xxxxxThe Oxford Movement aimed to inject a measure of Catholicism into the ailing Church of England, hoping to revise the ritual and ceremony which had characterised the early, undivided church. It saw the Anglican Church as a middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The movement was sparked off in 1833 by a sermon given at Oxford by the priest John Keble. In it he called for the revitalisation of the Church on catholic lines. This cause was taken up by the theologian John Henry Newman of Oxford. He became the movement’s leader, editing the Tracts it produced, writing a large number of them, and giving powerful sermons in its support. In 1841, however, by suggesting that the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Churches had compatible dogmas, he went a step too far. The movement was condemned by the bishops, and Newman himself eventually became a Roman Catholic. But the aims of the movement lived on under the leadership of the Oxford professor of Hebrew, Edward Pusey. He, together with Keble, maintained the branch known as the High or Anglo-Catholic Church, and this did much to bring a greater sense of purpose and commitment to the Anglican Church of the day.



Oriel: vintage print, published in 1954, artist unknown. Keble: by the English painter George Richmond (1809-1896), 1863 – Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Newman: by the English Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais (1829-1896), 1881 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Smith: c1842, artist unknown – Community of Christ Headquarters, Independence, Missouri, USA. Young: by the British-born American artist Charles William Carter (1832-1918), c1870 – Fine Arts Library, Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Temple: completed in 1893, artist unknown. Darby: date and artist unknown.

xxxxxThe movement for church reform and religious revival within England which began in the early 1830s came to be known as the Oxford Movement because it had its roots in Oxford University. Its chief leaders had strong ties with the University, and three were fellows of Oriel College. It aimed to inject a measure of Catholicism into what it saw as an ailing Church of England, emphasising the fact that the Church that had emerged from the English Reformation still adhered to the apostolic succession (bishops claiming descent from the apostles) and thereby still remained a branch of the holy catholic (world-wide) church, together with the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches.

xxxxxIts adherents also feared that the Church of England was becoming dominated by the secular authorities and it was, indeed, this issue that sparked off the movement. In a sermon entitled On the National Apostasy in July 1833, the speaker, the theologian John Keble, referred to the recent attempt by Parliament to abolish ten bishoprics in Ireland, and warned the Anglican Church against abandoning its faith (the meaning of apostasy). There followed a meeting of the leaders, united in their support for the principles enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer, and in the September a series of pamphlets or theological treatises was begun setting out the movement’s aims. Known as Tracts for the Times, ninety were produced over the next eight years, urging above all for a revitalisation of the English Church in order that it might be the middle way (via media) between Roman Catholicism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other. No less than 24 were written by the movement’s leader, the theologian John Henry Newman. He also edited the series and, as vicar of the university’s church, made a major contribution by his learned weekly sermons. By the late 1830s, however, the movement was arousing some serious opposition. Its writings were becoming so sympathetic towards Roman Catholicism that the bishops came out openly against the movement. The final split came in February 1841 when a tract by Newman, number 90, asserted that the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles had much in common with Roman Catholic beliefs. This was seen as undermining the very independence of the Church of England. The tract was condemned out of hand and, following the intervention of the Bishop of Oxford, no further treatises were published.

xxxxxSuch was the strength of the movement, however, that a large number of Anglican clergy resigned, and became members of the Roman Catholic Church. They were joined by Newman himself in 1845. And there were many other clergy who, whilst remaining as Anglicans, became known as Anglo-Catholics or High-church members, adopting much of the ceremony and ritual associated with the Roman Catholic Church - such as the use of incense and the introduction of the confessional. The Oxford Movement resulted in a religious upheaval, nothing less, but it did much to revitalise and transform the Church at this time. It inspired its ministers, reawakened interest in religious matters, and, in the long term, revived the part played by the early church in the everyday welfare of its people.

