THE BROAD CHURCH
We have used the phrase, the Broad Church party. Stanley had employed the adjective to describe the real character of the English Church, over against the antithesis of the Low Church and the High. The designation adhered to a group of which Stanley was himself a type. They were not bound together in a party. They had no ecclesiastical end in view. They were of a common spirit. It was not the spirit of evangelicalism. Still less was it that of the Tractarians. It was that which Robertson had manifested. It aimed to hold the faith with an open mind in all the intellectual movement of the age. Maurice should be enumerated here, with reservations. Kingsley beyond question belonged to this group. There was great ardour among them for the improvement of social conditions, a sense of the social mission of Christianity. There grew up what was called a Christian Socialist movement, which, however, never attained or sought a political standing. The Broad Church movement seemed, at one time, assured of ascendancy in the Church of England. Its aims appeared congruous with the spirit of the times. Yet Dean Fremantle esteems himself perhaps the last survivor of an illustrious company.
The men who in 1860 published the volume known as Essays and Reviews would be classed with the Broad Church. In its authorship were associated seven scholars, mostly Oxford men. Some one described Essays and Reviews as the Tract Ninety of the Broad Church. It stirred public sentiment and brought the authors into conflict with authority in a somewhat similar way. The living antagonism of the Broad Church was surely with the Tractarians rather than with the evangelicals. Yet the most significant of the essays, those on miracles and on prophecy, touched opinions common to both these groups. Jowett, later Master of Balliol, contributed an essay on the ‘Interpretation of Scripture.’ It hardly belongs to Jowett’s best work. Yet the controversy then precipitated may have had to do with Jowett’s adherence to Platonic studies instead of his devoting himself to theology. The most decisive of the papers was that of Baden Powell