The Church of England and Social Reform since 1854

The Church of England and Social Reform since 1854

The Church of England and Social Reform since 1854

The Church of England and Social Reform since 1854

Excerpt

The Church of England during the nineteenth century seemed to have an unhappy faculty for putting its worst foot forward. In theological matters it was most in the public eye when party strife was bitterest and recrimination most violent. From time to time it defended privileges that seem almost indefensible and resisted changes that were not only popular but inevitable. Sometimes, however, faults were attributed to the whole Church which only a part of it possessed. On more than one occasion the well-advertised misdeeds of a few clergymen brought undeserved blame upon all. Moreover, there were always plenty of critics who seemed eager to interpret their actions in the worst possible light. As a result the quiet but fruitful labors of many churchmen were often lost sight of. To a certain extent this is true even of the Christian Socialists, and historians usually treat the movement as a temporary aberration of churchmen which came to an end shortly after 1850. Quite in the approved manner two writers of great repute dispatch it with a single sweep of their rhetoric: it had, they say, "more body and more passion than 'Young England' but not a very much longer life." The narrowness of this view is patent to anyone who has read A. V. Woodworth's excellent but neglected little study of the movement.

It is not the writer's purpose to rehabilitate the Church as an agency of reform. He desires merely to state its position with regard to some of the typical problems of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whether that position happens to have been admirable or the reverse. General attitudes and . . .

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