Our Tractarian Heritage

In nineteenth century the Church of England was made up of different groups, or parties. Many, particularly in high office, were latitudinarian (liberal) and attempting to broaden the Church’s appeal. Many parish clergy were Evangelicals, because of the revival led by John Wesley (who however, had a highly sacrificial doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, seen in his brother Charles’ hymns, and unusually for an Anglican he took communion 90 times a year). While the universities became the breeding ground for a movement to restore liturgical and devotional customs from traditions before the English Reformation and contemporary Roman Catholic traditions.

The Tractarian movement was a response to the Reform Act 1832 reforming Whig (British political party)  Whig administration’s  Irish Church Temporalities Bill (1833) which reformed the Church of Ireland. This bill made administrative changes to the hierarchy of the church (reducing the number of bishops), and also made changes to ecclesiastical property. John Keble criticized these proposals as National Apostasy in his Assize Sermon in Oxford in 1833. The Tractarians criticized theological liberalism. Their interest in Christian origins caused some of them to reconsider the relationship of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Tractarians argued for the Branch Theory, which stated that Anglicanism along with Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism form three “branches” of the historic Catholic Church. Tractarians argued for the inclusion of traditional aspects of medieval liturgy. In the final tract, Tract 90, Newman argued that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, as defined by the Council of Trent, were compatible with the Thirty-Nine Articles of the 16th-century Church of England.

John HenryNewman, John Keble and Dr Pusey became the leading members of this wider party; and it was their thinking and writings which led to the the foundation of our Parish of all Saints; a Christian worshipping community which still draws on the richness of Eucharist devotion and piety; whilst embracing an updated version of the Branch Theory. Given this heritage, All Saints remains loyal to traditional catholic teaching on orders (see our statement under Theological Declaration),

Newman eventually was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1845; and many former Tractarians were to follow him into the Roman Catholic Church, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Both Pusey and Keble remained loyal to the Church of England. Newman became a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, and will be formally canonized as a Saint on October 13th, 2019.