Few movements in church history have received as much attention--the accolades, the condemnation, or, indeed, the critical study--as the development in early and middle 19th-century English history of what is know variously as "Tractarianism," "the Oxford Movement" or "Puseyism." Chadwick, for example, argues that "The Oxford Movement changed the external face, and the internal spirit, of English religious life."1 But its influence reaches well beyond the Anglican communion: Imberg evidently cites with approval the suggestion that John Henry Newman was one of the fathers of Vatican II conciliarism,2 and Dale Johnson argues that Tractarianism influenced even the English nonconformist traditions.3 In terms of the Oxford Movement and the Episcopal Church, Holmes argues that "The issues raised in the 1830s and 1840s by the Oxford Movement formed a central tension that has colored the Episcopal Church's worship and theology ever since."4 DuBose, at the end of his life, granted that he "passed through and was enriched by the more Catholic stage of the Oxford Movement."5 DeMille observes that it has often been supposed that "the High Church movement in the United States was an imported affair--a mere offshoot of the Oxford Movement."6 William Palmer Ladd, parodying some of the "antics" he witnessed in Episcopal worship in the 1940s, complains that "the Oxford Movement bequeathed to us an evil heritage ... [because] its leaders turned with longing eyes toward Rome."7 Indeed, DeMille grants that "the Tracts were far more favorably received in America than in England."8
Perhaps the plain way to take DeMille's observation is that, since the Tracts were more favorably received in America than England, then they were much more influential in American than English history and, therefore, did more to change American church practice and theology than that of England. Another way to take DeMille's observation, however, is that the Tracts were favorably received by American churchmen who were already in the midst of a native yet maturing catholic movement. In other words, to be "far more favorably received" would mean that the Tracts were less influential than has usually been supposed because a fair number in the American church had already reached, in part or in full, many of the ecclesiological views advocated in the Tracts for the Times. In fact, it is this thesis that I wish to assess and finally espouse in this paper.
Can we marshal a succinct definition of Tractarianism? Two emphases center about the doctrine of the church9: 1) a high ecclesiology which sees bishops as the esse of the church which is a divinely created society; and 2) a sacerdotal priesthood conveying the saving grace of God in divinely created sacramental acts (the emphasis on elaborate ceremonial tended to appear later).10 For Tractarianism, the church is a divinely created and ordered society which transcends--or ought to transcend--politics, geography, and time. Moreover (and I think there are precedents in Book VIII of Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity), experience in this divine society transforms how we reason about matters of the spirit; there's a good case to be made that the Oxford Movement was fully a romantic revolt against the degradation of the role of the heart and emotion in worship propagated by the "high and dry" party of earlier English ecclesial history in particular and what was perceived as the arid rationalism of the Enlightenment in general.11
Holmes' three-part substantiation of his claim that "the issues raised in the 1830s and 1840s by the Oxford Movement formed a central tension that has colored the Episcopal Church's worship and theology ever since" provides a useful way to explore the thesis that Tracts were, in fact, less influential in the Episcopal Church than is usually supposed. The three Tractarian emphases that reputedly "colored the Episcopal Church's worship and theology" are: 1) apostolic succession (a high ecclesiology is a natural correlate); 2) baptismal regeneration (auricular confession was seen as a correlate by some);12 and 3) the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (elaborate ceremonial, reservation, and adoration were correlates for some).13 For these emphases to count as influential, as Holmes supposes, would mean that either they were lacking in the Episcopal Church or were in only weak or nascent form and the appearance of the Tracts, as a result, significantly accelerated their adoption in the American church.
After sections which consider the conversion of the Connecticut churchmen, Reed's argument that the Oxford Movement can be understood as a cultural protest, Hopkins' relationship to Tractarianism and ritualism, Newman's 1839 assessment of the Episcopal Church, the origins of Nashotah House, and the Tracts and their influence at General Theological Seminary, this paper will conclude that "Tractarianism" too often has been conflated with native catholic developments in the American church, and that a better model for understanding the relationship of the English and American churches is mutually influential yet parallel development.
The Connecticut Churchmen, the Scottish Non-juring Tradition, and Samuel Johnson: Pre-Tractarian American Catholicism in the Episcopal Church
As is well known, Samuel Seabury failed in his attempt to return to the United States with an English consecration to the episcopate but was successful in application to the small, non-juring Episcopal church in Scotland. In the 1804 Prayer Book, specifically the ordination office, are reflections of the Scottish traditions, presumably reflecting Seabury's concordat with the Scottish Bishops: notable are the terms "sacerdotal," "altar," and "Eucharist." As Stuhlman puts it, "It is the eucharistic tradition of this Connecticut churchmanship which made the teaching of the early tracts ... unremarkable to American high-churchmen." 14
It might be supposed that the high church movement in this country dates to Hobart but there is a case to be made for dating it earlier. Not unlike what would happen in English Tractarianism, Samuel Johnson, Daniel Brown, and Timothy Cutler read themselves from Congregationalism to a surprisingly catholic interpretation of Anglicanism. A gift of more than 1,000 volumes to the Yale library from England proved pivotal in this pilgrimage.15 As Gerardi details it, pivotal in their thinking was the "Patristic scholarship of the Caroline Church."16
Notably, these churchmen came to doubt the validity of not only their ordinations but, in some cases, even their own baptisms because they were not performed by episcopally ordained clergy. Johnson came to believe, by means of his reading of the Caroline divines, that there is overwhelming evidence that episcopal ministry was of apostolic origins. A direct inference from these doubts would seem to be: no bishop, no church--which immediately qualifies it as a high church position in terms of ecclesiology.
Chorley argues that Samuel Johnson (1696-1772) should be marked as the "first High Churchman in America."17 Connecticut was a Puritan stronghold; indeed, one of Johnson's greatgrandfathers was a Puritan who fled England and its dominance by bishops in favor of Connecticut which became a dissenting stronghold. As Wolverton puts it, Johnson "was the first American heir of any consequence to the renaissance of Anglo-Catholic historical writing which took place in England between 1660 and 1730."18 The parallel between this period and the American 19th century is instructive: sandwiched between nonconformist polemic on one side, and Roman Catholic claims on the other, English Anglicans from 1660 to 1730 were pressed to generate a specifically Anglican definition of the church. This situation parallels in many ways the situation of Anglicans in some parts of the colonies and, of course, later in the 19th century. More than others in the high church tradition, Johnson appealed to tradition, the importance of the early church fathers, and, most importantly, a comprehensive view of the church as an indivisible unity of doctrine, liturgy (prayer book), and Scripture.
Under the influence of the Cambridge Platonist John Scott's The Christian Life, Johnson came to be what Peter Droll calls a "sacramental Arminian."19 According to this view, the created order, most notably water, bread and wine, and sacramental activity, such as the laying on of hands, are divinely ordered so as to convey grace. Just as there is a created order in nature, so Scott argued that there is a created order in the church and, while neither Scott nor Johnson was interested in unchurching those churches with presbyterial orders, they believed that this created ecclesial order is best realized in an episcopal succession back to the apostles.
The situation in which Johnson found himself warrants comment. The Tractarians, with one notable exception (as we will see), would become notable for their espousal of a hard-line on the validity of non-episcopal orders but that view already occurs, upwards of a century earlier, in Johnson's New England.20 Doll observes that the new beliefs of Johnson and the other Yale converts had to stand out from their old in order to justify the social costs they would pay:
For the converts, there could be no middle ground, no compromise in such a hostile environment. Johnson had to have been convinced of the utter necessity of this step before he would throw away his settled, prestigious, and secure place in society and convulse the peace of his country and his people.21
Johnson's ancestors, revolting against what they perceived to be the heavy-handedness of Laudian episcopacy in England, moved to New England as a way of escaping episcopal tyranny. Theologically, it meant a denial of the value and desirability of the historic episcopate. For Johnson and the other Yale converts, to convert to Episcopalianism was to embrace the form of ecclesiology the earlier Congregationalists had most wanted to reject. The result of the conversion was the adoption of the "high church" view of Anglicanism in general and the doctrine of the necessity of Apostolic succession for valid ministry more specifically. As Gerardi puts it, "That day in the college library Johnson's circle held up a mirror to the old presbyters of the New England Way and in it they beheld new priests."22
Parenthetically, it should be noted that it is sometimes supposed--indeed, the Tractarians sometimes wrote as if--their espousal of a high view of the episcopacy was a dramatic recovery of a doctrine long lost in Anglicanism. But high churchmen generally (and some Evangelicals as well23) held this view--which is how the Connecticut churchmen, who predated the Tractarians, acquired the view from reading classical Anglican theology in Connecticut in the eighteenth century. Nockles underscores this common misperception:
A reassertion of the doctrine of the necessity of an apostolic ministerial commission was integral to early Tractarian polemic. The catenae patrum of the Tracts in favor of apostolical succession was in this case conclusive proof that the Tractarian advocacy was no novelty, since eighteenth-century witnesses such as Hornes and Johnes of Nayland were cited as well as their predecessors from the Stuart era. Yet, as on other questions, it suited the purposes of Tractarian rhetoric to portray their advocacy of apostolical succession as a recovery of an ancient truth lost sight of in the 'deadness' of eighteenth-century Anglicanism. The assumption was made that the focus on apostolical succession in the early Tracts had roused discussion 'on points which had long remained undisturbed'.24 This assumption [by the Tracts for the Times] deserves questioning.25
Nockles then provides a litany of testimony of Anglican writers earlier than the Tractarians who espoused such a view.26 Moreover, silence on a doctrine alone in any particular time or place does not entail its rejection--it simply means it is not a point of controversy. Nockles points out that many people readily and uncritically believed the Tractarian polemic that their views on apostolic succession were more novel vis-a-vis Anglican tradition than, in fact, they were. I take the affirmation of what otherwise might be taken as a Tractarian view of the episcopacy as the esse of the church by the Connecticut churchmen, a century before the first appearance of the Tracts, to be disconfirming evidence of the Tractarian polemic.
