The Oxford Movement and Jane Eyre

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The Oxford Movement and Jane Eyre The Victorian period from the mid to late 1800's was a time of internal religious turmoil for England. In the Anglican Church there were many different groups competing to define the doctrine and practice of the national religion. The church was politically divided in three general categories following: the High Church, which was the most conservative; the Middle, or Broad Church, which was more liberal; and the Low Church, which was the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church. Within the High Church there were also differences of opinion on the true nature of the Church as a whole. It is from this conservative branch of the Anglican Church where the men of the Oxford Movement came. The Oxford Movement began as a movement to reform the Church of England in 1833. The name is taken from the Oxford University fellows who led the movement. Among these men were John Keble, Edward Pusey and John Henry Newman. All of them were extremely loyal to the Anglican Church and were concerned with the government's interference in its affairs. They also were worried about the liberal tendencies of the Evangelicals as a threat to the Church. The Oxford movement thought that they needed to lead the Church back to the "true" church of the fourth century AD; drawing on the patristic writings of St. Augustine, St. Jerome and St. Bernard, their aim was to revive the ritual and mysticism of the early church. The Oxford Movement's beginning is usually associated with July 14, 1833, which was the date John Keble gave his sermon on "National Apostasy." But, more importantly the movement took its roots with the publication of the "Tracts for the Times" by Newman, the first of which was published September 9, 1833, and the last, Tract 90, in 1841. The Tracts meant to remind the English to understand the church as an independent body, not as an appendage to the state. The Tractarians wanted the movement to offer a compromise between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism. The Anglicans were distrustful of the Catholic tendency because of the power of the Pope. On the other hand, they did not embrace the evangelical doctrine of universal damnation. The Oxford Movement and its leaders had the best intentions to reform the Church, but it seems to have been most successful in the way it pursued faith as "an impulse of the heart and conscience not an inquiry of the head" (Chadwick 12).
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