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A curious fact on the Oxford Movement

August 29, 2009

I’m currently reading a book by C. Brad Faught of Tyndale College in Toronto, titled The Oxford Movement: A Thematic History of the Tractarians and Their Times.  The Tractarians interest me quite a bit, due to both the fact that Edward Bouverie Pusey was one of their members (and I respect his scholarship greatly) and my understanding that at least some Anglo-Catholics would claim the Tractarians as their spiritual ancestors.

I suppose one fact cited by Prof. Faught that has really caught my attention is this, cited on page 19 of the book:

…the Tractarians attacked the attempt in 1835 by the Heads of Houses at Oxford, the university’s administrative body, to throw out the requirement that undergraduates subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

That fascinates me, in large part because most Anglo-Catholics I know today seem to not really care for the Articles of Religion, at best, or else they actively dislike them.  From the context of Faught’s book that I have read thus far, it could be that John Henry Newman, John Keble, and Hurrell Froude opposed this proposal (to remove the requirement that Oxford undergraduates subscribe to the Articles) simply because they did not think the State should interfere in the matters of the Church.  But it will be interesting to read further, perhaps, and see what Keble and Froude (and Pusey, for that matter) thought about the Articles.  If I get any insights into that I’ll certainly post them, and if any readers have information, I’d be interested as well.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr.D permalink
    August 31, 2009 12:51 am

    I hope that you write something further on this. I’m interested in this topic.

    • August 31, 2009 2:31 am

      I have a couple of other books on the Oxford Movement that I plan to read, one by Peter Nockles titled “The Oxford Movement in Context”, and of course the one by Owen Chadwick that is titled “The Spirit of the Oxford Movement: Tractarian Essays.” If either of these sheds some light along with Faught’s book, I will certainly post a note to that effect.

  2. September 2, 2009 3:32 pm

    I’m a self-identified Anglo-Catholic and I found this post interesting and a welcome one. The curiosity to which you’re referring is one I’ve experienced first hand. Quite a number of the Anglo-Catholics I know hold a view of the Articles of Religion that is anywhere from flippant to adversarial. Even Newman’s (in)famous Tract 90 didn’t argue against the Articles. I am (for now) still in the Episcopal Church and many Anglo-Catholics within TEC will try to dismiss the Articles by saying they’re just “historical documents” (referring to their place in the ’79 BCP). I enjoy replying that so is the Christological definition of Chalcedon!

    BTW: Nockles’ book is great. You may want to look into Tradition Renewed: The Oxford Movement Conference Papers by Rowell as well.

    • September 2, 2009 7:18 pm


      Thanks for the comment from someone who has “been there.” In the past I have actually read comments by at least one Anglo-Catholic priest who supposedly trimmed the pages containing the Articles out of the BCP, and I simply do not understand the reason for such antagonism. E.J. Bicknell seemed to me to show, in his book on the Thirty-Nine Articles, that it is entirely possible for Anglo-Catholics to co-exist with the Articles, and from my own conversations with Anglo-Catholics I know, it seems to me that the farther they get from the Articles, and the more antagonistic they get towards the Articles, the less integrated and systematic their theology is. It also seems that these folks have a hard time delineating any real differences between themselves and Rome.

      A remarkable argument FOR this would be Fr. Robert Hart of the “Continuum” blog, who to me is one of the more coherent and robust Anglican thinkers out there. I sort of see him as something of an Anglo-Catholic, but he may be more of what might be called an “Evangelical High Churchman.” But he does not look upon the Articles with disdain, and he probably articulates classical Anglican thinking as well or better than anyone I’ve encountered on the Internet. If we could all work towards something approaching that type of view (perhaps “Evangelical High Churchman” with a doctrine rooted in Scripture, the Fathers and the Articles) I think we would really have a chance to accomplish something.

      I like your blog, even if we may have some differences – have added it to my links.

  3. September 2, 2009 9:08 pm

    Thanks for the information regarding the marvahso, I’ll read the link in more detail when I have time. It’s interesting you mention the difficulty in distinguishing some extreme Anglo-Catholics (aptly named “Anglo-Papalists/Anglo-Papists”) from Roman Catholics. I have a seminarian friend who spent some time in England this summer and his time with self-identified Anglo-Papists led him to seriously question, “why bother with the ‘Anglo’? Just go swim the Tiber.” I also think you are quite correct about wandering away from systematic theology when one simply dismisses theological statements that one doesn’t like.

    I, along with all other High Church/Anglo-Catholic Anglicans who claim roots in the Oxford Movement are wise to remember something very important: the venerable Tractarians celebrated the Eucharist with simple surplice and black scarf as was typical of their day. The High Church/Catholic revival was about far more than dressing up, incense, and bells.

    In short, theology matters. Orthodoxy (right praise) matters. Whether Low, Broad, or High Church, may true religion and reverent worship be our aim. Accoutrements and “chancel prancing” can come later.

    PS – Thanks for checking out and adding my blog.

    • Dr.D permalink
      September 2, 2009 9:25 pm

      Preferably the “chancel prancing” never arrives. If it does, then worship has been lost and entertainment has begun.

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