The convert from a majority to a minority religion pays a price for rejecting the dominant religious ethos of his or her day and so tends to emphasize differences rather than similarities between the new religion and the old; one wants something distinctive for paying a stiff price. One thinks, for example, of Henry Edward Manning's ultra-Montane Roman Catholicism in England after his secession to Rome. So it is not surprising the Yale converts emphasized an Anglicanism that stood out more starkly from the dominant Congregationalism of the day than that generally espoused by "cradle" Episcopalians who often would have wanted to emphasize their American identity by de-emphasizing those Anglican doctrines deemed incompatible with the New England ethos.
The contrast between the situations of the high churchmen in England and those in America also warrant comment, particularly as those situations bore on developing ecclesiology. Establishment in England was a reality which some high churchmen celebrated but a few, especially after the advent of Tractarianism, began to question. In New England, of course, not only was the Episcopal Church not established, it faced the real hostility of the political and cultural establishment, which was dissenting Protestant. Moreover, the failure of the established church/state in England to look past its own interests and provide the New Englanders with a bishop early surely pushed the New Englanders to look elsewhere than England for the ideal ecclesiology. The paradigm for these New England Anglicans, therefore, was not England but was the early church. For a church struggling against the dissenting Protestant establishment, episcopacy emerges not as the bene esse of the church, but as the esse of the church. As a further corollary, it would seem that for an episcopal church to be situated in a politically and culturally hostile environment, questions of ecclesiology become more pressing, more quickly, than if it is situated in a culturally and politically friendly environment. If this is right, it should not be surprising that some American developments usually explained in terms of the rise and influence of the Oxford Movement in fact emerged early in the Episcopal Church because its situation differed in so many ways from the English church.
Connecticut churchmanship also played a role in the development of the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Samuel Farmer Jarvis (1786-1851) was the son of the second bishop of Connecticut and was also a professor at Hartford College. In a sermon at St. Thomas Church in New York, June 26, 1836, before the Board of Missions, he attempted to advance a case for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Albright claims that this was "one of the earliest attempts to describe the real presence of Christ in the sacrament" in the American Church.27 Notably, this is earlier than any detectable influence of the Tracts.
By comparison, Newman himself was evolving--and sometimes equivocating, at least publicly--in his doctrine of the Eucharist. Newman did not write a tract specifically on the sacraments, which is interesting in its own right.28 But there are passages in other tracts where he discusses the sacraments. Tract 10 considers apostolic ministry, certainly a principal Tractarian theme. As spelled out by Imberg, there are subtle changes in Newman's editing of Tract 10 from the 1833 to the 1834/5 edition of the tract, which seem to temper a strong doctrine of real presence. For example, the 1833 edition of the tract describes the priest as "intrusted with the awful and mysterious gift of making the bread and wine Christ's body and blood." The later edition reads "intrusted with the awful and mysterious privilege of dispensing Christ's Body and Blood."29 Note the transition from "making" to "dispensing" and notice also that the capitalization has changed.
As Imberg details it, Newman was sensitive to political pressures, especially from bishops, and was not above yielding to some of it as he evidently did in Tract 10. The later edition has softened the priest's role in the Eucharist even as it has emphasized the "Body and the Blood," which presumably would be more difficult to attack. Imberg argues that Newman changed the reading but not his mind since in correspondence with his sister he seemed to defend the earlier reading. But the point is that the published writing, and that which would have made its way to America, would have been no more "advanced" and arguably less advanced than that which was already expressed in the American church.
One rebuttal to this conclusion is that the Tracts would have enjoyed greater influence than a sermon. But Thomas' sermon was before the Board of Missions which would have had a significant influence on the Westward-bound missionary church. Moreover, Newman dealt very carefully on the doctrine of the real presence, particularly publicly, because the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation was notably abhorrent to the majority of the Church of England and was taken to be the primary doctrine of "popery" or "priestcraft"--the formal declaration of the even more abhorrent doctrine of papal infallibility by Vatican I was still 35 years away.30 And, as we just saw, Newman was playing his editorial cards with an eye to their political reception in a church he was still--in the middle 1830s, a dozen years prior to his conversion--saw as his own.
The result that I take from this section is that there was a robust catholic self-understanding in the Episcopal Church prior to the advance of Tractarianism that even Newman recognized as in some ways more advanced than that in the English Church.
The Tractarian Movement as a Countercultural Protest against a Church-State Establishment in England: Reed's Cultural Construction
Noting that there were several movements in the nineteenth century that reacted against the dry rationalism of the eighteenth century, John MacQuarrie sees parallels between the Oxford Movement in England, the Schleiermacher-inspired German theology which emphasized the intuitive and the affective, and Kierkegaard's subjective critique of state Christianity.31 All three movements reflect some distrust of reason, particularly in its ability to discern religious truth.
From a sociologist one would expect a sociological construction of history and that is precisely what we get with John Shelton Reed's Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism.32 His Introduction is a period sketch that, especially for one who came of age in the 1960s and 70s, sounds precisely like a portrait of the tumultuous American 1960s. Yet, says Reed, it is a sketch not of the 1960s but of the Anglo-Catholic movement in England of the 1860s. In a word, Reed interprets the Anglo-Catholic movement, in parallel with the 1960s in America, as a countercultural movement:
Both movements exemplify a phenomenon increasingly common in the cultural politics of modern industrial society; beneath their many obvious dissimilarities they share one definitive characteristic. Each stood in opposition to some of the dominant values of its time and place, appealing to people who were, for one reason or another, disaffected from those values. Both were, in short, "countercultural" movements.33
Reed's thesis turns on the fact that the Oxford Movement generated both opposition and affront, not only from the power structure but from people in a wide variety of positions, both high and low, in the social hierarchy.
High in the affront generated by the Tractarians, for Reed, was the posthumous publication of Froude's Remains in 1838. It espoused spiritual discipline, anguished self-examination, and a patent loathing of the Reformers and the Reformation.34 A chronicle of the growing suspicion of the movement is advanced by Reed as he attempts to sustain his anti-culturalist thesis. The "Romanizing" tendencies of Ward, Oakely, and Faber exacerbated the suspicions, and, not wholly unlike Matthew Fox in the modern Roman church, Pusey was silenced, and, later, Newman estranged and self-exiled to Littlemore, not unlike those Americans who retreated to rural communes in the 1960s.
Reed also underscores the importance of other movements in the nineteenth century that we sometimes too easily associate with "Tractarian" because there were "other, less theological tributaries to the current of ceremonial revival."35 For example, the Cambridge Camden Society--a group that included some Tractarians but, with 700 members from across the theological perspective in the Church of England--was much more inclusive than the Tractarians, espoused architectural causes that can too easily be designated "Tractarian." The Camden Society was instrumental in the restoration of many churches, both externally and internally, over a number of years and much of that restoration was Gothic revival.36 Reed even speaks of "Gothic religion," which came to be identified in some minds with Tractarianism as the nineteenth century unfolded. Perhaps because of this problematical association, the Camden Society was reconstituted later as the Ecclesiological Society. The point is that the Oxford Movement was part of a much larger Romantic movement which sought restoration of the church in terms consonant with antiquity and, to a lesser extent, the Middle Ages. Not all of this larger movement was Tractarian but it has been easy to slip into the habit of assuming that Tractarianism was responsible for the renovations, writings and controversies generated by this larger cultural, literary, and architectural movement which swept through the nineteenth century, both in the United States and in Europe.
Tractarianism, Ritualism, and John Henry Hopkins' American Catholicism
As we will have occasion to see more than once, Tractarianism, along with viewpoints consonant with it such as ritualism, faced more opposition from the hierarchy in England than it did in the United States. As noted at the outset, one can take this as evidence of the exceptional influence of Tractarianism on America or, as I prefer to interpret it, as evidence that the Tracts were less influential because they met a native catholic movement in the United States that was, in many respects, more sophisticated than that in England.
