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Episcopal history journal weighs evangelical and Anglo-Catholic influences in historic Rhode Island, Virginia, England and South Australia

11 Dec 2023 3:09 PM | HSEC Director of Operations (Administrator)

Anglican and Episcopal HistoryIn the winter issue of Anglican and Episcopal History (AEH), four scholars investigate ways historians churchmanship influenced—and in some cases still influences—various dioceses of the Anglican Communion, especially the Episcopal Church.

Two studies examine historic evangelical influences in the Episcopal Church’s dioceses of Rhode Island and Virginia while the remaining two consider Anglo-Catholic influences in Australia’s nineteenth-century Diocese of Adelaide and the writings of “saint” Woodbine Willie in the Church of England during World War I.

The Virginia article by Jacob M. Blosser considers the influence of New Light Anglicans, particularly the preaching ministry of the Rev. Charles Clay (1745-1820). Blosser, a professor of history at Texas Woman’s University, draws on the largest manuscript collection of preserved Virginia Anglican sermons in order to rediscover ways parishioners in rural Albemarle County responded to calls that they be “born again,” “renewed”, and “quickened.”

Blosser questions traditional historiography that depicts colonial Virginia’s Anglicans as Latitudinarians while describing evangelical voices as outside of Virginia Anglicanism. He considers Clay to be “a bridge between the latitudinarianism of the colonial establishment and the evangelicalism of [Bishop William] Meade’s nineteenth-century Protestant Episcopal Church.”

John Sailant, a professor of English and History at Western Michigan University, then explores the 1812 baptism of Prudence Gabriel (c. 1780s-c. 1813) in Providence, Rhode Island. Gabriel, a free Black woman, made the unusual choice to be baptized in the Episcopal Church, a denomination with noticeably fewer Black members than other Christian denominations in Providence at the time.

Sailant connects Gabriel’s choice to the ministries of the Rev. Nathan Bourne Crocker (1780-1865) and other paternalistic, evangelicals in the diocese, especially Bishop Alexander Viets Griswold who he describes as “the little-remembered leader of evangelical Episcopalians in Rhode Island.”

The remaining studies look beyond the United States and focus on Anglo-Catholic influences in the wider Anglican Communion.

“The Myth of Woodbine Willie” by Timothy Larsen, professor of history and Christian Thought at Wheaton College, reexamines the ministry and theology of G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), who rose to popularity within the Church of England during World War I as a supporter of the war effort. Kennedy became an Army Chaplain and was well-known for his writings found in The Church in the Furnace (1917) and Lies! (1919).

Through a detailed examination of Kennedy’s writings, Larsen challenges traditional descriptions of Kennedy as an Anglo-Catholic. He writes that “most jarring of all he [Kennedy] insisted that catholics had made the Eucharist into a false god.” Instead, Larsen contends “Woodbine Willie” is best described as a Christian apologist whose churchmanship was “liberal Anglo-Catholic” or “high church modernist.”

A final study examines the churchmanship and eucharistic theology of Australian colonial bishop Augustus Short (1802-1883) who led the Diocese of Adelaide from 1847 to 1882.

In “Augustus Short’s Apologia for Newman’s Tract 90,” Brian Douglass examines ways Bishop Short’s Oxford Movement-influenced eucharistic theology faced opposition from evangelical clergy and laity when he arrived in Adelaide. However, Short’s episcopal ministry in Adelaide slowly shifted the diocese from an evangelical churchmanship to an Anglo-Catholic one.

Douglass, an Anglican priest, research professor at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, and editor of the Journal for Anglican Studies, concludes that, “Short’s contribution of catholic eucharistic theology remains firmly established in the present-day Anglican Diocese of Adelaide, Australia and represents part of his continuing legacy.”

These studies along with church reviews, book reviews, reflections on engaged history, and minutes for the annual meeting of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church are available in the winter 2023 issue of Anglican and Episcopal History.

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