St. Alban the Martyr

The Oxford Movement

During the early nineteenth century it became clear to a number of priests that there were many problems within the Church of England. Some eventually broke away from the Anglican church, whilst others set about restoring it its former sixteenth century glory.

John Keble, a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, initiated such reforms with the 'National Apostasy' sermon preached before an eminent congregation at the University church, St Mary's, in July 1833. He criticised the Church of England for allowing secular authorities to interfere with sacred issues and his sermon brought about a campaign (the 'Oxford Movement') against the abandonment of traditional principles.

Keble and his associates carried out a campaign of clergy, bringing their attention to the deterioration within the Church of England. In a series of pamphlets they questioned the way in which the Anglican church had become connected with politics.

Many of the ideas of these Oxford priests, or 'Tractarians', as they had become known, spread amongst the clergy in England. They recognised the extent of the decline in attendance at church and the taking of Communion, and the lack of respect that many people showed towards the church and the clergy. They also realised that the Anglican church was increasingly being seen as a fund for government expenses.

The influence of the Oxford Movement was extremely significant. However, the early Oxford Movement was dogged by confusion, and in the social and religious climate of the early-and mid-nineteenth century, many of the Oxford Leaders were discredited and ridiculed. Despite the criticism and misunderstanding the movement attracted, it proved to be a powerful means of reform.

Continue to read about John Loughborough Pearson — Architect of St Alban's Church