THIS addition to The Oxford History of Anglicanism demonstrates how far church history has come since the publication of Owen Chadwick’s masterly study The Victorian Church, 50 years ago. While acknowledging that “the missions must not be forgotten in understanding Victorian piety,” Chadwick chose to focus on England, and did not enter “English lands abroad”.
In contrast, Rowan Strong of Murdoch University, Australia, and editor of the whole Oxford series, has assembled an impressive group of specialists in 19th-century history, including not only Chadwick’s successors who work on the history of the Church of England, but also a range of international authorities on global Anglicanism in the age of Empire.
What Strong calls the “narrative spine” of the book is established in its first section, where John Wolffe examines internal divisions in Victorian Anglicanism, tensions in the relationship between Church and State, and the ambiguities in the situation of Anglicanism outside England, in Continental Europe, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. His chapter offers a counter-narrative to one of decline by pointing to the “renewed organizational and spiritual vitality” of Anglicanism in the period.
Stewart Brown considers Anglican interpretations of the British Empire as the means by which God intended Christianity to be spread, like the Roman Empire. The expanding Empire, he argues, “provided the social and political framework for the wider mission of the Anglican Church”. Carol Engelhardt Herringer then takes us beyond the British Empire, arguing that Anglicanism was most successful in the white-dominated United States, and “struggled to gain a foothold” in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
Rowan Strong leads off the second section on “major internal developments within Anglicanism” with a chapter on relations between Anglicanism and the State, or, rather, three states — that presided over by the Westminster government, the British imperial state, and the United States. His approach bears fruit in analysis of Broad Church justifications for Anglican establishment, for example, most of which made use of the concept of nationalism and could, therefore, “have little relevance for the identity of the Church of England beyond England itself”.
Five excellent chapters follow: Brian Stanley writes on Anglican missionary societies and agencies, Robert M. Andrewes on High Church Anglicanism, Andrew Atherstone on Anglican Evangelicalism, James Pereiro on the Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholicism, and Mark D. Chapman on liberal Anglicanism. All these chapters merit close attention, as they offer new and nuanced readings of “partisan Anglicanism”.
Like other contributions to the volume, each previously unpublished chapter ends with a select bibliography that highlights some of the best work of recent years.
As partisanship was exported, these chapters are necessary reading to understand fully the third section, each of whose chapters has a distinct regional focus outside England. Here the eight contributors interpret their brief in a variety of ways, offering reflections of varying depth and significance.
A different chapter sequence would have brought out more clearly the contrast between the story of the US and the white-settler colonies, and that of the rest of the world. On the former, we have Peter W. Williams on the complex subject of Anglicanism in North America and the Caribbean, Hilary M. Carey on Australia, and Allan K. Davidson on New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Although “factionalism” seems to be a key word here, a unifying factor is nostalgia for the old country and hopes for its Empire. Carey notes that the last decade of the 19th century was a time of anniversaries and memorials in the colonies, and she points forward to the Pan-Anglican Congress of 1908, where they sang:
O Lord! We thank Thee on this day
For the deep joy when many meet
Brethren from Britain far away [sic]
Who find the old Church sweet.
The rest of the world team is made up of Emma Wild-Wood on Sub-Saharan Africa, Duane Alexander Miller on the Middle East, Robert Eric Frykenberg on India, Philip L. Wickeri on China and East Asia, and David Rock on Latin America. Shared concerns include the relationship between the missionary drive and episcopal oversight, and the movement towards independence, both nationally and ecclesiastically.
Like Bishop George Selwyn in New Zealand, or Bishop Broughton in Australia, certain personalities stand out in these accounts: Bishop Daniel Wilson, for example, who had the temerity to ban caste in India; Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a recaptive in Freetown who became the first African Anglican bishop; and the notorious — to some, heroic — Bishop Colenso, whose wish to engage with African thought and custom led to a prolonged battle with Archbishop Gray of Cape Town.
The fourth and final section covers themes that were broadly influential throughout the Anglican world. Jeremy Dibble is excellent on music, a subject dear to all Anglicans who have an ear to hear. Ayla Lepine provides a useful conspectus on the wealth of recent work on Anglican art and architecture; Diarmid A. Finnegan writes a brilliant revaluation of Anglican approaches to science and the Bible; Susan Mumm discusses the feminisation of 19th-century Anglicanism, ranging from sisterhoods and lay women’s support work to the “effete Anglicanism” that Punch delighted in mocking; and Jane Garnett rounds off the volume with an essay on Anglican economic and social engagement in the period, and its established tradition of moral criticism.
This is an invaluable work of reference, then, but much more than that: a treasure house.
Dr Wheeler is a Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton and Chairman of Gladstone’s Library.
The Oxford History of Anglicanism, Volume III: Partisan Anglicanism and its global expansion, 1829-c.1914
Rowan Strong, editor
OUP £95 (978-0-19-969970-4)
Church Times Bookshop £85.50