ARTICLES

Volume 44 - Issue 3

The Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism: Initial Encounters

by Kenneth J. Stewart

Abstract

Commemorations of the birth of the Oxford Movement (later known as Anglo-Catholicism) have regularly intimated certain early commonalities with evangelicalism, especially within the Church of England. It was so at the 1933 centenary of the launch of the movement; such hypotheses have been given fresh life with the 2017 release of the Oxford Handbook of the Oxford Movement. This essay examines the basis for these suggestions and finds them wanting.

The recent publication of The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement,1 a comprehensive single-volume guide to this nineteenth century party and ideology, has served to revive a discussion which is now well over a century old. That discussion centers upon the question of what was the original and ongoing relationship between existing evangelical Protestantism and the emerging Oxford, or Tractarian Movement. The Oxford Handbook renews consideration of whether evangelical Protestantism in its Church of England expression was not a formative or contributing factor in the rise of the other movement which radiated outward from Oxford after 1833.2 What might seem at first glance to be a rather arcane inquiry about the descent of this movement is in fact anything but that. At stake is the important question of what possible affinity and relationship might be possible between the two movements as they continue to exist down to the present. This essay will explore the contested question of interrelationship and draw out some implications of this issue for the present day.

1. The Two Movements

The ‘Oxford Movement’ was an anti-Erastian tendency within the Church of England, begun in 1833. In response to Parliament’s readiness to reduce by half the number of dioceses in the Protestant Church of Ireland and to abolish traditional confessional ‘tests’ for those seeking to enroll in England’s universities, the movement set about publishing 90 pamphlets (‘Tracts’ they were called) exalting the spiritual independence of their national church via an alleged apostolic succession of bishops. Principal persons in this movement also promoted doctrinal and liturgical emphases closely associated with the era of Archbishop William Laud (1573–1645) and with various divines dating from the Restoration-era Church of England. Nineteenth century Tractarian writers were widely construed as maneuvering towards a closer Anglican conformity with Roman Catholicism.3

After the departure of John Henry Newman and some other early participants in the movement around 1845 for Roman Catholicism, this ‘party’ continued on as ‘Puseyism’ (taking its name from the Oxford professor of Hebrew, E. B. Pusey [1800–1882], who was also a participant) and still later as ‘Anglo-Catholicism’, the name by which we know it today. In this latter form, it absorbed two related groups: a Cambridge-originated movement seeking the reintroduction of pre-Reformation liturgies, and another that advocated for the use of Gothic church architecture—a style then being championed by no one so much as the Victorian architect, Augustus Pugin (1812–1852).4

By comparison, evangelical Protestantism was the conversionist and biblicistic form of Christianity that, having emerged in the Renaissance and Reformation periods,5 existed first within the national churches of England, Ireland and Scotland.6 Then—after failed attempts at restoring national religious comprehension in the era of the restored Stuart monarchy (1660)—it re-asserted itself as a pan-denominational movement in the era we call the Great Awakening/Evangelical Revival after 1730. In the post-Restoration period this movement eventually brought together in an informal alliance of pastors and people within and beyond the national churches.

By the late-Georgian and early Victorian era that concerns us today, the pan-denominational evangelical movement had demonstrated its ability to collaborate across church lines in support of cooperative agencies such as the London Missionary Society (founded 1795), the Religious Tract Society (founded 1799) and the British and Foreign Bible Society (founded 1804).7 In the period we now consider, this same pan-denominational movement would collaborate further in the founding of the Evangelical Alliance at London (1846) with affiliate alliances soon following in Europe and North America.8

2. The Question of Relationship

At least since the 1930s, the dominant approach taken in explaining the mutual relations between these two movements has been one which has stressed their common roots and common aspirations. What supporting evidence is there for assertions of commonality?

First, some leading Tractarian personalities, notably J. H. Newman (1801–1890),9 R. W. Church (1815–1890), and Robert Isaac Wilberforce (1802–1857) with brother, Henry William Wilberforce (1807–1873) had in common an upbringing within Anglican evangelicalism.10 Further, it is suggested that these two movements had in common a desire to advance the pursuit of holy living by professed Christians. Still further, it is also said that both of these movements (as found within the Church of England) shared common misgivings about the wisdom of that church being as subject to the control of parliament as it was. Parliament exercised control in the matter of the nomination and selection of bishops and archbishops. It also controlled the funding of new church construction (something highly important in that age of mushrooming metropolitan populations). Parliament also hindered the meeting of deliberative assemblies of the Church of England (i.e. the Convocations of the Provinces of Canterbury and York) between 1717 and 1852.11 This Parliament had also recently terminated the effective monopoly on the exercise of religion enjoyed across England by the Church of England. Parliament, earlier comprised entirely of persons who were at least outwardly loyal to the established Church of England, after 1828 was opened to include elected members who were Protestant Nonconformists and (after 1829) Roman Catholics. It is a fact that Oxford Movement stalwarts (soon known as Tractarians, after their pamphlets) and Anglican evangelicals shared both a sense of unease at these changes and an uncertainty as to know how to respond.12

