Oxford movement

Later Years: Changes in Religious Practices

Among the means for renewing deep and personal devotion to the teachings of the Bible, Keble, Newman, and especially Pusey, sought to develop religious community life. Sisterhoods were founded, the first in 1845. They became centers of charitable and social work of importance. Communities for men were fewer and expanded less rapidly.

The Oxford movement also stressed higher standards of worship, and particularly in the later period many changes were made in the church services, e.g., beautification of churches, intonation of services, the wearing of vestments, and emphasis on hymn singing. Every effort to revive ceremonial customs aroused a storm of excitement and opposition leading at times to rioting. This violence culminated in 1860 at St. George's-in-the East, London. Because attention was centered upon the forms of expression in the churches, especially between 1857 and 1871, the followers of the Oxford movement became known as ritualists. Anglo-Catholicism was another name for the movement as its supporters tried to secure in the Established Church recognition of ancient Catholic liturgy and doctrine.

The changes desired by the ritualists caused much public agitation and litigation between 1850 and 1890. In 1874 the Public Worship Regulation Act was passed by Parliament, avowedly to "put down Ritualism." On the part of churchmen the struggle was fought in resistance to secular authority in spiritual affairs. No Anglo-Catholic could recognize the mandates of a purely parliamentary court, such as the judicial committee of the privy council, which, although it lacked spiritual authority, was the supreme court of ecclesiastical appeal. The last imprisonment for refusal to admit its authority was made in 1887, after which such resistance was respected as reasonable.

In later years the followers of the movement placed increasing emphasis on the responsibility of Christians in the life of society and have given much attention to social problems. This social concern led to the foundation of the Christian Social Union in 1889 under Brooke Foss Westcott and Henry Scott Holland.

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

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