xxxxxThe Anglican priest and poet John Keble (1792-1866), the man whose sermon sparked off the Oxford Movement, was born in Fairford, Gloucestershire. He attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and was fellow and tutor of Oriel College from 1811 to 1823. A religious poet of some standing, he became professor of poetry at Oxford in 1831, and it was then that he became involved with others in seeking church reform. His sermon of 1833 is generally regarded as the start of the Oxford Movement. He wrote four Tracts for the Times, and, together with Edward Pusey, remained an active leader after John Newman became a Roman Catholic. He was vicar of Hursley in Hampshire as from 1835, and remained there for the rest of his life. His most successful poetic work was The Christian Year of 1827. Keble College, Oxford, was founded in his memory in 1869, three years after his death.

xxxxxIncidentally, the Oxford Movement was first known as the Tractarian or Catholic Revival Movement. After Newman left to join the Roman Catholic Church, Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), professor of Hebrew at Oxford, became the leader of the High Church party within the Anglican church, and members were then often known as “Puseyites”. It was largely due to him, and Keble, that the movement’s aims were preserved and its influence maintained and expanded. Pusey House at Oxford was founded in his memory. It contains his library, and aims to further his work.


John Henry Newman

and The Mormon Church


xxxxxThe influential theologian John Henry Newman (1801-90) was the acknowledged leader of the Oxford Movement. He edited its series of religious treatises, the Tracts for the Times, wrote a large number of them himself, and, as vicar of St. Mary’s, the university’s church, used the pulpit to get his message across. One of his tracts in 1841, however, by suggesting that the doctrines of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches were virtually compatible, brought condemnation by the bishops. He retired from his living, joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1845, and was made a cardinal in 1879. In the meantime, as rector of Dublin University he gained a reputation for his lectures on education. His masterpiece was Apology for His Life, an eloquent account of his own spiritual development.

xxxxxThexChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - a Christian sect generally known as the Mormon Church - was founded at Fayette, New York, in 1830 by the movement’s prophet, Joseph Smith (1805-1844). He claimed that he began receiving visions of God and Jesus Christ from the age of 14, and that they had tasked him with restoring Christ’s Church on earth. Revealed to him at this time was the Book of Mormon, a sacred record which was inscribed on golden plates. Written by Mormon, an ancient prophet of North America, it provided a history of a band of Hebrews who had migrated from Jerusalem to the New World around 600 BC and, like the Israelites of the Old Testament, had been chosen by God to fulfil His purpose. With the aid of two sacred stones, he was able to translate this book, and it became accepted by his Church as a vital part of their scriptures. He was not permitted, however, to retain the golden plates or the sacred stones.

xxxxxAfter founding the sect in 1830 and gathering converts, he made a settlement at Kirtland, Ohio the following year. He became the first president, and twelve apostles were appointed in 1835, but there then followed a period of persecution. Opposition by local inhabitants and money problems forced the Mormons to make a move, first to Jackson County, Missouri in 1837, and then, two years later, to Commerce (renamed Nauvoo) in Illinois. Here he sought election as the U.S. president and became involved in political conflict and intrigue. It was while in prison in Carthage in 1844, charged with treason and conspiracy, that he and his brother, Hyrum, were assassinated.

xxxxxHexwas succeeded as president by Brigham Young (1801-1877). He saw the need to establish an independent settlement, and so led the majority of Mormons, some 80,000, on an epic trek westward in search of the “promised land”. After a journey of over l,000 miles they reached Utah and established their new centre at Salt Lake City. Here they built their temple (illustrated below) and set up a thriving and expanding community. But not all the Mormons migrated. Some remained in the Midwest and accepted Joseph Smith’s son, also Joseph, as their spiritual leader, adopting the name “Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.

xxxxxThe latter-day Saints are Christians but with some modification to their beliefs. They base their doctrine on four basic books, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants (mostly revelations and pronouncements by Joseph Smith) and the Pearl of Great Price, a work alleged to include two lost books of the Bible, those of Abraham and Moses. Personal revelation also plays an important part in their belief. There are two orders of priesthood, one dealing with religious concerns, and the other with temporal matters.