Traces of this view of ‘commonality’ may be traced back to William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898), who became prime minister of Great Britain in 1869. Having been raised in an evangelical home in Liverpool and come under the influence of the Oxford Movement while at Oxford, he drew attention to affinities between the two. Gladstone gave it as his opinion that ‘the Evangelical movement may have stood in some relation of parentage to the Tractarian. But if so, it was hardly a conscious or voluntary parentage’. He ventured that most who joined the Tractarian movement and eventually re-affiliated to Rome ‘owed the buddings of their religious life to the Evangelical movement’.13 We may say that since the 1933 centenary of the launch of the Tractarian movement, writers have returned to these themes repeatedly.14

The Swedish church historian, Yngve Brilioth (1891–1959), an acute observer of Anglo-Catholicism, began where Gladstone left off in his 1933 lectures on the subject.15 Brilioth reminded readers of Newman’s own acknowledged indebtedness to Evangelical authors such as Thomas Scott, William Romaine, John Newton and Joseph Milner in his youth.16 He was able to show that through the 1820s, John Henry Newman kept up some involvement with evangelical agencies such as the British and Foreign Bible Society and Church Missionary Society.17 Brilioth showed that in the immediate aftermath of the launch of the first of the eventual 90 tracts in 1833, Newman was gratified to learn that these early literary productions had met with support from some evangelical as well as High Church readers.

Yet by the mid-1830s, any early sense of shared purpose had evaporated. Individual tracts released by the movement argued not only for an Apostolic Succession active in the national church, but for a consequent inauthenticity of sacraments administered within other Christian denominations. The evangelical Protestant stress on the importance of the spiritual unity of all genuine believers through the church invisible was held up for ridicule by Tractarians who argued in favor of the Church of England as the visible church. A view of Christian baptism was being circulated in these tracts that made the reception of salvation to be inseparably associated with the administration of that rite.18 Early tracts had claimed to take up a stance against Roman teaching (Tract 71 and Tract 72 provided reasons for discounting Rome’s claims). Yet readers were nevertheless baffled to be told (in Tract 80) of the need for reserve and reticence in attempts to set out, by oral persuasion, the mystery of the cross of Christ.19 Eventually, the bishop of Oxford responded to the widespread outcry that Tract 90 (which had urged that the Anglican Articles of Religion could bear a Roman Catholic interpretation) was a vehicle for advancing Roman teaching; he obliged Newman to halt to all further production.20 Brilioth did not deny any of this, though he mostly stressed observable commonalities.

Having adjudicated Gladstone’s earlier contention that ‘most’ of the early Tractarians owed something to evangelical Christianity, Brilioth admitted that proof was lacking for any similar indebtedness on the part of John Keble, Hurrell Froude, or E. B. Pusey (all collaborators with Newman). Regarding Pusey, he could only plead that he had a better understanding of European Protestantism—and of Pietism—than his comrades had.21 For examples of the indebtedness to evangelical Christianity which Gladstone had claimed to be widespread, Brilioth needed to look to two of the three sons of the famous abolitionist, William Wilberforce (1759–1833): these were Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Henry William Wilberforce. He also named Frederick Oakley (1802–1880).22

This claim of Evangelical-Tractarian affinity has not been forgotten in more recent decades. Writing in 1963, David Newsome pursued it in exploring how those Wilberforce brothers (Robert Isaac and Henry William) became alienated from the evangelicalism of their upbringing to embrace Tractarianism (and in the case of the second brother, eventually Roman Catholicism).23 Writing in 1997, Michael Testa drew fresh attention to evidences of lingering evangelical emphases in Newman’s preaching through the mid–1830s.24 In 2015, Peter B. Nockles argued that Newman and the Oxford Movement represented an expression of ‘religious revival’, i.e. an intensification of religious commitment and zeal following an earlier torpor, and that this intensity of belief and religious feeling qualified the movement to be ranked with various other movements of spiritual awakening.25 In this argument, he has been followed in 2017 by Grayson Carter, who insisted that ‘the relationship between Evangelicals and the Tractarians was, at least in the initial phase of the Oxford Movement, largely complementary’.26 Carter went on to cite shared interests in the necessary distinction between society and the church, upon holiness, and upon earnestness in worship.27

Yet even when we have come this far, advocates of commonality are required to admit, in candor, that such evidence of shared concerns suffers for lack of wider corroboration. The trail seems to ‘grow cold’ and disappears considerably earlier than the wave of conversions to Rome by members of the Tractarian movement circa 1845—a move first involving Tractarian writer W. G. Ward and then J. H. Newman, as well as many students under Newman’s influence.

