The centrality of the Christian heritage

The Anglican Church

Nineteenth-century England was a predominately Protestant nation, since the time of the Elizabethan settlement in 1558. From then on, the Church of England also known as the Anglican Church, attempted to secure a position as the national religious observance of England.

By the Victorian period, three separate strands had developed within the Church of England:

  • The Evangelical Movement, known as the low church faction, was established during the eighteenth century. It emphasised an individual's personal relationship with God, stressed the importance of believing in the sole authority of the Bible and highlighted the significance of faith over good works in achieving salvation
  • The Oxford Movement, also known as the Tractarian Movement or the high church faction, was established in 1833 (for more details see Religious / philosophical context > Tractarianism)
  • The Broad Church Movement was, unlike the Evangelical or Oxford Movements, a group in which its members were only loosely associated. Those belonging to the Broad Church were liberals who questioned the doctrine that the entire Bible was inspired by God. The Broad Church publication, Essays and Reviews in 1860, outlined some of its members' liberal views. It was very strongly criticised by the Tractarians and the Evangelicals.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholics were often considered in a negative light by those in authority. It was not until the 1829 Roman Catholic Emancipation Act that many restrictions were lifted from Roman Catholics living in Britain (for more details see The world of Victorian writers > Religion in Victorian England > The Catholic remnant).

Many Victorians who had become disillusioned with the Anglican Church followed the example of the Tractarian leader, John Henry Newman, who converted to Catholicism in 1845.

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