xxxxxMormons follow a strict moral code. They are forbidden alcohol and tobacco, and do not believe in abortion and birth control. Much emphasis is placed on family life. At one time their leader, Smith, prompted by divine revelation, introduced polygamy. This brought the Church into disrepute and stirred up much controversy. The practice was ended in 1890. Today the Church has a world-wide membership of some seven million (possibly more), with well over half in the United States. It conducts a wide welfare programme, and has missionaries working in over 160 countries.

xxxxxIncidentally, the name “Latter-day Saints” comes from the belief that, the early Church having failed in its mission, the Mormons are the apostles of the latter days, beginning with their establishment as a church in 1830. ……

xxxxx…… In 1857, after the Mormons had been implicated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre - the slaughter of a group of Arkansas emigrants - federal troops were sent to Utah in what came to be known as the Utah War. No fighting occurred, in fact, but religious conflict continued between the Mormons and their hostile neighbours. ……

xxxxx…… Shown here is one of the statues at Salt Lake city depicting the long trek across America in the 1850s. Some 3,000 pioneers, lacking the necessary money for ox or horse teams, had to make the journey by pulling handcarts. The vast majority did not make it to the promised land.

xxxxxItxwasxin 1831, soon after the Mormon Church was established, that the Christian sect known as the Plymouth Brethren organised their first church at Plymouth, England. It was actually founded in Dublin during the 1820s, and became noted for its extreme simplicity of belief. This included a literal interpretation of the bible and a second coming - a sudden “secret rapture” that would take the faithful to heaven. The movement spread to the United States and to Europe, where its members became known as “Darbyites” after one of the sect’s prominent leaders, the Anglo-Irish evangelist John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) (illustrated). Prayer and bible study meetings are held in members’ homes and there are no official clergy. This lack of centralised authority has led to a number of break-away sects over the years. World-wide membership is estimated at 1.5 million.

xxxxxThe influential theologian John Henry Newman (1801-1890), who ended his career as a Roman Catholic cardinal, was the Oxford Movement’s acknowledged leader. He was educated at Oxford, and became a fellow of Oriel College in 1822. He was ordained in the Church of England two years later, and became vicar of St. Mary’s, the university’s Anglican Church, in 1827. Anxious to see a return to the ceremony and worship of the early, undivided church, he was a founder member of the movement, and became highly active in its cause, editing the Tracts, writing nearly a third of them, and making good use of his pulpit each week for close on eight years.

xxxxxHis last tract of 1841 - and the final one as it turned out - brought stringent opposition from church leaders, suggesting as it did that the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles were virtually compatible with Roman Catholic beliefs. Seeing no hope of achieving the reform he considered necessary, he became a Catholic in 1845 and was made a cardinal in 1879. In between times he was rector of Dublin University, and gained a reputation for his lectures on education. His masterpiece was Apology for His Life, an eloquent account of his own spiritual development. He was the author of the hymn Lead, kindly light, and his poem The Dream of Gerontius, which tells the journey of an old man’s soul after death, was set to music by the English composer Edward Elgar in 1900.

xxxxxThe Mormon Church - officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - was established in New York by its leader and prophet Joseph Smith in 1830. He claimed that God had appeared to him and charged him with the task of restoring Christ’s church on earth. To this end he was given a translation of the Book of Mormon, the work of an ancient prophet. This gave an account of a band of Hebrews who had journeyed from Jerusalem to the New World around 600 BC and, like the Israelites of the Old Testament, had been chosen by God to fulfil His purpose on earth. Seeing himself as the modern leader of this group, Smith made a settlement at Kirtland, Ohio, and attracted many converts. However, he was forced to move a number of times because of persecution, and he was eventually assassinated in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. The new leader, Brigham Young, realising the need for a more independent settlement, led the vast majority of the Mormons in a 1,000 mile trek to Utah in the west. Here, at Salt Lake City in 1847 they set up their permanent home and temple. Today the church has some seven million members world-wide, and supports missions in over 160 countries. Essentially Christian in belief - with some modifications - the Mormons follow a strict moral code, emphasise the importance of family life, and regard personal revelation as an important part of their belief.