3. Evidence of Incompatibility between These Movements

By 1838, there had been two dramatic developments beyond the Tracts themselves which illustrated that whatever commonalities and shared values there might have been at an earlier stage, these were far from enduring.28 The first was the Tractarian takeover of a High Church periodical, the British Critic. Newman had become involved with it, editorially, in 1836 and this involvement had opened the way for his Tractarian colleagues to exercise an ever-more pervasive influence as contributors to the periodical. Beginning in 1838, other viewpoints (mostly High Church) began to be crowded out and the British Critic rapidly became an ideological ‘engine’. First under Newman’s editorship, and then under the editorship of his surrogate, Thomas Mozley, a kind of combat was carried on with other viewpoints in the Church of England. Though Anglican evangelicalism was not the sole target, it –with High Church Anglicanism—was treated as ‘fair game’ by the British Critic.29 Observing this development, the strident evangelical Anglican periodical, The Record, opined, ‘The Puseyite party have bought up the British Critic, which publication will from henceforth be dedicated to the promulgation of their principles’.30

Yet this first development, the impact of which became more apparent over time, was soon eclipsed by the bombshell effect of the publication in 1838–1839, after joint editorial work by Newman and John Keble, of the two-volume Remains of Newman’s former bosom friend, Hurrell Froude (1803–1836). Froude, also a fellow (with Newman) at Oxford’s Oriel College, had battled tuberculosis; before his early demise Froude had travelled widely in the Mediterranean (accompanied by Newman) in search of health. Upon his death, the release of his diaries and letters astonished many of those who read them. They disclosed an open disdain for the English Reformers (‘As for the Reformers, I think less and less of them’31) and open devotion towards Rome. The release and circulation of these opinions was ‘intentionally provocative’,32 for Newman and Keble would clearly have been able to anticipate the criticism they would draw from both the high church and evangelical wings of the Church of England. Bear in mind that in 1838 there had, as yet, been no Anglican defections to Rome; neither had there yet been any Episcopal action to halt publication of the Tracts.

The thesis of commonality is therefore undermined by three factors:

  1. The proportion of supporters of the early Oxford or Tractarian movement with Evangelicalism in their pasts was small; this background was never characteristic of the movement considered as a whole. Any list of Tractarians from evangelical backgrounds is a very short list.33
  2. The direction of the published views of the Tractarians after about 1835—both in the Tracts and in their acquired journal, the British Critic, was one of hostility to all viewpoints beside their own.
  3. The decision to publish the literary Remains of the deceased Tractarian, Froude, was a decision to employ his criticisms of English Protestantism as a vehicle for the views of those who released them to the public. Their editorial work was a piece of literary ventriloquism.

4. Features of Early Victorian Evangelical Opposition to the Oxford Movement

Diarmaid MacCulloch has observed that, with the exception of E. B. Pusey (who had studied in Germany), the early Tractarian writers were very poorly informed about the sixteenth century Reformation on the Continent, as well as the emergence of the Reformation in their island-nation. He has drawn attention to an ‘Anglo-Catholic re-writing of English church history pioneered by John Keble and John Henry Newman in the 1830s’.34 While they in fact wrote and worked under a handicap (as did most of their contemporaries), the polemical efforts of the Tractarians to drive a wedge between the Church of England and the Reformation of the sixteenth century had the unintended effect of generating tremendous renewed interest across the English-speaking world in the leading personalities and writings of the Reformation. Some examples will help to make this development concrete.

4.1. The Oxford Martyr’s Memorial

A proposed Oxford Martyr’s Memorial to Edwardian Protestant bishops Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer, all burned at the stake in Oxford in the reign of Mary Tudor, had languished for lack of adequate financial support after the completion of its design in 1838. However, Anglicans of various allegiances united to see this project brought to completion by 1843 in the face of the negative aspersions against the English Reformers cast by various Tractarian writings.35

4.2. Parker Society, Religious Tract Society, Calvin Translation Society

In the same years, efforts were undertaken to re-circulate the writings of the English Reformers of the sixteenth century through the efforts of the newly-founded (1840) Parker Society (named in honor of Elizabethan archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker [1504–1575]). In due course, 7,000 member-subscribers would receive 54 volumes of treatises, letters, and documents pertaining to the Reformation in England and its relations with the Continent. While the Parker Society reflected the particular priorities of concerned persons within the Church of England, 36 it was not alone in seeking to address the ‘stir’ created by the Tractarians. The pan-denominational Religious Tract Society (founded 1799), had, for reasons of its own, set in motion a publishing program that would address this emerging situation; already in 1828 the Society had begun to circulate the Select Writings of the British Reformers in twelve volumes. It concluded that series with an 1833 volume, Lives of the British Reformers.37

In part because the Tractarians had identified Reformation Geneva as a source of the spread of rationalism in religion, concerned individuals in both England and Scotland joined together in this period to found the Calvin Translation Society. For a subscription of £1 annually, readers would eventually receive Calvin’s Institutes in the two-volume Beveridge translation, the three-volume Tracts and Treatises, and 45 volumes of his biblical commentary.38 Once more, the Tractarians provided the stimulus.

