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Oxford movement

Early Years: The Tracts

In July of 1833, Keble preached a sermon, On the National Apostasy, which Newman held to be the actual opening of the movement. A few days later a meeting was held at Hadleigh, Suffolk, in the rectory house of Hugh James Rose, "the Cambridge originator of the Oxford movement," and a resolution was made to uphold "the apostolic succession and the integrity of the Prayer-Book." Newman, who felt that extensive popularizing was more effective than organization, immediately launched a series of pamphlets, Tracts for the Times. Later, Keble and Pusey joined him, and their group became known as the Tractarians. To the tracts was added The Library of the Father of the Holy Catholic Church (translations from patristic writings) to encourage a return to the beliefs and customs of the first centuries of the church.

The Tractarians preached Anglicanism as a via media between Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism. Newman became the acknowledged leader in answering critics and advocating the restoration of practices abandoned in the Church of England since the Reformation. When the Tractarians attacked Renn Dickson Hampden, a follower of Richard Whately, the liberals, led by Dr. Thomas Arnold, opposed them openly. After 1834, Pusey was influential in the movement, adding force and dignity to the controversial manner and emphasizing the observance of ritual. Opponents dubbed the movement "Puseyism."

Within the movement itself, a Romanizing party developed under William George Ward, Frederick William Faber and others, and it was partly to counter them that Newman wrote his celebrated Tract 90 on the Thirty-nine Articles, which aroused a storm of opposition and brought the series to an end (1841). The movement lost valuable supporters to Roman Catholicism, including Newman, and Henry Edward Manning. The movement to Roman Catholicism was opposed by Pusey, under whose leadership the majority remained loyal to the Church of England. Under Pusey the movement advanced beyond its academic beginning and became an effective vehicle for ecclesiastical and, later, social reform.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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