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Broad church

Broad church

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Broad church is a term referring to latitudinarian
Latitudinarian
Latitudinarian was initially a pejorative term applied to a group of 17th-century English theologians who believed in conforming to official Church of England practices but who felt that matters of doctrine, liturgical practice, and ecclesiastical organization were of relatively little importance...

 churchmanship
Churchmanship
Within Anglicanism the term churchmanship is sometimes used to refer to distinct understandings of church doctrine and liturgical practice by members of the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican communion...

 in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, in particular, and Anglicanism
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

, in general. From this, the term is often used to refer to secular political organisations, meaning that they encompass a broad range of opinion.

Usage


After the terms high church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 and low church
Low church
Low church is a term of distinction in the Church of England or other Anglican churches initially designed to be pejorative. During the series of doctrinal and ecclesiastic challenges to the established church in the 16th and 17th centuries, commentators and others began to refer to those groups...

 came to distinguish the tendency toward ritualism and Anglo-Catholicism
Anglo-Catholicism
The terms Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholicism describe people, beliefs and practices within Anglicanism that affirm the Catholic, rather than Protestant, heritage and identity of the Anglican churches....

 on the one hand and evangelicalism
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 on the other, those Anglicans tolerant of multiple forms of conformity to ecclesiastical authority came to be referred to as "broad." The expression apparently originated with A. H. Clough and was current in the later part of the 19th century for Anglicans who objected to positive definitions in theology and sought to interpret Anglican formularies in a broad and liberal sense. Characteristic members of this group were the contributors to Essays and Reviews, 1860, and A. P. Stanley. As the name implies, parishes associated with this variety of churchmanship will mix High and Low forms, reflective of the often eclectic liturgical and doctrinal preferences of clergy and laity. The emphasis is on allowing individual parishioners choice.

Broad church as an expression is now increasingly replaced by references in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 to liberalism. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, in his "text of reflection" The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today, released in 2006, described the three "components in our heritage" as "strict evangelical Protestantism", "Roman Catholicism" and "religious liberalism
Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...

", accepting that "each of these has a place in the church’s life". These would broadly correspond to the low church, high church and broad church parties in the Church of England. Historically, "broad" tended to be used to describe those of middle of the road ceremonial preferences who leaned towards liberal Protestantism; whilst "central" described those who were theologically conservative, but took middle way in ritual.

As said above the term can describe the membership of other organisations. When James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

, the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 said of his party that "ours is a broad church", he meant that it embraced different strands of labour and socialist tradition.

In the Episcopal Church
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

 in the United States, the term "broad church" has a slightly different connotation as it refers to those whose ceremonial practice is neither high church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 nor low church
Low church
Low church is a term of distinction in the Church of England or other Anglican churches initially designed to be pejorative. During the series of doctrinal and ecclesiastic challenges to the established church in the 16th and 17th centuries, commentators and others began to refer to those groups...

. Theologically, they may be either conservative - equating to Central Churchmanship
Central Churchmanship
Central Churchmanship describes those who adhere to the middle way in the Church of England, being neither High Church nor Low Church in their liturgical preferences....

 in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

- or liberal, which would identify them with the broad church or liberal strand within the Church of England.

Further reading

  • Cornish, F. W. (1910) The English Church in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Macmillan (particularly relevant are: vol. 1. pp. 186-96, 299-316; vol. 2, pp. 201-44)
  • Cross, F. L. (ed.) (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford U. P.; Broad Church, p. 199