4.3. Direct Challenges to Tractarianism from within the Church of England

Reference has already been made to the qualified interest which certain evangelicals expressed towards the early efforts of the Tractarians in 1833 to raise up a movement which shared their antipathy to Parliamentary encroachments. But chronologically parallel to those qualified expressions of interest there was growing up among strands of Anglican evangelicalism a deep concern at this movement. In 1836, Edward Bickersteth (1785–1850) by then closely associated with the Church Missionary Society, authored Remarks on the Progress of Popery—a treatise not about Popery but about Tractarianism. There were similar oppositional efforts offered in response to Tractarian claims about primitive unwritten tradition and baptismal regeneration.39 George Stanley Faber (1773–1854) responded to John Henry Newman’s vacillating writings on justification with his own The Primitive Doctrine of Justification Investigated (1837). A visiting American Episcopal bishop of Ohio, Charles P. McIlvaine (1799–1873) lingered in England long enough to pen The Oxford Divinity Compared with that of the Romish and Anglican Churches (1841).40

This existing concern was intensified when with the year 1840, the Tractarians circulated their Tract 90, purporting to show how the Anglican Articles of Religion could bear a Catholic (rather than a Protestant) sense. This provoked William Goode (1801–1868), the editor of the Christian Observer, to go into print with a major critique, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice (1842).41 William Patrick Palmer (1803–1885), until the publication of Tract 90 a Tractarian sympathizer, turned on his former fellows with the publication of his A Narrative of Events Connected with the Publication of the ‘Tracts for the Times’ (1843).42

4.4. Challenges to Tractarianism from beyond the Church of England

Protestant Nonconformity, whose recovery of the right to vote and to be seated in Parliament was so objectionable to the Tractarians,43 was following these events just as closely. John Stoughton (1807–1897), then a Congregationalist minister in Windsor but later the church historian at New College, Hampstead, issued his Lectures on Tractarian Theology in 1843.44 The publication in the next year of Tractarian W. G. Ward’s The Ideal of a Christian Church (1844), a treatise in which the Roman Church was set up as the virtual ideal, provoked another watchful Nonconformist, George Redford of Worcester (1785–1860) to supply a 40-page critical review in the British Quarterly Review.45 This united concern, within and beyond the Church of England goes some distance to explain why the Congregational Union in framing a May 1842 call that would help to bring into being the World’s Evangelical Alliance in 1846, stated its alarm at the advance of ‘Popery, Puseyism, and Plymouth Brethrenism’.46

4.5. Stimulus to the Study of Reformation History

Taking a broader view, we may say that the challenge of Tractarianism unwittingly served as a stimulus to the fresh investigation of Reformation history.47 In the same period (beginning 1841) there appeared in the United Kingdom and America the English translation of the multi-volume History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century (1835–1853) by the Genevan writer, J. H. Merle D’Aubigné (1794–1872). D’Aubigné devoted his fifth volume to England’s Tudor Reformation.48 That D’Aubigné was thinking of contemporary developments in Britain as he wrote is clear from his pamphlet-writing in the same period. These pamphlets included Puseyism Examined and Geneva and Oxford, both published in 1843. The latter reflected aspersions cast on Geneva by the Tractarians as the mother of rationalism in religion.49 Another Genevan, later a Huguenot minister at Berlin, Paul Emil Henry (1792–1853), saw his two-volume Life and Times of John Calvin (1835) appear in an English translation at London by 1849.50 The provocation of the Tractarians also served to stimulate fresh historical examination within the Church of England of the Lutheran Reformation. Julius Hare’s intriguingly titled volume, Vindication of Luther against His Modern Assailants (1854), was directly aimed at countering the dismissive attitude exhibited toward the Reformation by the Tractarians.51

5. Drawing Some Threads Together

It was not until the autumn of 1845 that two notable Tractarians of Oxford, William George Ward (1812–1882) and John Henry Newman (1801–1890) formally entered the Roman Catholic Church. In their doing so, they seemed to confirm what so many had long suspected and suggested in print, i.e. that the natural tendency of the Tractarian Movement had been Rome-ward. The fact that students associated with Newman in his quasi-monastic establishment at Littlemore (outside Oxford) had preceded him in his re-affiliation to Rome also seemed to confirm this hypothesis. The Record newspaper of the militant-Tory evangelical wing of the Church of England proceeded to publicize the names of each such convert.52 And before long, there were circulating suggestions that Newman (in particular) had been a closeted-Catholic for an extended time prior to his making the actual break. His later Apologia Pro Vita Sua of 1864 was composed to answer just such insinuations of duplicity.

Thus, this essay judges that evangelical sentiment both inside the Church of England and beyond it towards Tractarianism had overwhelmingly been one of suspicion of its motives and distrust of its agenda from the point when it moved beyond its initial opposing of further Parliamentary intrusions into church affairs and began to elaborate its views on church, ministry and sacraments. The Oxford Movement, taken as a whole, did not grow out of evangelicalism (as though the latter was the parent of the former). It is fairer to say that a handful of early Tractarians did in fact spurn their evangelical pasts and later acknowledged those pasts. But in Newman’s own case, the move was not directly from Evangelicalism to Tractarianism, but from Evangelicalism to a form of early theological liberalism and from that (in reaction) to Tractarianism.53 Yet such a conclusion does not exhaust the original question of interrelationship of two movements which all admit were in interaction with one another.

6. An Alternative Way of Construing Evangelical-Tractarian Relationships

If we set aside as inadequate the suggestion that evangelical Christianity within the Church of England stood in a parental relationship to Tractarianism, there are still other possible interrelationships which can be explored. A survey of the broader scene within Victorian Protestantism will enable us to see that the situation is the opposite of what might be termed ‘mono-causal’. The mistake has been that of concentrating almost exclusively on the Evangelicalism-Tractarianism interplay in isolation from a larger pattern of ferment and upheaval.