It is difficult to imagine a more important figure in nineteenth-century Episcopal history than John Henry Hopkins (1792-1868). A lawyer, architect, musician, as well as a bishop for thirty five years, and Presiding Bishop at the conclusion of the War Between the States and immediately afterwards, Hopkins was at the height of his powers and influence when the controversies over the Tracts were at their zenith. Though not a great scholar (his opposition both to evolution and developmentalism was not well expressed), his influence stemmed in part from four major works he produced.
DeMille, though not always consistent on the relative influences of Tractarianism and native Catholic developments in America, advances the importance of Hopkins for understanding the early development of catholic thinking and practice in the young American church: "That John Henry Hopkins (1792-1868) so early became a High Churchman is an excellent reason for inferring, apart from all other evidence, that in the early nineteenth century Catholicism was in the air."37 DeMille lists Hopkins as one of the "Pre-Tractarian High Churchmen," but this is somewhat misleading since Hopkins was contemporary with many of the Tractarians. The categorizing is right since Hopkins got his catholicism independently of the Tractarians (and of Hobartian traditions), but temporally it is misleading since Hopkins and the Tractarians were roughly contemporaries and since Hopkins exemplified the ability of church on both sides of the Atlantic to reach similar conclusions about the same time. Not unlike the Tractarians, and the earlier Connecticut churchmen, he read himself to his catholic positions.
A recurring theme in Hopkins' work was a defense of ritualism which he believed could be defended on biblical grounds. The Primitive Church defended not only wide latitude in terms of permissable ritual actions in the liturgy; it also defended a strong doctrine of baptismal regeneration and the episcopacy as essential to the church. In particular, he makes an interesting appeal to Old Testament ritualism, which he claims was not abolished by New Testament doctrine. The problem with Roman practice at the time of the Reformation, he claims, was not advanced ritual per se but the theological doctrine informing the ritual. Mullin argues that his reasoning is so deeply based in Scripture, Hopkins can reasonably be labeled a "biblical ritualist."38 Especially when we recall that early Tractarianism did not emphasize ritual as one of its primary planks, Hopkins' extended and early defense of ritualism illusrates the independence of the American church from the English church in general and Tractarianism more specifically.
The date of publication for The Primitive Church was 1835. This would seem to preclude much chance for influence by the Tracts for the Times, which began publication in 1833 and ran through 1841. If one dates Tractarianism to Keble's publication of The Christian Year, in 1827, however, then we have an earlier inception of the movement. In particular, the romanticism of The Christian Year parallels Hopkin's Madonna of the Chair. Nockles points out that "Keble enabled them [high churchmen] to associate High Churchmenship no longer with mere 'formalism' but once more with that 'heart religion, play of mind, and elasticity of feeling' which Newman later defined as vital elements of the Tractarian ethos."39 DeMille observes that Hopkins, the artist and the architect, looked sympathetically on the Middle Ages for resources to enliven his church: "Where Hobart and his followers were authoritarian, Hopkins was a romanticist."40 Consequently, I think it not too much of a stretch to suggest that what Keble was to the English church, Hopkins was to the American church.
If we look at The Novelties Which Disturb Our Peace, we see Hopkins as an American catholic commentator on his own contentious time.41 It consists of four letters addressed to the bishops, clergy, and laity of the church. The Third Letter deals with the Holy Eucharist in general and Tractarian treatments of it in particular. Hopkins argues that Pusey's view in particular is too close to the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and, therefore, warrants disapprobation. Hopkins contrasts his own view, which he believes is more consonant with early catholic development: "the faithful communicant is made, by the Holy Spirit, a partaker, verily and indeed, of the Body and Blood of Christ, after a heavenly and Spiritual manner, so as to become mystically one with his Divine Lord ..."42
Perhaps not surprisingly, Tract 10, which we saw earlier, and Tract 90, play a significant role in Hopkins' treatment. Hopkins appeals to Roman Catholics such as Bossuet who grant that a denial of Transubstantiation does not in itself entail a denial of the Real Presence. Indeed, Hopkins argues that even Roman bishops concede that the doctrine of the Church of England is "that of the real and substantial presence of Christ's body and blood, as fully as any Catholic can do."43 As a result, we see Hopkins drawing some fine distinctions--the doctrine of the real presence is genuinely Anglican yet the Anglican does not have to embrace the Tractarian doctrines which blur the differences between Anglican and Roman positions.
As influential leaders such as Hopkins distinguish between what they perceive to be genuine Anglican positions and distortions by Tractarians that blur the differences between classical catholic and Roman Catholic positions, therefore, we have evidence not of puissant Oxford Movement influence but of carefully nuanced rejection of Tractarian doctrines.
Newman and His Assessment of the American Church in the British Critic (October, 1839)
In 1807, John Henry Hobart caught the attention of an early Tractarian, Hugh J. Rose, with his Tract on Episcopacy. Rose was Professor of Divinity at Durham and Principal of King's College in London from 1836 on--just as the Tracts were beginning to be published.44 Hobart toured Europe, in the process spending a number of months in England. During that time he discussed current theological topics with English churchmen, including Newman, in March, 1824. As Albright puts it, Hobart "may have influenced this young potential leader [Newman] far more than has hitherto been admitted."45 Albright concedes we don't know this for sure, but we do have a "glowing tribute" to Hobart by Newman entitled "The Church Principles of Bishop Hobart."46
In attempting to assay the relationship of the English Church to the American church, it would indeed be helpful to have had one of the Tractarians make his way around the United States in an effort to assess the development of the Episcopal Church. Alas, so far as I know, no significant Tractarian visited the United States but we do have the next best thing: an extended essay by Newman on the American Church, "predicated on reports of an American presbyter, a Mr. Caswell," subsequently published in the British Critic in 1839 (Newman edited it between 1837 and 1841; later it was discontinued because of the uproar it caused in England).47
This is a remarkable piece in many ways; one senses a Newman in transition six years before his secession to Rome, yet the Anglican Newman is still richly in evidence as he extols--sometimes hesitatingly, sometimes hopefully--the catholic principles informing, albeit imperfectly, the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. The power of Newman's prose and anguish is evident, for example, as he bemoans the fact that "The civil power has cut us off from Christendom, has done, it must be confessed, its utmost to reconcile us to our degradation."48 Showing a respectable command of the vagaries of early American Episcopal history, Newman brandishes the Phoenix-like quality of the Episcopal Church.
The reader can sense an anguished, exercised Newman, searching for evidence that would confirm the Church of England's catholicity, and taking great joy in the establishment of the episcopacy in America as evidence of that catholicity. As he writes, "the English church, the desolate one, has children."49 No barren church, no longer an isolated exile, the Church of England can claim the signs of catholicity in the bearing of apostolic fruit, notably, in a hostile environment which parallels the early church:
We have the proof that the Church, of which we are, is not the mere creation of the State, but has an independent life, with a kind of her own, and fruit after her own kind. ...if her daughter can exist, though the State does not protect, the mother would not cease to be, though she were protected no longer.50
Newman worries the English church subsists by state subsidy and protection and, therefore, its claim to be a branch of the one, holy catholic church is compromised. More happily, offspring that flourish, complete with catholic principle and the marks of catholicity, independently of state nurture and control is evidence, Newman believes, of implicit, valid catholic principle in the mother. It is the "Apostolical model" which is the bedrock of Catholic truth, for Newman: "It is encouraging to find that the [American] Church, though deprived of all external aids [is still based on] ... the ground of the consistency, definiteness and stability of its creed."51
Deepening Newman's interest in the American church's growth and success is the fact that he sees a parallel between the religiously chaotic American situation and the early church: success in such an environment is evidence of God's encouragement and sanction. And since the child has borne rich fruit, to press the metaphor, the seed of the mother must be genuine, that is to say authentically catholic:
In reading such accounts, how we are thrown back into the times of early Church-history, and find ourselves among the Valentinians, Marcionites, Cataphrgians, Ebionites, Manichees, and all of the other prodigies to which the presence of the true Church gave rise, as the sun breeds reptiles ... so we are prepared to believe that even in these fallen times she has so much of her ancient glory ... to grow and increase when they fall to pieces.52
Newman quotes with approval Caswell's description of one American cleric's decision to abandon the sectarian groups for the Apostolical Church: "He therefore connected himself with the American Episcopal Church; since here he found all that is best in Romanism, without its corruptions; all that is valuable among the dissenters, without their disorder."53 For Newman, this is evidence that the American church possesses the catholic principle which naturally draws Christians to it if they have it available as a choice.
