1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Low Churchman

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LOW CHURCHMAN, a term applied to members of the Church of England or its daughter churches who, while accepting the hierarchical and sacramental system of the Church, do not consider episcopacy as essential to the constitution of the Church, reject the doctrine that the sacraments confer grace ex opere operato (e.g. baptismal regeneration) and lay stress on the Bible as the sole source of authority in matters of faith. They thus differ little from orthodox Protestants of other denominations, and in general are prepared to co-operate with them on equal terms.

The name was used in the early part of the 18th century as the equivalent of “Latitudinarian,” i.e. one who was prepared to concede much latitude in matters of discipline and faith, in contradistinction to “High Churchman,” the term applied to those who took a high view of the exclusive authority of the Established Church, of episcopacy and of the sacramental system. It subsequently fell into disuse, but was revived in the 19th century when the Tractarian movement had brought the term “High Churchman” into vogue again in a modified sense, i.e. for those who exalted the idea of the Catholic Church and the sacramental system at the expense both of the Establishment and of the exclusive authority of Scripture. “Low Churchman” now became the equivalent of “Evangelical,” the designation of the movement, associated with the name of Simeon, which laid the chief stress on the necessity of personal “conversion.” “Latitudinarian” gave place at the same time to “Broad Churchman,” to designate those who lay stress on the ethical teaching of the Church and minimize the value of orthodoxy. The revival of pre-Reformation ritual by many of the High Church clergy led to the designation “ritualism” being applied to them in a somewhat contemptuous sense; and “High Churchman” and “Ritualist” have often been wrongly treated as convertible terms. Actually many High Churchmen are not Ritualists, though they tend to become so. The High Churchman of the “Catholic” type is further differentiated from the “old fashioned High Churchman” of what is sometimes described as the “high and dry” type of the period anterior to the Oxford Movement.