The mere fact that by 1842 the Congregational Union could simultaneously draw attention to the perceived danger posed by ‘Romanism, Puseyism and Plymouth Brethrenism’ in its call for united evangelical Protestant action54 points us in the direction of seeking just such a wider matrix of relationships. The three tendencies identified in this Congregationalist appeal were themselves combinable in two alternate ways. Romanism and Puseyism were suspected of being in league in an era when the right to vote had been restored to Roman Catholics, large-scale Irish Catholic immigration had flowed into England55 and Pope Pius IX would shortly aim to re-establish a Catholic hierarchy of bishops in England and Wales.56 At the same time, this same Puseyism (or, the Oxford Movement) was perceived to have some affinity with the emerging Plymouth Brethren movement.57 The latter was a second movement for which leaders were furnished from within the established churches of England and Ireland); like the Tractarian movement, this embodied a quest to recover a more primitive and apostolic Christianity than either could credit the national Church with upholding. Each movement had lost confidence in the national Protestant establishment. And both of these movements also engaged in prophetic speculation, a Christian tendency fueled by the horrifying excesses of France’s Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.58

Yet, having identified dissatisfaction with the existing Parliamentary jurisdiction over the nation’s life and national church as a factor equally characteristic of Tractarianism and the early Plymouth Brethren, we can find the same traits in a movement centering around the evangelical parliamentarian, banker and philanthropist, Henry Drummond (1786–1860).59 Drummond denigrated the parliamentary actions empowering Roman Catholics to vote and the ending of confessional tests for university entrance (thus opening England’s universities not only to Protestant Nonconformists and Roman Catholics, but those of no religious profession whatsoever) just as did the Tractarians. At his Surrey estate, Albury Park, Drummond, held by-invitation conferences for the consideration of biblical prophecy; these discussions, carried on in the 1826–1830 period, were informed by the same world-pessimism which fastened on Revolutionary and Napoleonic France as the omen of coming world cataclysm.60 In this period, Drummond was an active Church of England layman of considerable means who exercised the hereditary right of presentation of candidates for appointment to the Albury parish church. From this nexus at Albury Park would eventually emerge the openly-restorationist Catholic Apostolic Church, in which both Drummond and London Scots preacher, Edward Irving (1792–1834), would figure prominently.61 Significant for the purposes of this discussion is the fact that the Catholic Apostolic Church would distinguish itself not only for its bold claim to exercise the charismata of the Apostolic age, but also for its lavish liturgies borrowed from the pre-Reformation church, both East and West.

Frustration over the religious policies of the Parliamentary government of the 1830s was equally a feature north of the border in Scotland. What has come to be called the ‘Ten Years’ Conflict’, was an extended period of struggle during which the Church of Scotland’s failed in her attempts to secure funding for the expansion of the national church into newly crowded urban settings in which church facilities were completely unequal to the needs posed. The parliamentary government went so far as to oppose the incorporation of privately financed new church construction into the pre-existing parish structure.62 And yet, while this struggle with an unresponsive parliament unfolded (leading in 1843 to the departure from the Scottish national Church of a large constituency which would be known as the Free Church of Scotland), there was all the while underfoot another tendency that in its own way echoed trends in the southern nation: the serious attempt to deepen and enrich the liturgical life of the Scottish Church through the fresh appropriation of liturgical materials from the Reformation era and earlier. This attempt, claimed one late twentieth century commentator, reflected an upsurge of interest by the upwardly mobile in the aesthetic aspect of worship as well as the Romantic aspiration that worship address the affective as well as the cerebral.63

The point of view maintained here, therefore, is that we do well to concentrate not purely on the question of the relation of Tractarianism to the pre-existing evangelical party of the Church of England, but to consider as well the larger picture. In that larger picture, Christians in the established churches of neighboring nations found themselves frustrated at their central government’s failure to adequately advance the interests of the state churches, while being very open to the re-appropriation of past ways of worshipping God.64

7. Our Contemporary Situation

Since the 1930s, there has been a steady stream of commentators urging modern Christians to view Tractarianism (and its later expression of Anglo-Catholicism) as the natural offspring of an earlier evangelicalism so that some kind of ‘détente’, or better, collaboration might follow. But such advocacy is fraught with difficulty, and not only because (as this essay has shown) forms of evangelical Christianity (within and beyond Anglicanism) have almost from the first found fault with Tractarianism on biblical and doctrinal grounds, but also because of unfolding developments.

Anglo-Catholicism’s commitment to the supreme authority and trustworthiness of Scripture—something that the early Tractarians shared with forms of evangelical Christianity—subsided by the closing decades of the nineteenth century so that then and since this movement has proved highly accommodating to critical theories about Scripture and its interpretation. The 1889 publication of the epoch-making volume, Lux Mundi, marked a watershed in this respect.65 Editor Charles Gore (1853–1932) who in 1889 was principal of Pusey House, Oxford (an Anglo-Catholic study center) endorsed critical views of the composition of the Pentateuch and denied the notion of predictive prophecy within the Old Testament. Gore nevertheless went on to become Anglican bishop of Worcester in 1902 and of Oxford in 1911. His publicised critical views ensured that his elevation to the episcopate would be opposed by evangelicals in the Church of England.