Newman underscores his "main point:" the reason he takes such joy in the American church is because of its "instinctive appreciation of the Succession; its silent cherishing of it when obtained; and afterwards its sudden and vigorous development."54 While granting that there is immaturity in the American church, he argues that it possesses a "high gift" that will take some time to fully exploit. Notice in particular the striking centrality of what Newman takes to be the American church's possession of this high gift:
They have gone forward from one truth to another; from the Apostolic Commission to the Succession, from the Succession to the Office--in the office they have discerned the perpetual priesthood, in the priesthood the perpetual sacrifice, in the sacrifice the glory of the Christian Church, its power as a fount of grace, and its blessedness as a gate of heaven ... You would not know whether you were in America or England, while their books were before you, in Birmingham [England] or New York, amid collieries or cotton-crops.55
Given this approbation and endorsement that the American church is founded on the "Apostolic Commission," it should not be surprising that Newman is conversant with the ecclesiologies of Seabury and Hobart--though it might be disappointing he says little about the American Samuel Johnson. Seabury is invoked by Newman to show that the American church already has as its primary principle, the Apostolic Succession and many, if not all, of the earmarks of a mature Catholicism. He happily quotes Seabury:
It remains, then, that there is no other way left to obtain a valid commission to act as Christ's ministers in His church, but by an uninterrupted succession of ordination from the Apostles, where it is wanting, all spiritual power in Christ's Church is wanting also ... The Eucharist is not only a sacrament, in which, under the symbols of bread and wine according to the institution of Christ, the faithful truly and spiritually receive the body and blood of Christ but also, a true and proper sacrifice ...56
Notably, Newman is also a keen enough student of the American church, along with the history of its establishment of the episcopacy, to underscore the fact that the American prayer book, under Seabury's concordat with the Scottish Episcopal Church, restored the ancient consecration prayer which the English Church had truncated. As a result, therefore, at least in Newman's eyes, the American church more fully evidenced Catholic principle in her Eucharistic rites than did the English Church.
Hobart is also invoked. Recall that the mature Bishop Hobart met the younger Newman in England for dinner in 1824 and presumably advanced his high ecclesial views to the searching, still maturing Newman. As Newman interprets Hobart in 1839, the latter provides a "precise account of the supernatural state of the Christian Church."57 As a result, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that the theological winds between England and America were bidirectional. More forcefully, I don't see how we can avoid the conclusion that there must have been significant influence on Newman's ecclesiology by the American churchmen and the specific unique circumstances of the American church--situated as it was, flourishing independently of a patronizing, stifling state.
To be sure, about half of this long piece is devoted to what Newman sees as imperfections in the American church's implementation of its catholic principle. Newman was certainly no democrat and he was distinctly puzzled and chagrined by the power of the laity and "inferior" clergy in the American church. At the same time, he spends some time wrestling uncomfortably with Hobart's criticism of the English Church, most notably Hobart's supposition that the English Church was Erastian, surely a very sensitive point with the maturing Newman.58
But we should be clear about Newman's overall evaluation of the American church: "All depends upon her informing principle: if this be short of the true, all will go to waste; if it be 'Apostolical Order,' it will be right."59 Newman is clearly convinced that the American church has the correct "informing principle" and, therefore, it is only a matter of time before church practice correctly manifests this catholic, informing principle. Moreover, it is also clear that Newman understands the American Church better than his Tractarian colleagues and gets right the importance of seeing catholicism flourish in a pluralistic, nonestablishment environment that recapitulated the history of the emergence of pristine Catholicism in the early centuries. In the final analysis, his evaluation of the American church is distinctly more positive than his evaluation of the established English church:
Let the American Church take her place; she is freer than we are; she has but to will and she can do. Let her, as Mr. Caswell in one place suggests, react upon us, according to the light and power given her. Let her not take our errors and increase them by copying, but let her be, as it were, our shadow before us--the prophecy and omen, the mysterious token and the anticipated fulfillment of those Catholic principles which lie within us, more or less latent, waiting for the destined hour of their development.60
This passage is remarkable in several respects. First, Newman is suggesting that the English church can learn from the American church since the American church is implementing Catholic principles free from the stifling interference of the state. Unlike his Tractarian brethren, he sees the American church as uniquely able to implement Catholic principles. The American church is in the position to be prophetic, calling the English church to recognize the debilitating, inhibiting implications of establishment.
More generally, in the entire piece, there is little suggestion by Newman that the Oxford Movement, as we now call it, is somehow instructing the young American church on how to instantiate Catholic principles. If anything, it is the other way about. The American church thrives, as Newman sees it, because it embodies catholic principle and it does so without the loathesome patronage of a state more interested in its own aims than the church's. In a word, the Episcopal Church in America is on its way to being the branch of the Catholic church that Newman wishes the Church of England would be.
Subsequent to 1939, there certainly was influence on the young American church by Tractarianism, but it is instructive for the thesis of parallel development that the most important Tractarian wrote in 1839 that the English church had more to learn from the American church than the other way about. One wonders if an American Newman would have found it necessary to translate to Rome.61
Nashotah House and Early American Anglo-Catholicism
It is easy to imagine that the Oxford Movement must have inspired the founding of Nashotah House, that controversial, idiosyncratic voice for Catholicism in the Upper Midwest. Of course, questions associated with Nashotah have greater import than that of one small Wisconsin seminary; Breck's influence was felt in many areas of the country, notably Minnesota and California, and the "Biretta Belt" of the Episcopal Church owes much to Nashotah.
The similarities between Tractarianism and Nashotah-style Anglo-Catholicism, to be sure, are unmistakable. "Blessed John Keble" appears in the hagiography of the stained-glass windows of the Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin at Nashotah; indeed, the Oxford-Nashotah connection is long-standing.62 The question, of course, is one of historical origins: did Nashotah Anglo-Catholicism, with its distinctive emphasis on quasi-monastic, personal holiness and its belief that the church occupies holy ground, originate principally or even significantly at Oxford? To put it another way, would Nashotah have developed largely as it did if the Oxford Movement had come along much later or even not at all? Reeves questions the supposition that American high churchmanship must have depended on Tractarianism:
The appeals for spiritual and ecclesial regeneration by Pusey, John Keble, John Henry Newman, Hurrell Froude, and other Tractarian leaders had less of an initial impact on the Episcopal Church than on the Church of England. That was in part because the high church party in America had long since made the case for Catholicism. ... The Tracts for the Times and Pusey's Letter to the ... Lord Bishop of Oxford had little to say about apostolic succession, the visible church, the value of the sacraments, or the authority of the early church Fathers that could surprise America's high churchmen.63
Admittedly, we have some historiographical problems here. In support of this claim, Reeves references DeMille, a respectable source, but appealing to general histories, even one as readable as DeMille's, is something less than satisfactory in terms of making a case in the face of evidence on both sides of the issue. The question remains: does the primary historical evidence support Reeves' and DeMille's claims of parallel or even prior American catholic development in general and can we infer, as a result, that Nashotah's development in particular was not substantially dependent on the Oxford Movement?
Adding to our perplexity is the fact that Reeves writes that Breck and Adams, both students at General Theological Seminary were "stimulated" by Tractarian literature (I will take up the influence of the Oxford Movement on the American seminary in the next section). Again, he quotes DeMille to sustain his claim:
The early literature of the Oxford Movement particularly stimulated younger men like James Lloyd Breck and William Adams, students at the General Theological Seminary. George DeMille has observed, "The intense piety of Pusey, the daring iconoclasm of Froude, above all the literary genius of Newman, acted like a tonic on the new generation."64
What's interesting are the lines from DeMille that Reeves does not quote, which would seem to support his conviction, expressed earlier in his article, that Nashotah was substantially independent of Oxford:
They had been placed in a receptive mood by the teachings of Hobart, Whittingham, and Onderdonk. The ground was seeded, and the Tracts were like summer sun.65
These lines immediately follow the words quoted by Reeves and, together, they frame--but do not answer--the question of the relative influences of the native catholic movement and Tractarianism on the conception, origination, and development of Nashotah and Nashotah-style American Anglo-Catholicism. Perhaps we can do no better than metaphorical comparisons--what is seed and what is summer sun evidently the preferred metaphorical comparison--but dates and written evidence might help us do a little better.
