The Diocesan Revival in the Church of England, C. 1800-1870

The Diocesan Revival in the Church of England, C. 1800-1870

The Diocesan Revival in the Church of England, C. 1800-1870

The Diocesan Revival in the Church of England, C. 1800-1870

Synopsis

This book provides the first account of an important but neglected aspect of the history of the nineteenth-century Church of England: the reform of its diocesan structure. It illustrates how one of the most important institutions of Victorian England responded at a regional level to the pastoral challenge of a rapidly changing society.

Excerpt

The diocesan reforms considered in the three preceding chapters all involved the reinvigoration or recreation of aspects of the diocese's clerical hierarchy which could draw directly on historical and ecclesiological precedent for legitimation. It also proved possible for diocesan reformers to initiate reforms lacking historic antecedents without sacrificing the widespread support the revival generated. Such reforms had none the less to be firmly situated in Anglican ecclesiology, their diocesan framework clearly articulated. They became all the more important as churchmen recognized the need not only to combat the spectre of national dechristianization, but also to compete with denominations whose internal organization in some respects appeared better able to deploy the energies of all who were willing to further the cause. With their essentially disciplinary origins, the institutions already considered were not well-suited to the stimulation and direction of the energies of some of the Church's chief resources: the zeal, loyalty, and wealth of parochial clergy and churchgoing laity. It is to the diocesan mobilization of such voluntary agency that we now turn.

Just as mass enlistment of citizens for nineteenth-century warfare encouraged the cultivation of state-sponsored patriotism, so the mobilization of the diocesan rank-and-file for spiritual conflict demanded 'diocesan consciousness'. This was encouraged by the clerical leadership, not least through the reforms discussed above. Just as with secular patriotism, however, diocesan consciousness had its own dynamics beyond the power of the official hierarchy to control. We have already seen that it might foster challenges to the diocesan hierarchy. in addition it enabled the diocesan community, rarely encountered in accounts of episcopally driven Church reform, to help shape that reform.

Diocesan consciousness also owed much to wider, national, developments beyond the scope of episcopal initiative, as the roughly contemporaneous appearance in many dioceses of some of the developments discussed below will indicate. This chapter thus sets out both to explore some more innovative aspects of diocesan reform which aimed to mobilize diocesan energies and also to shed further light on the development of diocesan . . .

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