low church

views updated May 29 2018

low church. As against the high-church view of the Church of England, low churchmen minimized continuity with the medieval past and the role of bishops and sacraments. Their views owed more to the reform of the 16th cent. but were often described in the late 17th and 18th cents. as ‘latitudinarian’. Politically, they favoured the revolution settlement and were generally Whig in sympathy. Therefore, the accession of the Hanoverians brought them into the ascendancy and also into the political machine. Theologically they represented a liberal arminian view, opposed to calvinism which developed in one direction in Wesleyan methodism. The term passed out of use until the 19th cent. when it was recovered in contrast to the high-church views of the Oxford movement. By then it had taken on some of the characteristics of the evangelical revival and shed its lukewarm latitudinarianism. To counter the tractarian influence, low churchmen and evangelicals often made common cause with the increasingly popular protestant nonconformist congregations. Whereas the high-church emphasis was on salvation within the divinely appointed church through a sacramental system, the low church emphasized personal salvation through individual conversion and close attention to Scripture as the inspired word of God. Low-church worship was consciously anti-ritualist and held fast to the Book of Common Prayer.

Judith Champ

Low Church

views updated May 09 2018


Low Church is the name applied to the party within the anglican communion in general, and the Church of England in particular, that interprets the book of common prayer in a wholly Protestant sense. This large body in the Church of England took its rise with the evangelicals of the 18th century. The Tractarians, with their lofty views on Catholic doctrine and sacerdotal nature of the priesthood, contrasted with the lower views of the evangelical tradition, and the two groups gradually became distinguished as High Church and Low Church. Both designations, however, had been used in the early 18th century. At that time the term Low Church was used as an alternative name for latitudinarianism. A small group of evangelical divines contemporary with the Tractarian Movement formed the Broad Church. Today the Low Church party within the Anglican Communion represents the Protestant party, in contrast to the Catholic tendencies of the High Church party.

Bibliography: g. r. balleine, A History of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England, (London 1933). k. hylson-smith, Evangelicals in the Church of England, 17341984 (Edinburgh 1988). c. j. cocksworth, Evangelical Eucharistic Thought in the Church of England (Cambridge, Eng. 1993). r. t. france and a.e. mcgrath, Evangelical Anglicans: Their Role and Influence in the world today (London 1993). r. steer, Church on Fire: The Story of Anglican Evangelicals (London 1998). g. carter, Anglican Evangelicals: Protestant Secessions from the Via Media, c. 18001850 (Oxford 2001).

[e. mcdermott/eds.]