The early date for the founding of Nashotah, especially when compared with similar institutions in England, would seem to count against primary Oxford influence. The plan for Nashotah's "Society of Protestant Monks" dates to 1840 with the visit of Jackson Kemper to General Seminary. As relayed by Reeves, the audience Kemper found at General consisted of students influenced by Hobartian high churchmanship who relished "stories of heroic missionaries across the centuries."66 The founding of the Board of Missions in 1835, along with the declaration that membership in the Missionary Society and the Episcopal Church were coextensive, brandished the missionary enthusiasm that was in the air. The missionary bishop as the soul of the church inspired people from General Seminary to the Tractarians in England, including Newman. Newman "received the idea [of missionary bishops], which was obviously completely new to him, with greatest enthusiasm."67 Herklots in particular emphasizes this American influence on the English Church with regard to understanding the church as missionary endeavor, suggesting that it was the daughter who influenced the mother.68
Three missionaries from General arrived at Nashotah at the middle of 1841 and by the end of 1841, it was established. By 1843 seven people were at Nashotah and erected the two-story structure, the "Red House," that today serves as the chapel for the summer program. By this same date, Nashotah had attracted not only attention across the nation--some of it quite negative, of course--but also attention in England, at least some of it positive. Pusey cited its establishment rhetorically: "Have you heard of the establishment in Wisconsin, which Bishop Kemper calls his most promising mission?"69 Notably, Cuddesdon, which was England's first Tractarian, common-life institution, would not be founded until 1854. At 13 or 14 years earlier than its English counterpart, therefore, temporal priority goes to the American Church in terms of the establishment of a missionary-monastic community.70
"Oxford Movement" and "Romanism" are terms that seem inextricably linked, especially given the history of conversions, from Newman until today. As a result, it might be useful to have some sense of Nashotah's understanding of its relationship to Roman Catholicism. One surprising feature of the "order of Protestant Monks" at Nashotah was their belief that their understanding of Catholicism was at striking variance with the Roman version of Catholicism. Breck believed it required a monastic community in order that the "Romanist be made to feel sensibly the power of the Catholic Church."71 Despite being a ritualist and being widely supposed to have Romanist sympathies, Breck believed there was a primitive Catholicism which predated the Roman version which could be manifested in the Episcopal Church:
We simply hold by the Church, and wish to realize, in a quiet way, the strength of her principles. There is a Catholicity further back than Rome; and who can forbid us this, if we can become worthy of it?72
Nashotah had no business office or student accounts in the early days; students who were unable to pay were received as readily as those with some means. The Swedish Lutheran Unonious, as an example of the community's missionary spirit, found the young community appealing and soon joined both it and the Episcopal Church, later becoming a priest. He described the creed of Nashotah in these terms: "Come in your poverty and we shall share with you our small means; come in your ignorance and we shall teach you until you are fit to be accepted as a worker in the vineyard of the Lord." Reeves concludes that "At the time, there was nothing like this within Anglicanism." If this judgment is right, notably, it means that Nashotah at least in some respects, was earlier in its expression of Anglo-Catholicism than Oxford.
Walworth's essay on the Oxford Movement, which we will meet more fully in the next section, devotes a chapter to Nashotah.73 Walworth knew the founders of Nashotah at "the Chelsea Seminary of 1841" (General)74 and writes of a letter in his possession from Breck to Wadhams which details Breck's intention to found a community of unmarried men based on "staunch Catholic principles." With the exception of remaining unmarried, the principles cited by Breck in the letter can be found in earlier Hobartian high churchmanship and we are given no evidence of direct Tractarian influence. Walworth spends much of his time detailing why Nashotah developed into a different community, one somewhat more consonant with mainstream Episcopal practices than the community earlier envisioned. But interestingly, Walworth has no qualms about crediting the idea of Nashotah to Tractarianism: "One thing should be set down as undoubted; that no part of all this tendency toward the monastic life is an outcrop of Protestantism, but must be attributed to the Tractarian movement."75 We get an assertion but no argument in support of this moot claim.
Admittedly, Walworth's is not an academically critical essay; its 19th-century polemical aims dominate. Yet it exemplifies the disposition of both the time it was written, in 1895, and much later simply to conflate the terms "catholic movement" and "Tractarian" or "Oxford Movement." There is in Walworth, as is true in other writing as well, an assumption that the referents of these terms need not be kept distinct. For Walworth, if it involves an Episcopal development toward more catholic theology or practice, then it is perfectly appropriate to label it "Tractarian." His is a book primarily about the catholic movement in the Episcopal Church, with a small amount of casual detailing of actual American use of the Tracts and Oxford theology, but the entire phenomenon is labeled "Oxford Movement." While Walworth is a particularly egregious example of this conflation, he certainly was not the last to propagate it.
The Tracts for the Times and General Theological Seminary
Perhaps the strongest case for significant Tractarian influence on the catholic movement in the Episcopal Church is built on their reception at General Theological Seminary. In chronicling the catholic movement in the United States, one might suppose that George DeMille would be about the business of arguing for parallel development between England and America. In fact, DeMille makes the case for overwhelming Tractarian influence and it seems as though the thesis for parallel catholic development is mortally wounded:
But the chief effect of the Tracts was felt, naturally, by the younger men, particularly by the students at the General Theological Seminary. Here was not different basic doctrine ... but the old doctrine .... was now clothed in new splendor. ... the general tone of the Tracts, the Athanasius contra mundum attitude, was just the thing to appeal to ... the inborn revolutionary spirit of men in their twenties. ... Everyone was reading Newman, and most were falling under the spell of his magic pen. Coxe, Tucker, Carey, Wadhams, Walworth, Adams, Breck--the list of Newmanites is very nearly the roll call of the notable men of the seminary during this decade.76
It looks as though we might have Reed's countercultural argument going here which might explain why the documentary evidence looks less impressive than it is--countercultural movements are most likely to appeal to young people and they tend to leave less written documentation than establishment movements. Perhaps the parallel thesis can be accommodated to the writings of mature American catholics, but it fails to take account of the enthusiasms of the young, especially those at General Seminary, who would have been most susceptible to the Tractarian calls to action.
Exemplifying this Tractarian enthusiasm, as DeMille interprets it, was Bishop Kemper's visit to General in 1841, which resulted in Adams, Breck, and Hobart responding to his missionary call to spread the catholic faith to the West. DeMille's claim is we "can trace... clearly the innovating spirit of the Tracts" in Breck's call to Nashotah. But at the same time, DeMille also grants that Breck himself attributes his sense of call to the writings of William Rollingson Whittingham.77 Indeed, earlier DeMille grants of Whittingham:
His researches early led him to an almost complete anticipation of the ideas of early Tractarians; so much so that it was said of him by an English priest, "If the whole Catholic Church was buried save only your Whittingham, I believe out of that one man the whole Catholic Church might rise up again like our Lord in living glory."78
So it seems that DeMille himself has not done that much better than Walworth's inconsistent use of labels and historical explanations. If Whittington anticipated the ideas of the Tractarians and Breck attributes his sense of call to Whittington, then it seems we ought to take Breck's account at face value and conclude that Nashotah catholicism was largely an American development.
Clarence Walworth's The Oxford Movement in America, which we met in the last section, is interesting on a couple of scores.79 First it claims to be about the effect of the Oxford Movement in the United States by one who writes as an eyewitness to the history. Second, Walworth was a student at General Seminary and claims in the book to have been a close associate of Arthur Carey, the seminarian who was subjected to trial prior to his ordination as a deacon because of alleged extreme Tractarian views. We get an extended treatment of the Carey trial buttressed by the unargued assumption that Carey's views were straightforwardly Tractarian.
The essay is transparently tendentious since it is more of a memoir and a theological tract with a specific theological agenda to derive from the events he purports to analyze--he was one of the General Seminary students who later seceded to Rome. What Walworth labels as "Oxford Movement" in the United States is called by DeMille the "catholic movement" and Walworth gives us little grounds for concluding that the developments he describes ought in significant measure to be explained in terms of the influence of the Tracts for the Times.
A less tendentious assessment of the relationship of Tractarianism to General Seminary can be found in E. Clowes Chorley's "The Oxford Movement in the Seminary."80 In stark contrast to their reception by the hierarchy in England, Samuel Seabury, for a time editor of the (pro-Tracts) Churchman, lobied successfully for their publication in the United States. In a remarkable irony, given the grief the Tracts were to cause General Seminary, Samuel Coleman published the Tracts with the condition that part of the proceeds were to benefit the seminary.
The Tracts achieved a significant sale in the United States and were particularly well received in New York. As Chorley interprets it, three facts account for the sales and reception of the Tracts: the influence of Bishop Onderdonk, who was also a member of seminary faculty; the support of The Churchman; and the fact that the "Oxford theology" enjoyed "high favor among many of the students and some influential members of the Faculty."81 Chorley particularly emphasizes the consistent support of the Tracts and the Oxford Movement by Bishop Onderdonk:
I have been much pleased to know that the Oxford Tracts have arrested the attention of some of the most intelligent and seriously minded among you. I would it were more so. Among their influences are the spiritual views which they give of the Church ... and I cannot but think that by the divine blessing on their good sense and moral principle, there will be a happy deliverance from the weight of worldly principles, views, feelings, and operations which now presses down the Church to a level so secular, and often of so questionable a moral character.82
At last, we have unequivocal evidence of Tractarian influence. Bishop Onderdonk is explicitly endorsing the Tracts and no amount of academic sleight-of-hand can obviate this fact.