The second consideration is an extension of the first. Anglo-Catholicism as it exists in the Anglican Communion today, in direct relationship to its shift of attitude towards Scripture in the late nineteenth century, currently finds itself divided and enfeebled by the questions which in recent decades have roiled the entire global Anglican Communion. There has been no single Anglo-Catholic approach to the question of gender and the church; there is not either a single Anglo-Catholic approach to the difficult questions posed for the modern church in the realm of sexuality.66 Pre-Lux Mundi Anglo-Catholicism would have seen things in a different way.

Therefore, a judicious appraisal of the Tractarian Movement’s actual original relationship to evangelicalism and theological developments within that movement since the late nineteenth century make plain that this is no natural ally.


[1] Stewart J. Brown, Peter B. Nockles and James Pereira, eds., The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). See the review in Themelios 43.3 (2018): 498–500.

[2] Note especially the following entries in The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement: ch. 3, Grayson Carter, ‘The Evangelical Background’ (which sees continuity between the two) and ch. 12, Andrew Atherstone, ‘Protestant Reactions: Oxford, 1838–1846’ (which takes a more cautious view). The discussion of this question had been anticipated by an earlier Peter B. Nockles essay, ‘The Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism: Parallels and Contrasts in Two Nineteenth Century Movements of Religious Revival’, in Perfection Perfected: Essays in Honor of Henry D. Rack, ed. Robert Webster (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2015), 233–59.

[3] A most helpful introduction to the leading personalities and contested questions of this period is provided in The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement, Part II, ‘The Movement’s Spring and Summer’.

[4] See particularly The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement, Part V, ‘Cultural Expressions, Transmissions, and Influences’. On Pugin, see Alexandra Wedgwood, ‘Pugin, Augustus’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 45:52–54. Pugin, who himself converted to Roman Catholicism in 1835, stood in reaction to the Evangelicalism of his youth; with his mother he had been an adherent in the London congregation served by the renowned Edward Irving.

[5] Alister McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 26.

[6] On the Continent, this strain of Protestantism was known as Pietism; it also existed first within and later beyond the territorial Protestant churches of the Reformation.

[7] This late Georgian blossoming of cooperative evangelical enterprises has been explored by Roger Martin in Evangelicals United: Ecumenical Stirrings in Pre-Victorian Britain 1795–1830 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1983). The contemporaneous similar efforts in young America are explored in Charles L. Foster, An Errand of Mercy: The Evangelical United Front, 1790–1837 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980). Isabel Rivers has shown that these cooperative enterprises were anticipated by the launch in 1750 of the collaborative ‘Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge among the Poor’. See Rivers’s essay, ‘The First Evangelical Tract Society’, The Historical Journal 50.1 (2007), 1–22. On both sides of the Atlantic, this collaborative pan-denominational effect preceded most denomination initiatives of a similar type.

[8] The origin and spread of the Evangelical Alliance has most recently been explored in Ian Randall and David Hilborn, One Body in Christ: The History and Significance of the Evangelical Alliance (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2001).

[9] Newman drew attention to notable evangelical influences in his upbringing in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua published in 1864, a work written to show that rather than being duplicitous and concealing Catholic sympathies for years while continuing as an ordinand in the Church of England, he had been on a steady trajectory towards his Catholic position from his very early years.

[10] R. W. Church became the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and was the author of the early history, The Oxford Movement: Twelve Years, 1833–1845 (1891; repr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). Robert Wilbeforce (1802–1857), second son of the emancipation advocate, William Wilberforce, and brother to Church of England bishop, Samuel Wilberforce (1705–1773), was a Church of England minister of Tractarian sympathies who converted to Roman Catholicism near the close of his life.

[11] ‘Convocations of Canterbury and York’, in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross (London: Oxford University Press, 1957) credits the joint action of Oxford Movement supporters with the Evangelical party with the re-instatement of Convocation.

[12] On these common interests and shared concerns, see Peter Toon, Evangelical Theology: 1833–1856 (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1979), 23–24.

[13] W. E. Gladstone, ‘The Evangelical Movement: Its Parentage, Progress, and Issue’, in Gleanings of Past Years (London: John Murray, 1879), 7:224, 231. Similar observations were made by a Gladstone contemporary, Anglican bishop Samuel Wilberforce (1805–1873), who held somewhat aloof from the movement; see Peter B. Nockles, ‘The Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism’, in Perfecting Perfection: Essays in Honor of Henry D. Rack, ed. Robert Webster (Eugene: OR, Wipf & Stock, 2015), 245

[14] Andrew Atherstone shows how actively this view was promoted by Church of England bishops in connection with the 100th anniversary of the Oxford Movement in 1933, in ‘Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement Centenary’, Journal of Religious History 37 (2013): 98–117, esp. 113–15.

[15] Atherstone, ‘Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement Centenary’, 113–14, explains that Brilioth was not a partisan-advocate of the view that stressed that the Oxford Movement was completion of evangelicalism. His lectures were invited as a means of encouraging a judicious assessment of the movement at the very time (i.e. the centenary) when partisan writers were advancing the continuity idea.

