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CHURCH OR PROTESTANT SECT? THE CHURCH OF IRELAND, HIGH CHURCHMANSHIP, AND THE OXFORD MOVEMENT, 1822–1869

  • PETER NOCKLES (a1)

Abstract

The Church of Ireland has been regarded as almost devoid of a high church element and as unreservedly hostile to Tractarian claims. This article questions these assumptions. It considers the evidence for an influential, if minority, high church tradition within the Church of Ireland and shows how far its adherents during the 1830s and early 1840s looked to English Tractarians for support. The very raison d'être of the Irish church was questioned under the reforming and erastian pressures unleashed by a whig ministry in the early 1830s. Tractarian rhetoric stressing apostolical descent and continuity was echoed by Irish high churchmen in their concern to demonstrate that they belonged to a church that was not a creature of the state and was no mere Protestant sect; Irish high churchmen held many theological and spiritual ideals in common with the early Tractarians, but guarded their independence. Irish high churchmen and English Tractarians nevertheless became estranged: the Protestant credentials of Irish high churchmen were suspect as a result of the low church and Evangelical backlash against ‘Puseyism’; Irish high church attempts to put church principles into practice, notably over the foundation of St Columba's as an establishment to educate Roman Catholic converts in high church teaching, were cold-shouldered by English Tractarians. The Irish high church tradition survived but was weakened by Roman Catholic undermining of its assumption of apostolical continuity as well as by ultra-Protestant critiques. Disestablishment in 1869 paved the way not for a high church ‘restoration’ on the Caroline model, as Irish high churchmen wished and as early Tractarian rhetoric assumed, but for the completion of an Evangelical ascendancy rooted in the Irish Articles of 1615 and the church of James Ussher.

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CHURCH OR PROTESTANT SECT? THE CHURCH OF IRELAND, HIGH CHURCHMANSHIP, AND THE OXFORD MOVEMENT, 1822–1869

  • PETER NOCKLES (a1)

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