Not only did Bishop Onderdonk recommend the Tracts, Bishop Seabury was also a supporter. As Chorley interprets it, Seabury was not particularly chagrined by the seemingly pro-Trent stance of Newman's widely denounced Tract 90. Chorley chronicles the impact of the Tracts at the seminary, somewhat cautiously citing Walworth, a problematical source as we saw earlier. But Chorley is content to quote Walworth's claim that "We had, in truth, a little Oxford on this side of the Atlantic ... Its name was the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church."83 Despite his greater historical sensitivity, Chorley does not note the fact that Walworth tended to equate any kind of catholic principle or practice with Tractarianism, and accepts Walworth's comment at face value.
After a tantalizingly brief exploration of the relationship of the Oxford Movement to General Seminary, Chorley spends the bulk of his time with the admittedly fascinating Carey trial, evidently content to assume that the relationship of the Tracts for the Times to the seminary is not a point of contention. Carey certainly held some advanced Anglo-Catholic views that were akin to Newman's just prior to his secession to Rome. Chorley characterizes Carey, "a young man of unusual charm and deep piety" who had "been profoundly affected by the Oxford Movement."
The subsequent account of the trial of Carey certainly establishes Carey's deep Anglo-Catholic convictions and even antipathy to Protestantism, but we do not get anything like a careful account that Carey's views were clearly derived from the Oxford Tracts rather than the Anglo-Catholicism which already characterized much of northeastern Episcopalianism. Granted, we get an account of resolutions offered by seminary trustees which reference, for example, Newman's Tract 90, but we do not get a precise account of how specific tracts actually influenced either seminarians or clergy, moving them to a position they would not have reached solely on the basis of American catholic development which was occurring largely independently of the Tracts. Even the questions addressed to the seminary professors by the visting, examining bishops do not establish a clear concern with specific Tractarian doctrines; of 43 questions posed, only five refer to tracts or to members of the Oxford Movement. Most concern Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, or the theology and practice of Roman Catholicism. Less a trial of Tractarianism, it was an assessment of the consistency of emerging American catholic principle and practice with classical Anglican documents.
Chorley concludes ominously that "not a few of these questions were inspired by a fear of the Oxford theology accentuated by the excitement caused by the Carey ordination."84 I think it is reasonable to conclude that fear of the "Oxford theology" in general and Carey's views in particular precipitated the unfortunate trial of Carey and doctrinal scrutiny of the seminary. But Chorley conflates the question with whether people were afraid of the "Oxford theology" with the question of whether Tracts were actually responsible for the views of Carey and others at the seminary with seemingly Romanist tendencies. A "yes" answer to the previous question does not entail a "yes" answer to the latter question. To conflate the two, moreover, is to obscure our view of what the relationship of General Seminary was to native Anglo-Catholicism on one hand and the Oxford Movement on the other. As a result, Chorley serves us better than Walworth but that is faint praise indeed.85
All Religion Is Local: An American Parish and a Diocese in the 19th Century
By the time James Stewart Smith attended Seabury Divinity School in Faribault in the 1870s (the original site of the Cathedral for the Diocese of Minnesota), James Lloyd Breck and Nashotah House had 30 years to extend their understanding of the Catholic faith across the Upper Midwest. Presumably, the influence of the Tracts would also have been in evidence at Seabury. Smith became rector of St. Mark's in Chicago, historically a "low church" parish, after ordination by Bishop William McLaren, a convert from the Presbyterian church to both the Episcopal Church and Anglo-Catholicism. David Holmes' "From Low Church to Anglo-Catholic and Back Again: The Saga of a Middle-American Parish" chronicles the evolution of an American parish in the later part of the nineteenth century.86 In a scant four years, Smith moved St. Mark's from being the second "lowest" parish in Chicago to a bulwark of Anglo-Catholicism.
One task Holmes sets for himself is to account for the rapidity of this transformation. He gives five reasons: (1) influence of the Oxford Movement; (2) support of an Anglo-Catholic bishop; (3) Smith came to St. Mark's at a low ebb; (4) Smith was a prudent rector in many ways; (5) he made more than 5,000 parochial visits in 4 years--3 visits a day! As a result, it could be argued, it looks as though we have a straightforward, clear affirmation of the influence of the Oxford Movement on the development of a presumably fairly typical American parish. Lest we miss it, Holmes puts it first on his list of factors.
But closer inspection reveals a more complicated pattern. Even Holmes explains his point 1, the influence of the Oxford Movement, with reference to the "rediscovery of the romantic and medieval in architecture."87 This seems to be a tacit acknowledgment of Reed's thesis, that the Oxford Movement itself can be understood as part of a larger cultural shift, a romantic, even cultural rebellion in the early and middle nineteenth century that transcended political boundaries. On this view, the Oxford Movement was as much effect as cause because deeper, more subtle historical currents produced the times in which the Tracts for the Times found influence. On this view, to attribute Anglo-Catholic development in the American church significantly to the Tracts is, therefore, too simple.
Moreover, Holmes' tip of his historical hat to Tractarianism is remarkably brief, even elliptical, in this lengthy article; the power of local history (perhaps all religion, as well as politics, is local in large ethnic American cities) takes up much more space and seems to be the operant historiographical assumption. Much more involved are Holmes' accounts involving local details and trends. As the century passed, Chicago was increasingly an ethnic and Roman Catholic city and even Holmes' account traffics in explanatory appeals to the local "climate." Anglo-Catholics or High Churchmen succeeded to bishoprics with greater regularity in the Midwest. Anglo-Catholic liturgy was seen to speak to the growing American need for the affective in religion. Bishops inclined to discourage attendance at revivalist meetings could reasonably seek to satisfy the emotional hunger of parishioners in a romantic age with the beauty of medieval liturgy and Gothic architecture.
As a result, while Holmes certainly lists the Oxford Movement as one reason why the Catholic movement in America grew in the Upper Midwest during the nineteenth century, a case can be made that he believes that local American history is what bears the extended scrutiny because it finally was more important than the distant English movement.
The behavior of bishops in an episcopally ordered church is by definition always of interest but that of the controversial, perhaps even notorious, Bishop Levi S. Ives of North Carolina is more tantalizing than usual--particularly since he was denounced by the General Convention of 1853 as "an absconding and apostate delinquent."88 Ives advanced Tractarianism in North Carolina and opened his controversial monastery about the same time as Nashotah. As a convert later to Rome, his name might be deemed synonymous with the worst excesses of Tractarianism.
As a result, the Ives' saga could be cited as an obvious example of the powerful influence on the Episcopal Church of the Oxford Movement. 89 Here, at last, surely, we have an unambiguous instance of Tractarian influence. Even the title of Richard Rankin's article, "Bishop Levi S. Ives and High Church Reform in North Carolina: Tractarianism as an Instrument to Elevate Clerical and Lay Piety," might be taken as a clear confirmation of the significance of the Oxford Movement in the American church. Indeed, Rankin underscores the centrality of Tractarianism for American history at the outset:
Given the historical ties and the theological similarities between the English and American churches, the question was not whether tractarianism would spread to the American Episcopal church, but when. ...by the time the movement had run its course in the early 1850s, tractarianism had thrown the whole American Episcopal church into turmoil and ignited a controversy of the first order.90
Rankin details what he perceives to be the influence of English Tractarianism on the American diocese: Ives advocated "a humble piety reminiscent of the Middle Ages,"91 the Rev. Moses Ashly preached a sermon at North Carolina's diocesan convention "that showed the unmistakable influence of the Tractarians,"92 and we read of Tractarian influence on laypeople seeking an alternative to the moribund "Hobartian highchurchism" and the evangelicalism degraded by sectarian conversionism. Rankin's thesis, in short, is that Ives turned to Tractarianism as a way to reform the Episcopal Church in North Carolina and to provide an Anglican piety for the new age of feeling. The ill-fated, notorious (to some eyes) Valle Crucis monastic community was founded in the mountains of the diocese and the bishop espoused auricular confession. Ives confronted charges of Romanism and succeeded in alienating those of the old High Church party; indeed, Ives' secession to Rome in 1852 served to confirm the worst suspicions of many in the diocese.
So do we have a clear case of significant Tractarian influence in the Diocese of North Carolina? As Rankin interprets the history, Ives believed that the old Hobartian high churchism would not satisfy the piety needs of his diocese in a romantic age. Its roots were in a different ethos and could not be transplanted to the new time. He understood that successful ecclesiologies could not be oblivious to the changing currents and sensibilities of a large mission field such as the United States. Moreover, Ives was unable to see in the Evangelical wing of the Episcopal Church, which might have given his parishioners a compelling piety for the day, a way to distinguish the Episcopal Church from the varieties of Protestantism dominating Christianity in North Carolina. Consequently, according to Rankin, Ives' only alternative was a Tractarian renewal of his diocese. Tractarianism was able to move the heart, speak to the soul, and convey a sense of the powerful presence of God that he thought would speak to the religious needs of North Carolinians. The rest is history, with convulsions and controversy dominating the diocese for several years, Ives' eventual scandalously embarrassing secession to Rome, and, moreover, a repudiation of ritualism and Tractarian theology for some decades in North Carolina. Tractarianism's indisputable, significant influence on Episcopal history drops out of this messy history for free as the story is recounted.