[16] Yngve Brilioth, Three Lectures on Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement (London: Oxford University Press, 1934), 6, 24. Newman acknowledged the importance of these writers on his early development when writing his 1864 Apologia Pro Vita Sua. See the edition edited by Wilfrid Ward, Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua: The Two Versions of 1864 and 1865 (London: Oxford University Press, 1913), 107–11.

[17] Brilioth, Three Lectures on Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement, 27. The extent of these involvements is examined in some detail by T. C. F. Stunt, ‘John Henry Newman and the Evangelicals’, JEH 21 (1970): 65–74.

[18] I refer here to Tracts 15, 20 and 40 as published collectively in Tracts for the Times by Members of the University of Oxford, Vol. 1 (London: Rivingtons, 1834).

[19] Tracts 71, 72 and 80, in Tracts for the Time, Vol. 2 (London: Rivingtons, 1840).

[20] Brilioth, Three Lectures on Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement, 28–29.

[21] Brilioth, Three Lectures on Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement, 31–37.

[22] Brilioth, Three Lectures on Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement, 37.

[23] David Newsome, The Parting of Friends: The Wilberforces and Henry Manning (1963; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 169–72. At p. 172 Newsome reports, ‘The Tractarians seemed to be supplying the deficiencies of the Evangelicals and correcting their excesses’.

[24] Michael A. Testa, ‘Newman and the Evangelicals’, EvQ 68 (1997): 237–44.

[25] Nockles, ‘The Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism’, 233–34.

[26] Carter, ‘The Evangelical Background’, 46. Carter explicitly acknowledges that he is extending the perspective set out by Nockles in 2015.

[27] Carter, ‘The Evangelical Background’, 47.

[28] Carter, ‘The Evangelical Background’, 48, allows that Newman himself observed a withdrawal of evangelical sympathy for his movement in the 1834–1836 period.

[29] Simon Skinner, ‘The British Critic: Newman and Mozley, Oakley and Ward’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Oxford Movement, ed. Stewart J. Brown, Peter B. Nockles and James Pereira (London: Oxford University Press, 2017), 289–303.

[30] Newman recorded the Record’s opinion in his diary, preserved in Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, ed. C. S. Dessain (London: Oxford University Press, 1961–2008), 6:186, quoted in Skinner, ‘The British Critic’, 293.

[31] Hurrell Froude, Literary Remains, ed. John H. Newman and E. B. Pusey (London: Rivington, 1838–1839), 1:379, quoted in Andrew Atherstone, ‘Protestant Reaction’, 167.

[32] Atherstone, ‘Protestant Reaction’, 167. See also Carter, ‘The Evangelical Background’, 48–49

[33] Nockles, ‘The Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism’, 253, perceptively points out that the 19th century figures (such as Gladstone) who promoted the linkage between Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement were ex-evangelicals who ‘had made the switch to Tractarianism and sometimes to Rome. They tended to make the comparison at the expense of or to the detriment to Evangelicalism itself.’

[34] Diarmaid MacCulloch, All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 197.

[35] Andrew Atherstone, ‘Protestant Reactions’,168, and Oxford’s Protestant Spy: The Controversial Career of Charles Golightly (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2007).

[36] Andrew Cinnamond, ‘The Reformed Treasures of the Parker Society’, Churchman 122 (2008): 221, reports that the Society, representing the interests of both High Church and Evangelical wings of the Church of England, was comprised of 7,000 subscriber-members.

[37] William Jones, The Jubilee Memorial of the Religious Tract Society (London: Religious Tract Society, 1850), 132, 144. The final volume, Lives of the British Reformers, was also published at Philadelphia by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1843.

[38] The author’s copies of the Tracts and Treatises (published 1851) contain a bound-in leaflet furnishing these details. All the volumes originally released by the Calvin Translation Society have been kept in print in their Victorian translations.

[39] Toon, Evangelical Theology, 26.

[40] Editions were published in both London (Seeley and Burnside) and Philadelphia (Whetham and Son) in that year.

[41] Portions of Goode’s treatise on the supremacy of biblical authority are reprinted in Elizabeth Jay’s The Evangelical and Oxford Movements (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 65–85.

[42] The story of opposition to the Tractarian movement from within the Church of England subsequent to Newman’s departure for Rome in 1845 is helpfully narrated by Nigel Scotland in ‘Evangelicals, Anglicans and Ritualism in Victorian England’, Churchman, 111 (1997): 249–65.

[43] This objection reckoned that with the removal of these restrictions, the country had ceased to be a “confessional state” enshrining any particular expression of Christianity.

[44] John Stoughton, Lectures on Tractarian Theology (London, Jackson & Wallford, 1843).

[45] George Redford, ‘Tractarian Theology: Ward’s Ideal of a Christian Church’, British Quarterly Review 1 (1845): 37–78.

[46] J. B. A. Kessler, A Study of the Evangelical Alliance in Great Britain (Goes, the Netherlands: Oosterbaan, 1968), 17, and Ruth Rouse, ‘Voluntary Movements and the Changing Ecumenical Climate’, in A History of the Ecumenical Movement: 1517 to 1948, ed. Ruth Rouse and Stephen Neill (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967), 319.

