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Tractarians and the 'Condition of England'The Social and Political Thought of the Oxford Movement$
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S. A. Skinner

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273232

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273232.001.0001

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Low Politics: The Parish Unit

Low Politics: The Parish Unit

(p.139) 3 Low Politics: The Parish Unit
Tractarians and the 'Condition of England'

S. A. Skinner (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the locus of clerical government in Victorian England was to be the parish, whose functional autonomy was an antidote to the growth and pluralisation of the state. Tractarians asserted the parish as the hub of communities for loosely political as well as extensively social reasons. The means by which this vision of clerical sovereignty and parochial autonomy was pursued is examined by looking at particular tractarian campaigns for daily services, homiletical simplicity, auricular confession, the abolition of pew-rents, and the revival of the offertory. Attention to the lineaments of this programme, and the insistence on the cardinal function of the parish that framed it, incidentally permits a sharper differentiation between tractarian and evangelical pastoral influences, so often conflated in accounts of the Victorian pastoral revival. This chapter looks forward both to tractarian remedies for social division, in particular the assertion of the importance of strictly parochial as opposed to national or collectivist endeavours, and to a tractarian discourse of ‘Christian equality’.

Keywords:   tractarianism, parish, social division, Christian equality, daily services, auricular confession, pew-rents, offertory

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