But even Rankin's piece subtly undermines a strong Tractarian thesis. Rankin calls attention to what he labels a paradox--namely, that it was the "prevailing religious culture" that shaped the appropriation, articulation and eventual rejection of Tractarianism in the Diocese of North Carolina.93 Tractarianism in America can be seen as an English theological import, convincing the minds and then the practices of American clergy and congregations, or, alternately, it can be interpreted in terms of a much more complicated American cultural and historical situation to which we apply the label, thus seemingly accounting for a stretch of history. Ives pressed certain Oxford practices and sensibilities into place because "late 1850s high churchism was badly out of synchrony with the Romantic heartbeat of the age."94 On this second interpretation--which I think is even implicit in Rankin's essay which otherwise might be taken as support of a strong Tractarian thesis--what we call "Tractarianism" in the American Church is as much effect as cause. The importation of Tractarian ideas and practices were an attempt by the hierarchy and a few presbyters to address certain profound changes originating in the distinctly American experience of 19th-century pietism and romanticism. Ives' espousal of Tractarianism, therefore, is as much the effect of his sense of what North Carolina needed at that point in time as it is a cause of subsequent--frequently unfortunate--North Carolinian Episcopal history. The rejection of Tractarianism in North Carolina, in fact, reflects the potency of the local ethos in rejecting what was taken to be a foreign importation.
Tractarianism and the Catholic Movement in the 19th-Century Episcopal Church: The Case for Parallel Development
It should be evident at this point that, as expressed by Kenneth Peck, "Some difficulty is encountered ascertaining exactly when the Oxford Movement made its appearance in this country."95 Peck attributes this difficulty to two factors: (1) the existence in the Hobartian church of many of the themes of the Oxford Movement and (2) the unusual sensitivity to Tractarian thought and practice in the Episcopal Church occasioned by massive Roman Catholic immigration. In other words, there clearly was some native catholic development in the American church prior to the publication of the Tracts, but gauging the impact of Tractarianism is made much more difficult by the fact that there was increasing sensitivity to "Romanist" practices on the part of the sectarian Protestant majority. How much of the activity is attributable to Oxford Movement influence, and how much is due to Roman-wary Protestant writers more carefully scrutinizing Episcopal practice and theology?
Certainly any characterization of the Oxford Movement's view of episcopacy has to take account of Pusey's "low church" views. Pusey was idiosyncratic in a number of ways, frequently frustrated Newman with his academic independence, and stood quite at odds, for example, with the mystical irenicism of John Keble. In point of fact, "Pusey regularly affirmed his mixed and usually 'low' view of the Episcopacy and its function."96 He often thought bishops in error and was ready to challenge them when they were--Newman, who took episcopal authority very seriously, habitually shrank from such confrontations. Moreover, he seemed to think that bishops were a form of government that some churches choose and some shed, without implications for their ecclesial status as a church. Contra Newman in particular, he was skeptical of the high church claim that bishops serve as bulwarks of orthodoxy in church history:
I am not disturbed, because I never attached any weight to the Bishops. It was perhaps the difference between Newman and me; he threw himself upon the Bishops and they failed him; I threw myself on the English Church.97
Thus the charitable construction seems to be that Pusey's ecclesiology is a kind of organic high churchmanship--it is the whole church that is vested with the authority of Christ and the Apostles, not specifically the bishops. The less charitable construction is that Pusey presumed he was right because he was a professional academic whose job was to set the church straight when it erred; he was frequently accused of arrogance. For Newman, of course, as for most of the other Tractarians, bishops were the esse of the church, without which it failed to exist at all. In a word, they were prepared to unchurch the dissenting bodies. Furthermore, Pusey was far less exercised by the perception of Erastianism in the English Church than other Tractarians; confident in his scholarship, he was prepared to correct the state as well.
With Newman's secession to Rome in 1845, and Keble's virtual retirement to extended parish service, leadership of the Oxford Movement largely passed to Pusey. Indeed, Pusey patronized the development of several monastic and quasi-monastic communities and incurred, as we saw, penalties for his views. As well, he remained at the center of the movement, even in some ways at its head, but his ecclesiology was far less episcopally shaped, as we just saw, than John Henry Hobart or any number of earlier American churchmen. Griffin concludes his paper by underscoring the differences between Pusey and Newman:
There was, then, a special lament in Newman's remark that Pusey had never been close to the Catholic Church, though he imitated its rituals, translated its devotional books, and commenced ecumenical activities. For Pusey did everything on the impressive strength of his own will, and the Oxford Movement worked to subordinate the private will to that of the Church and its Bishops.98
Consequently, it is simple minded to assume that there was a univocal, high Tractarian view of the episcopacy. Again, we have to be wary of supposing that a label names a consistent, homogenous set of beliefs and practices. There were Tractarian ecclesiologies but no one Tractarian ecclesiology that might influence the American church.
I would like to make one observation that I have not seen anywhere in the extensive literature about the Tracts for the Times.99 It has often been said that Principia Mathematica, by Whitehead and Russell, is one of the most discussed--and least read--of any works in the history of mathematical logic. At three hefty volumes, Principia Mathematica is a formidable read. The Tracts were not really tracts in the modern sense. At five thick volumes, their presence on the shelf is remarkably formidable. How many people had access to all the Tracts? How many people read them in any detail? Or were they, like Principia Mathematica, widely talked about but much less often read? This surely must have been the case in America where libraries were few and far between in the nineteenth century. If this is the case, then there is a significant parallel between the Tracts for the Times and Principia Mathematica in this regard. Consequently, we are left with a more subtle historical question: are we dealing with the direct influence of the Tracts or the influence of lots of conversations about and impressions of the Tracts? If more the latter, then terms such as "Oxford Movement," "Tractarianism," or "Puseyism," particularly in the American church, name a somewhat different, more diffuse phenomenon.
Peck points out that The Episcopal Recorder for Feb. 2, 1839, argued that "the erroneous teachings of the Oxford divines were present in this country prior to their appearance at Oxford."100 Of course, that the Recorder claims this was so does not establish it--my Tennessee grandfather used to say "Sayin' it's so don't make it so" and while his grammar was deficient, his philosophic insight was impeccable. But the date is significant; very early there were sensitivities in print about whether American "Tractarianism" originated in Oxford.
The last part of Peck's paper draws an interesting parallel. As we have seen repeatedly, we cannot distill Tractarianism in America from the specific characteristics of the dominant American religion in the early nineteenth century. Peck reminds us that upstate New York and New England had so been swept by intense revivalism that it has been called the "burnt-over" district by American historians. It is no accident, evidently, that Mormonism originated in this burned-over district--as also did a strong center of genuinely American Anglo-Catholicism. What did Mormonism offer the weary Protestant looking--first this way, then that, one night hearing a Wesleyan argue for one form of baptism, another night an Anabaptist holding forth on behalf of believer's baptism--for an authoritative word? Answer: a claim of direct, divine authority and a centralized hierarchy, specifically bishops.101 In such an environment, Peck argues, both Mormonism and Anglo-Catholicism emerged, offering different, yet parallel answers to distinctly American questions:
The appeal to Catholic truth, the emphasis upon strong episcopal government, the exclusionist attitude toward those who are not within the orthodox fold of the Church and the attempt to bring the whole realm of the lives of Churchmen under the direct supervision of the Church all have parallels in such a denomination as the Mormons.102
If this is right, it should not surprise us that General Seminary would become the focus of alleged Tractarian influence. But such alleged Tractarian influence would be less a commentary on the appeal of the Tracts for the Times than it would be on the exigencies of Christianity in the Northeast in the middle nineteenth century. Again, we are back to the subtle relationship between historic cause and effect. Of course, American discussions of the Tracts were the cause of controversy, extended discussion, refutations, a few secesssions, and a myriad of other developments that have been chronicled--more often assumed than argued for in a wide variety of general histories. But just as importantly--and I think general histories have not done justice to this point--American discussions of and interest in the Tracts were the effect of a long, complex history of attempts by American Anglicanism to distinguish itself from the boiling cauldron of the many varieties of Protestant dissent and revivalism which acted as a powerful catalytic agent as American Episcopalians struggled to identify what it meant to be an episcopal church in a republic shaped by the dissenting ethos.
As a result, the influence between the English and American churches was bi-directional; the existence of a disestablished, independent American church forced writers in the English church to consider what it means for Anglicanism to be a branch of the one holy catholic church; the American church first began to frame the questions that would help define a conception of Anglicanism as a communion. A close look at the correspondence and publications of the times indicates the development was often parallel and that the questions posed by the American experience accelerated English development just as writings by English writers, including the Tracts, brought into high relief issues contributing to American development.
