Obviously, this picture would change in the Caroline reign, for in the Laudian program, the rubrics of the Prayer Book were taken seriously and strictly enforced, which contrasted with the laxity in rubrical enforcement from the Elizabethan and Jacobean bishops. A few theological changes began to surface during Charles’s reign. First, confirmation was given a sense of necessity by Anglican divines. Ambrose Fisher maintained that Confirmation was necessary for children, “if t hey come to years, both Confirmation and the Lord’s Supper may be necessary even as repentance and the hearing of Sermons may not by you be affirmed to be needless to the purchase of heaven.” Edward Boughen proposes a conditional necessity, “‘as a sign, or Ceremony, by which and prayer God conveys his holy Spirit upon those that heretofore were baptized.’ This gift of the Spirit was made in order ‘that we may receive strength and defence against all temptations to sin.’ The rite itself was ‘not of necessity to salvation, but of necessity for t he obtaining of certain gifts of the Spirit.’” John Cosin went beyond previous Anglican divines in describing Confirmation as a “holy Sacrament” and “a sacred and a solemn action of religion.” He agreed on its conditional necessity in the life of a Christian. “They that die presently after Baptism have all things needful to salvation; they need not fear it; but they that are to live and maintain a spiritual combat against sin and Satan, they have need of God’s further graces, which are communicated unto them by imposition of hands” Laud did not ascribe to confirmation the status of sacrament as did Cosin but he maintained its ancient status as a rite of initiation and benefit to the Christian. Yet, even with this sacramentalist tendency, the real gate to Communion remained catechism, instead of confirmation.

Holy Communion 

Scholars have interpreted the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as contained in the formularies as dynamic receptionism, although some offer slightly different terms, the idea is the same, which amounts to a, “spiritual reception by faith of Christ's body and blood,” further implicated by this doctrine is that, “there is no change in the bread and wine except in the sacred use to which they are appointed; that the sacrifice in the Eucharist is a "sacramental representation, commemoration and application of "the real sacrifice on the cross; that it is the crucified body of Christ now in heaven which is spiritually partaken, and that the wicked do not eat the body of Christ in the sacrament.” This doctrine was held by a majority of Evangelicals and juring High Churchmen, although some Evangelicals espoused a form of Zwinglian memorialism and some High Churchmen adopted a more realistic virtualism. Griffin offers a fuller description of the totality of High Church eucharistic thought, and really that of most Anglicans in the eighteenth century,

1) Christ is really and truly present in the sacrament, objectively "set before us" and offered wholly and effectually- Jewel emphatically asserted the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament.

2) Transubstantiation is superstitious, heretical and evil, yet Jewel also denied that the elements are "bare signs only and as such inefficacious. Christ is really present in the Sacrament, nevertheless locally absent, for his body resides in Heaven. The bread and wine retain their own nature and substance.

3) The change in the elements of bread and wine consists in the having a "new dignity and pre-eminence which they had not before." They are no longer common bread and wine, but are the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, just as the water of baptism remains in all ways water, but not mere water, for it is the sacrament of our redemption and those washed with it are truly washed with Christ's blood.

4) Christ is truly received in the sacrament by the faithful recipient – As the physical elements of bread and wine are eaten by the physical body and nourish it, the truly present Body of Christ is eaten by "the mouth of faith" and nourishes the soul 'The presence of the Body of Christ in the sacrament is not dependent on the subjective condition of the recipient; it is objectively offered to all communicants, but since it is spiritual, it can only be received spiritually, that is, by faith Jewel asserted that the faithless and wicked, though they may receive the sacrament, do not receive Christ." Thus the benefits of Christ's death cannot be obtained by virtue of a massing priest, because the individual’s faith is the critical factor. Moreover Jewel asserted to Harding that "without faith sacraments be not only unprofitable to us but also hurtful.”

5) According to Jewel, there is a double movement in the sacrament; that of the heavenly Body of Christ being offered to all faithful recipients, but also of our lifting up our hearts beyond the sacrament to heaven itself to take hold of the Glorified Christ. Jewel often made use of a figure from Chrysostom of eagles flocking to the corpse; we are to be eagles ascending on high to feed on the real body of Christ." Christ is in heaven; the sacrament, because it is his body, lifts us there, and its purpose is to cause this flight,"

6) The sacrament is a real eucharistic sacrifice in that the faithful offer the unbloody sacrifice of prayer, praise and thanksgiving; and the sacrifice of Christ once offered is revived and represented to us in the holy mysteries."

He denies as blasphemy the sacrifice of Christ on the altar.

There were three generally recognized theories about the real presence: receptionism, virtualism, and memorialism (or Zwinglianism).

“The three terms which have been most often used to describe the various shades of Anglican interpretation are "memorialism," "receptionism," and "virtualism," the latter generally applied to the Non-Jurors' "higher" understanding of the eucharist. "Receptionism has been further qualified when describing the theology of the Caroline divines to become "dynamic receptionism." By this is meant that although the corporeal, bodily presence of Christ in the elements of the sacrament is denied, there is however something "more" attached to them," more than simply the belief that Christ is present in the hearts of the faithful receivers.”

