Anglo-Catholicism in Australia, c.1860-1960

David Hilliard

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    We begin our account at the Anglican church of St James the Great at Jamestown, a small country town in a wheat- and sheep-farming area some 130 miles north of Adelaide, in the diocese of Willochra in the state of South Australia. The rectangular stone church is typical of rural South Australia, without architectural distinction, but the interior is remarkable for it is dominated by a gothic marble altar, installed in 1938 as a memorial at a cost of £700. Today the altar with its six candles and tabernacle is used only on special occasions, having been supplanted by a free-standing table to allow the celebrant to face the congregation. The present priest of the ministry district that embraces Jamestown is a woman who each Sunday conducts services in churches spread over several hundred square miles. As in many other Australian country towns, the ornaments and interior furnishings of this church indicate the past influence of Anglo-Catholicism. Why is this? What does this evidence tell us about the shape and distinctive features of the Anglo-Catholicism that was planted in Australia between the 1860s and the early 1960s, when the influence of the movement reached its peak? Anglo-Catholicism in Australia was shaped by three main influences. The first was its dependence on the Church of England. Until 1981 the Anglican Church was officially called the Church of England in Australia, and the movement to create a constitution for a self-governing national church within the Anglican Communion was long and tortuous, only reaching fulfilment in 1962. The great majority of Anglicans in Australia were of British birth or descent, and the Church was numerically strongest in those regions that had been settled by immigrants from southern England. During the nineteenth century the Australian Church drew most of its clergy from England. Some rural dioceses were dependent upon a supply of British clergy until the 1950s. Australian Anglicans celebrated their historical and cultural ties with the mother Church in many ways, such as the custom of placing stones from medieval English cathedrals and ruined monasteries in the walls of cathedrals and parish churches, symbols of continuity with the pre-Reformation English Church. The dominant figures in the planting of Anglo-Catholicism in Australia came to Australia directly from Britain, often inspired by a vision of planting the Catholic faith and practice in the antipodes. Their locally born successors drew their own inspiration from the English Church. A few of them were able to visit Britain themselves and were impressed by its famous ritualist churches. They eagerly read the Church Times and the biographies of heroes of the Catholic Revival.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Oxford Movement
    Subtitle of host publicationEurope and the Wider World 1830-1930
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages19
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139061087
    ISBN (Print)9781107016446
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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