To cite the "Oxford Movement" or "Tractarianism" as an account of the rise of the catholic movement in America is far too simple a characterization of the complex, uniquely American tapestry that was the Episcopal Church in the 19th century. Of course, it would be absurd to suggest that the Oxford Movement had no influence on the catholic movement in the Episcopal Church. But if this paper has been successful at all, it is much less absurd to suggest that the American part of the Tractarian controvery should be principally understood as a manifestation of a much deeper and distinctly native catholic development and its struggle to reach catholic clarity in an environment dominated by a dissenting Protestant ethos.
2Imberg, Rune, In Quest of Authority (Lund, 1987), p. 13. Imberg quotes Martin Svaglic to the effect that Newman's "thought is basic in all its [Vatican II] deliberations." At the Caltech Newman Center Homepage we read that "Newman is one of very few who are not canonized saints to be quoted in the Cathechism. Aside from a few of the early ecclesiastical writers (Tertullian and Origen, for example) he is probably the most quoted of all such authorities" (http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~newman/cat-newm.html).
3"The Oxford Movment and English Nonconformity," Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. LIX (March 1990). Johnson identifies Tractarian influence on the architecture, worship and the theology of the dissenting churches. Notably, ten Wesleyan Tracts for the Times were published in the early year of 1842. Johnson observes, "The great contribution of the Oxford Movement to English religion had been a revival of church-consciousness, which in particular challenged the exaggerated individualism of Nonconformity" (p. 93).
9Archbhishop Ramsey, in "John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement," Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. LIX (Sept. 1990, poignantly observes, "The teaching centered on the Church. ... It meant the representation on earth of a church which essentially belongs to heaven, because the church contains saints in heaven, as well as its representatives on earth, and must needs do so because the heart of the church is the living Christ himself" (pp. 333-334).
10I did not use the word "ritual" because one can take "ritualism" to be an offshoot of Tractarianism; Pusey, for example, later in the nineteenth century disavowed much of what he saw in Anglo-Catholic ritualism as formerly "advanced" practices became mainstream. See John R. Griffin, "Dr. Pusey and the Oxford Movement," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, vol. XLII (June, 1975). Newman in particular was not a skilled liturgist, even as a Roman Catholic.
11John Sheldon Reed in The Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism (Nashville, 1996), makes the case for understanding the Oxford Movement as a romantic, cultural revolt against the arid formalism of the British Establishment.
12John Shelton Reed, Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics f Victorian Anglo-Catholicism (Nashville, 1996), p. 47. The emphasis on auricular confession follows because a high view of baptismal regeneration raises the vexing question of what to do about post-baptismal sin. Tractarians aspired to personal holiness, took baptismal regeneration as an objective act of God, and needed something to deal with post-baptismal sin which calls into question the efficacy of the original baptismal regeneration.
16Gerardi, Donald F. M., "Samuel Johnson and the Yale Apostasy" of 1722: The Challenge of Anglican Sacramentalism to the New England Way," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episocopal Church, vol. 47 (June, 1978), p. 173.
20As we will see, Pusey was less impressed by episcopal authority than other Tractarians. When the sensitive, fastidious Newman was subject to disapprobation by Anglican bishops, he was deeply anguished. When Pusey was similarly subject to episcopal disapproval, he blithely ignored it to the extent he could.
22Gerardi, Donald F. M., "Samuel Johnson and the Yale Apostasy of 1722: The Challenge of Anglican Sacramentalism to the New England Way," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episocopal Church, vol. 47 (June, 1978), p. 174.
26Nockles points out that George Berkeley Jr. preached "an uncompromising defence of apostolical succession from the pulpit of St. Mary's Oxford" (p. 149). Both the person and the place are significant. Berkeley did not stand out as a notable exception, according to Nockles.
30Keble's letter to Newman, referring to Tract 10, included the comment, "I like your papers better and better--and so does my Sister, Transubstantiation and all" (Imberg, p. 80). Imberg questions where Keble is serious with regard to Transubstantiation, but the point is the exceptional sensitivity on this issue at this time and Newman's interest in not causing too much of a furor in the mid 1830s--at precisely the time Americans were reaching similar conclusions, but without as much fear of ecclesial censure.
36Newman specificially celebrates the building of a stone Gothic church in Harford, Connecticut in his "The Anglo American Church, which appeared in the British Critic in 1839. As a result, we may conclude that the Gothic revival in the United States was under way at least in the middle 1830s. See Essays Critical and Historical (London, 1885), p. 319. Newman credits American bishops for this development, parallel in the way he credits English bishops for English cathedrals.
58This was a sore point with other members of the Oxford Movement. Nockles, in his Oxford Movement in Context (Cambridge, 1994), details the defense of establishment by Rose, Watson, and Keeble and cites the following refutation of Hobart by W. F. Hook:
The American churchman [Hobart] is apt, in his nationality, to exaggerate these evils [of establishment], overlooking the various advantages of such a union, both to the country and to the church, by the creation of a kind of religious atmosphere, and entirely blinding his eyes to the still greater disadvantages of his own system. The very circumstance that the churchmen of America are obliged to see for subscriptions in England for the establishment of a library to be attached to their Theological Seminary at New York, is quite sufficient to show the inadequacy of the voluntary system (p. 89).
For Newman, the imperfections of the American church stem not from lack of establishment but from lack of fully implementing its founding catholic principle, namely, "Apostolical Succession." Newman as well is sensitive to problems generated by the "voluntary" system but is also much more keenly aware of the greater potential in the American church for fully implementing catholic principle. This entire episode suggests that the influence of the American church on the English church in general, and on the Oxford Movement in particular, has not been fully explored. As well, I fail to see how American appeals to England for money for General Seminary necessarily reflect problems with the American system; there simply were a lot more Anglicans in England than in the U.S. and they were much wealthier.
61Seabury blamed the Church of England bishops for the secessions of Newman and others: "By kind treatment and a liberal construction of the Articles, the Bishops might have retained these men; by harsh treatment and a narrow construction of the Articles, they were sure to estrange and perhaps to lose them" (The Churchman, Nov. 22, 1845). Cited in Chorley, E. Clowes, Men and Movements of the Episcopal Church (New York, 1946), p. 218.
63"James Lloyd Breck and the Founding of Nashotah House," Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. LXV (March, 1996), pp. 50-51. The historiographical question is exacerbated by the fact that the DeMille passages cited by Reeves, specifically pages 24 and 25, are weaker in their claims of American priority than Reeves'. I believe Reeves is right but he has not adequately supported his claim--simply appealing to general histories is not sufficient argument for such a contentious claim.
65The Catholic Movement in the American Episcopal Church (Philadelphia, 1941), p. 46. Note: the pagination in the text used by Reeves, which is copyrighted 1941, and the edition I have, copyrighted 1941 but with a second edition foreword dating to 1949, differ significantly.
70Herklots, H.G.G., The Church of England and the American Episcopal Church (London, 1966), cites Pusey's encouragement of monasticism in the United States: "I looked to your part of the Church for some first instance of it, for our Bishops would not set themselves at the head of it, or take it under their guidance. You are freer" (p. 134). Bishops uniformly opposed Tractarianism in England while some American bishops openly supported it or, more often, were strong proponents of catholic expression and doctrine in the American church. This fact is part of what gave Tractarianism its countercultural quality in England.
72"James Lloyd Breck and the Founding of Nashotah House," Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. LXV (March, 1996), p. 74. This is not to suggest that Nashotah has not had its share of secessions to Rome.
85Unfortunately, I don't find Chorley's account, "The Tractarian Movement in the American Church" chapter VIII of his generally well-regarded Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church (New York, 1946) to be any better despite its later date.
89See Blackwell P. Robinson, "The Episcopate of Levi Silliman Ives," in London, L. F., and Lemmon, Sarah M., eds., The Episcopal Church in North Carolina 1701-1959 (Raleigh, 1987), who observes "The degree to which Ives was influenced by the Oxford Movement then afoot in England and to a lesser extent in the United States is problematical, but certainly it had its effect" (p. 197). Robinson references Stephen Neill who argues that the single contribution to the English church was its emphasis on "apostolic descent," which we have already seen was in full flower in the American church prior to the Oxford Movement. As a result, it should not surprise us that Robinson quotes James Thayer Addison that "the Episcopal Church needed the Oxford Movement less than did the Church of England, and for that reason ... it produced here less extreme results" (pp. 198-199).
90Rankin, Richard, "Bishop Levi S. Ives and High Church Reform in North Carolina: Tractarianism as an Instrument to Elevate Clerical and Lay Piety," Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. LVIII (Sept., 1968), p. 300.
97Liddon, Life of E.B. Pusey (London, 1898), II, p. 163. Quoted in Griffin, John R., "Dr. Pusey and the Oxford Movement," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, vol. XLII (June, 1975), p. 142.
99Archbishop Michael Ramsey, in his "John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement," Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. LIX (Sept. 1990), comes close to this observation when he points out that Pusey's "assession to the movement meant that the tracts, instead of being exciting little pamphlets, were massive treatises" (p. 332).