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The Age of Athanasius

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The Church of England and the Athanasian Creed, 1870–1873

image of Church History and Religious Culture

The publication of the Fourth Report of the Ritual Commission in 1870 occasioned intense debate over the position of the Athanasian Creed in the liturgy of the Church of England. This article reconstructs the course of that controversy, focusing particularly on the centrality of historical argument to the speeches, letters, and pamphlets in which critics and defenders of the formulary sought to stabilise Christian orthodoxy and define Anglican identity in a progressive environment. The episode draws attention, first, to the continuing and underestimated centrality of patristic scholarship to questions of church reform in Victorian England, whilst also pointing towards the eventual decline of the textual and antiquarian approach to apologetics that had characterised Anglicanism since the Reformation. Post-Reformation Anglican history, secondly, was itself integral to participants’ articulation of religious division, suggesting that conventional understandings of “church parties” in the Victorian Church of England should accordingly be revised.

Affiliations: 1: Christ Church, Oxford


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