Friday, August 25, 2006

Evangelical High-Church and High-Church Evangelical

When discussion about the new “Tractarian/Oxford Movement” [to become the Anglo-catholic School] raged in Oxford in the 1840s, churchmen of various kinds began to ask themselves where they fitted within the new spectrum of churchmanship! Were they, old High Church, old Broad Church, old Low Church, Evangelical, or new “Tractarian” [Anglo-Catholic], or something else? As Churchmen of all schools opposed the innovations of the newest school and churchmanship, the Tractarians, some churchmen on personal examination decided that they belonged to two schools simultaneously.

For example, if they were first High Church and then Evangelical they called themselves Evangelical High Church (using Evangelical as the adjective); and if they were Evangelical first and then also High Church, they called themselves High-Church Evangelicals (using High-Church as the adjective). Obviously these people self-consciously wanted to be the heirs not only of worship, doctrine and discipline of the sixteenth century Church of England but also of the seventeenth century as well. They wanted the powerful clarity of the Reformers of the sixteenth and the studied depth of the Caroline divines of the seventeenth along with the devotion of High Church bishops and the fervor of evangelical preachers of later centuries.

They were thus staunch defenders of the Reformed Catholic nature of the Church of England and saw it in primary ways as distinct from, and different to, the Church of Rome – a different branch from the same tree. So they happily subscribed to the received Formularies of the Church of England and at the same time opposed those innovations of the new Anglo-Catholics which were directly in contradiction to the plain teaching of the Formularies (BCP, Ordinal and Thirty-Nine Articles).[See further my book which describes the response and theological answer to Tractarian doctrine – Evangelical Theology: A Response to Tractarianism, 1833-1856(John Knox Press USA, 1979) ]

The terms (Evangelical High Church and High-Church Evangelical) never became common and are used only occasionally after the middle of the nineteenth century. However, this does not mean to say that the descriptions have not well fitted many faithful Anglicans over the centuries and do so still. Those called “Prayer-Book Catholics” were often really “High-Church Evangelicals!

Since I first read Evangelical divinity and then later the works of the Caroline Divines and great High Churchmen of later centuries, I call myself – if pressed – an Evangelical High Churchman, but I am happy to use the other title, for when I am thinking theologically these days I probably begin from Hooker and the Caroline divines. (Though I find much of great value in anglo-catholic theologians and was taught by several distinguished ones whom I deeply respect, I cannot see how in the final analysis their principles do not actually take them into the Roman Church or into Orthodoxy, especially when they use weekly the modern Roman Rite or the substance of the Tridentine Roman Rite in English.)

It was in this mindset and spirit of High Church Evangelical churchmanship that in 2006 I wrote two booklets each of 64 pages and 25,000 words, (1) Episcopal Innovations, 1960-2005 (the doctrinal innovations pursued in The Episcopal Church as it rejected basic doctrinal standards of the Anglican Way); and (2) The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture: Reformed Catholicism and Biblical Doctrine. In this I tried to help us all recognize the identity and importance of these Formularies (the classic BCP, Ordinal and Articles), which were most regrettably rejected by The Episcopal Church in the late 1970s. I also attempted to state with clarity their relation to the primary authority of the Holy Scripture for Faith and Morality.

The second Booklet comes available in the USA by August 28th 2006 and the first is already published and has been widely read: visit for single copies and for several or bulk orders of either booklet call 1-800-727-1928.The Booklet on Anglican Formularies will be available from in the UK from mid-October.

In order to help churchmen today appreciate the Formularies, the Prayer Book Society has issued a set of CDs in pdf and which contain major commentaries by well-known authors, mostly of the C. of E., on the Prayer Book, Articles and Ordinal – visit for details.

Do also visit and

Thanks a lot.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon St Bartholomew’s Day, 2006

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