What was religion like in 18th-century England?

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osurpless | Middle School Teacher | In Training Educator

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Following the Protestant Reformation and the breakaway of England from the Catholic Church by Henry VIII, the 18th century Church of England, known as the Anglican Church, was entering into a what could be described as a “conservative” era of their history. This is so due to the effects of the English Civil War in the 1600’s followed by religious wars throughout Europe during the same time. While the king of England was still the head of the church, the reform minded attitudes that justified the Church’s formation (at least on the surface) were pretty much gone. There was an established status quo and reform was rarely even thought of.

One area of the Catholic Church that was quickly mimicked by the Anglican was that of political appointments. Be it bishops or priests, it was quite common for such to be chosen by expediency rather than spirituality, as they demonstrated by their influence over society and the law-making process. So it can be said that conservatism still ruled the religious day. The Oxford Movement, championed by those from the University of the same name, grew out of the Whig Party’s reforms: "The ideas of the Oxford Movement were confined largely to the intellectual elite of Oxford University which concerned itself hardly at all with the problems of industrial Britain. All those involved in the movement agreed that the Anglican Church was in danger of final spiritual decay because it had forgotten the doctrines of the apostolic succession, the priesthood and the sacramental system.” In this, it cemented that the Anglican Church was in danger if it forgot its traditions, regardless of the founding reality that the falling out between the Pope and Henry VIII over his marriage had little to do with spiritual matters.

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