Articles

Anglo-Catholicism, the ‘Crisis in the Church’ and the Cavalier Case of 1899

Martin Wellings

Much of the history of the late nineteenth-century Church of England is dominated by the phenomenon of Anglo-Catholicism. In the period between 1890 and 1939 Anglo-Catholics formed the most vigorous and successful party in the Church. Membership of the English Church Union, which represented a broad spectrum of Anglo-Catholic opinion, grew steadily in these years; advanced ceremonial was introduced in an increasing number of parish churches and, from 1920 onwards, a series of congresses was held which filled the Royal Albert Hall for a celebration of the strength of the ‘Catholic’ movement in the Established Church. In the Church Times the Anglo-Catholics possessed a weekly newspaper which outsold all its rivals put together and which reinforced the impression that theirs was the party with the Church's future in its hands. Furthermore, Anglo-Catholicism could claim to be supplying the Church of England with many of its saints and with a fair proportion of its scholars. Slum priests like R. R. Dolling and Arthur Stanton gave their lives to the task of urban mission; Edward King, bishop of Lincoln, was hailed as a spiritual leader by churchmen of all parties; Charles Gore, Walter Frere and Darwell Stone were scholars of renown, while Frank Weston, bishop of Zanzibar, combined academic achievements and missionary zeal with personal qualities which brought him an unexpected pre-eminence at the 1920 Lambeth Conference. In the last decade of the nineteenth century and in the first decades of the twentieth century, therefore, Anglo-Catholicism was the party of advance, offering leadership and vision and presenting the Church of England with a concept of Catholicity which many found attractive.