By the Rev Canon William Odom
The Church Bookroom (Published Prior to 1923)
Part VIII - I am a Churchman because of the Paramount Importance our Church Gives to Evangelical Teaching and Evangelistic Work.
These marks of Apostolic practice are seen, not only in the Ordination and other Services, but also by its manifold activities in Mission and Philanthropic work both at home and abroad.
The Evangelical Revival extending from the time of John Wesley at Oxford in 1729 to the death of Charles Simeon in 1836, forms a notable landmark in the history of the Church of England. It was a revolt against the religious formalism and inertness of those days. Amongst other great foundation principles its leaders proclaimed the paramount authority of Holy Scripture; the total depravity of man, emphasizing Article IX. of our Church; the sacrificial death of Christ as the sole meritorious cause of reconciliation; justification by faith only; the necessity of conversion; and the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness. “The old Evangel of the Cross of Christ rang throughout the land.”
The movement was marked not only by the deepening of the spiritual life, but also by great social reforms such as the abolition of the slave trade, prison reform, and the founding of Day and Sunday Schools. Moreover, it gave rise to missionary enterprise both at home and overseas. Amongst other organizations formed were the Church Missionary Society and the Religious Tract Society, both founded in 1799; the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804; and later on the Colonial and Continental Church Society and the Church Pastoral-Aid Society.
Evangelical Churchmen first employed laymen in Church work; gave women an office and position amongst Churchworkers; emphasized the obligation of Baptism and Holy Communion; revived a due reverence for the Lord’s Supper, and crowded Communion rails with devout communicants; had prayer meetings and short services in mission-rooms, and introduced hearty and congregational singing.
Later on arose the Oxford or “Tractarian Movement,” with Newman, Pusey, and others as leaders. It protested against Erastianism—the subordination of ecclesiastical matters to the civil power, and, amongst other things, sought ecclesiastical reforms by calling attention to Church Order, the conduct of public worship, and the historic continuity of the Church. This movement was, however, attended with manifold and great dangers, in that it attempted partly to undo the work of the Reformation and go back to the times which preceded it. One result was the secession of Newman with a large number of other clergy and laity to the Roman Communion. Writing in 1870 the late Dean Hook said: “The party, at first called the Tractarian and now the Ritualistic party, contend for the introduction into the English Church of mediaeval practices; and they assert dogmas which are scarcely to be distinguished from some of the errors of the Church of Rome” (The Church and the Age, p. 35).
To Evangelize—to preach the Gospel of the grace of God to all sorts and conditions of men both at home and abroad—this is the great mission, the lofty privilege, of the Church of England, its strength and glory. It is a matter of rejoicing to know that in this twentieth century Missionary zeal, Evangelistic effort, and Social activities are in nowise limited to any one section of its members.
>> Part IX. - I am a Churchman because I approve the Union of Church and State.