Hylson-Smith offers his understanding of the two strands of thought regarding the presence of Christ in the Eucharist,

“Two principal schools of thought guided the understanding of the Eucharist for eighteenth century High Churchmen. The first derived from Andrewes, Overall, Heylyn, Thorndike, and Mede… found expression in works such as The Unbloody Sacrifice (1714) by John Johnson of Cranbrook. This tradition stressed the continuity of the Eucharist with the Old Testament sacrifices, and asserted that Christ was offered in every Eucharist, not hypostatically, as supposed by the Tridentine Church of Rome, but representatively and really, ‘in mystery and effect.’ … The second school of thought was derived from Cranmer, Laud, Taylor and Cudworth and was expounded in Waterland’s Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist (1737).”

This position is that of Calvin and Bucer as well of the Caroline Divines and other juring High Churchmen and of Evangelicals. The position of the Non-Jurors and certain High Churchmen was more realistic in its conception of the real presence and was termed virtualism, for it held that the bread and the wine were not changed into the body and blood of Christ in substance but that the power or benefit of Christ is present, as if Christ were present. The presence of Christ was maintained in virtue and in power but not in his natural body. The essential difference between these two positions is that the Non-Juror position places more emphasis on the objectivity of Christ’s presence. “They remained close to Calvin’s position, [yet] moved beyond him by separating the Spirit’s mediation of Christ’s presence from the recipient’s faith by placing it in the words of institution and the prayer of invocation. Faith simply made one worthy to receive the elements.” The relationship of faith to the real presence is addressed by Johnson who describes, “eating orally (manducatio oralis) and eating spiritually, or from the heart (manducatio cordalis)… While recipients of the eucharist ate bread with their mouths, they apprehended the perfect representation of Christ’s natural body in the bread with their minds. Though their outward senses perceived only bread, by faith they received the bread as the body of Christ and ate it rationally” The question remains as to what exactly “worthy reception” is, since it is required to receive the presence of Christ. Beverdige defines it to mean to, “receive the outward signs of bread and wine, without discerning by faith the Lord’s body signified by them, and therefore without shewing any more regard and reverence to what they eat and drink there, than they do to any other meat and drink.” It is to be noted that all High Churchmen and Non-Jurors rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation and its sister, ex opera operato.

They also rejected the doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass, as per Article 31, yet they held to the idea that the eucharist is a commemorative sacrifice, that meaning that the rite is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Yet, some Non-Jurors held to a propitiatory sacrifice, that going further than the commemorative sacrifice. Regardless of the persuasion in this matter, all High Churchmen affirmed that in the eucharist, the believer receives the benefits of Christ’s passion, most notably the remission of sins.  The difference between centrist and Tory High Churchmen and advanced Churchmen was that the former affirmed a spiritual sacrifice, while the latter affirmed a material sacrifice. In addition, they would have supported the notion that the Lord’s Supper was a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving as well as an oblation of the whole self to God with other Anglican divines and as the BCP expects an oblation of, “ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee” (BCP). Waterland explains the centrist understanding of the Eucharistic sacrifice, “The Eucharist was a commemorative and representative service, which possessed a sacrificial aspect from the remembrance of Christ’s death, and the sacramental Presence was to be understood as the virtue and grace of the Lord’s Body and Blood communicated to the worthy receiver,” Hylson-Smith further clarifies the nuances in old High Church sacrificial theology,

“Three Eucharistic theories… “The most extreme conceived of the Eucharist as a proper and propitiatory sacrifice, in which the bread and wine were themselves offered to God as symbols of Christ’s oblation, begun not on the cross but when the rite was instituted at the Last Supper… A broader band of High Church opinion affirmed that the Eucharist was a commemorative or memorial sacrifice: one by which, in the word of Prebendary George Berkeley, Christians do not ‘barely commemorate their Saviour’s death’, but also ‘powerfully plead in the court of heaven the merits of his vicarious sufferings’… Thirdly, there were many eighteenth century divines who were anxious to uphold the sacrificial character of the Lord’s Supper, but who took special pains to guard against any suggestion that the Holy Communion service possessed any virtue of its own distinct from the one, sufficient sacrifice once offered on Calvary. They regarded the Eucharist as a feast upon that sacrifice: a banquet in which the faithful communicant made a covenant with his God by doing symbolically what Jewish and pagan sacrificers had effected literally, namely consuming a portion of the victim slain.”

The signs of bread and wine were not just signs but effectual symbols that convey to the believer the body and blood of Christ and the benefits won by him in his death on the cross. Baptism washed one from all the sins committed before baptism and the Lord’s Supper renewed the covenant made with God in baptism by washing one from post-baptismal sin. The body and blood of Christ were received as spiritual nourishment and sanctifying grace.

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 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 Jerusalem. 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

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