[47] As distinguishable from the martyrology and theological texts of the Reformation era, mentioned above.

[48] The paucity of reliable information about the Reformation era was attested to by the Scottish theologian, Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847), who having examined the just-published English translation of D’Aubigné’s History, remarked on how the Continental Reformation was ‘little known in this country’. See ‘Thomas Chalmers to J. H. Merle D’Aubigné 14 Feb. 1846’, in A Selection from the Correspondence of the Late Thomas Chalmers, D.D., ed. William Hannah (Edinburgh: T. Constable, 1853), 447.

[49] E. B. Pusey had published A Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1842 warning the Church of England against entering into an alliance with the German Protestant Church in establishing a Protestant bishop at Jerusalem (the so-called ‘Jerusalem bishopric’). As a reason for not entering such an alliance, Pusey cited the rationalistic character of European Protestantism and named Geneva as the exemplar of this tendency. On the episode, see Kenneth J. Stewart, Restoring the Reformation: British Evangelicals and the Francophone Réveil 1816–1849, Studies in Evangelical History and Thought (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006), 213.

[50] Paul Emil Henry, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer, trans. Henry Stebbing (London: Whitaker, 1849).

[51] See the comment on Hare’s work in E. G. Rupp, The Righteousness of God: Luther Studies (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1953), 50–51.

[52] Toon, Evangelical Theology, 61.

[53] Carter, ‘The Evangelical Background’, 45, speaks of Newman’s circuitous pilgrimage from Evangelicalism which ‘involved a brief sojourn among the Oxford Noetics’ in the late 1820s. Frank M. Turner, Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 11, speaks of a phase in young Newman involving the ‘loss of religious faith’.

[54] See footnote 46 (above).

[55] This immigration was fueled by the ongoing potato famine in Ireland.

[56] In September, 1850 Pope Pius IX would replace his hitherto-representatives in England, papal nuncios, with a Cardinal-Archbishop and twelve diocesan bishops. This papal resolve came to be termed the “papal aggression”. The period and its developments are discussed in B. G. Worrall, The Making of the Modern Church: Christianity in England Since 1800, 3rd ed. (London: SPCK, 2004), ch. 9.

[57] In a paper shortly to appear in SBET 37.2 ‘“Popery Unmasked”:Opposition to the Oxford Movement among Late Nineteenth-Century Dissenters’, Mark Stevenson has shown that the young J. N. Darby, an eventual pioneer of the Brethren, had a passing fascination with the ideas championed by the Oxford Movement while still a Church of Ireland minister.

[58] On this point, see the insightful article of David Bebbington, ‘The Advent Hope in British Evangelicalism Since 1800’, Scottish Journal of Religious Studies 9.2 (1988), 103–14. The Scottish manifestation of this early 19th century trend is highlighted by Crawford Gribben, ‘Andrew Bonar and the Scottish Presbyterian Millennium’, in Prisoners of Hope? Aspects of Evangelical Millennialism in Britain and Ireland, 1800–1880, ed. Crawford Gribben and Timothy C. F. Stunt (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2004), 177–202. As regards how prophetic study affected the Tractarians, see Paul Misner, ‘Newman and the Tradition concerning the Papal Antichrist’, Church History 42 (1973), 377–95

[59] See Grayson Carter, ‘Henry Drummond’, in Blackwell Dictionary of Evangelical Biography: 1730–1860, ed. Donald M. Lewis (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 1:326–28.

[60] The best available treatment of Drummond and his Albury Park conferences is provided in Ernest A. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800–1930 (1970; repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), ch. 1. See also Stewart, Restoring the Reformation, 176–88, and Tim Grass, The Lord’s Work: A History of the Catholic Apostolic Church (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2017), 1–8.

[61] The now-standard account is that of Tim Grass, The Lord’s Work. It should be noted that there were important voices of dissent at the Albury conferences, both as regards the strident premillennialist interpretation of prophecy pursued there and the notion that all the charismatic gifts of the Apostolic age need reappear.

[62] The decade-long conflict is described in J. H. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1960), 334–69.

[63] See the helpful account of this Scottish movement in A. C. Cheyne, The Transforming of the Kirk: Victorian Scotland’s Religious Revolution (Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, 1983), ch. 4.

[64] Carter acknowledges this wider ferment, ‘The Evangelical Background’, 43, but not in a way that properly acknowledges the common grievances that gave rise to such a range of responses. A more judicious approach is displayed by Timothy Stunt, From Awakening to Secession (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), chs. 7–9, which explores the concurrent ferment in Ireland, England and Scotland.

[65] This is the thrust of Timothy Larsen, ‘Scripture and Biblical Interpretation’, in The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement, ed. Stewart J. Brown, Peter B. Nockles and James Pereira (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 231–43.

[66] See the frank admission of the current disarray within Anglo-Catholicism in Colin Podmore, ‘Afterword: The Oxford Movement Today—The Things that Remain’, in The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement, ed. Stewart J. Brown, Peter B. Nockles and James Pereira (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 622–31.

Kenneth J. Stewart

Ken Stewart is professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

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