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Oxford Movement

Oxford Movement, known also as Tractarianism, began in Great Britain in 1833. It was a religious revival emphasizing the apostolic and universal origins of the Church of England. Adherents of the movement held that the apostolic succession, that is, the valid transmission of apostolic authority to administer sacraments, was not broken by the English Reformation and that the Church of England constitutes a branch of the holy catholic church, of which the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox churches also are branches. The chief leaders of the movement were the British theologians John Keble, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and Edward Bouverie Pusey, all connected with the University of Oxford.

The movement had a strong impact on the Episcopal Church in the U.S. in the 1840s. As in the Church of England, the movement resulted in the formation of a High Church party favoring Roman Catholic traditions and elaborate ceremonial, as opposed to a Low Church party leaning toward evangelical traditions and a minimum of ceremonial.

Tractarianism made important contributions to Anglicanism. It restored the dignity of the church and its ministers, revived interest in theology and church history, strengthened appreciation of catholic liturgy, and inspired new artistic achievements in ecclesiastical music and architecture. In addition, the movement led to the organization of religious sisterhoods and stimulated a fresh awareness of the social responsibility of Christians, as evidenced, for example, by the establishment of Anglican missions in city slums.


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