England, Church of: The Oxford Movement to the Present

The Oxford Movement to the Present

In the first half of the 19th cent., the Catholic and apostolic character of the Church of England was strongly reaffirmed by the Oxford movement, which was led by John Keble and Edward Bouverie Pusey and also by John Henry Newman until he converted to Roman Catholicism. The Oxford movement—with its emphasis on ritual and its belief in the doctrines of apostolic succession and the Real Presence—gave new life and direction to the High Church tradition, which became known also as Anglo-Catholicism. At the same time the Broad Church movement was developing. It advocated liberal views in theology and biblical studies. Both of these movements challenged the position of the Evangelical, or Low Church, party, which emphasized the Bible and preaching and was the leading party of the church through the 19th cent.

In the 20th cent. the Church of England became involved in revision of canon law and the prayer book, in church building, in attempts to minister to the world of industry (e.g., the Sheffield Industrial Mission), and in the ecumenical movement. The traditional divisions within the church remain, though the focus of their disagreements have changed. The issue of homosexuality among the clergy has been divisive, and the selection of a celibate gay priest as a candidate for bishop of Reading in 2003 led to a sometimes bitter public fight over the choice that was resolved only when the candidate withdrew his name. In 2012 the church's bishops, however, approved the candidacy of celibate gay priests for the episcopate. Traditionalists within the church also have objected to the consecration of women as bishops. The general synod narrowly failed to approve women bishops in 2012, but the change was approved in 2014. The current archbishop of Canterbury is Justin Welby.

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