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William Palmer (Paperback)

The Oxford Movement and a Quest for Orthodoxy

P&S History > Theology & Religion > Christianity > Church History

Imprint: Holy Trinity Seminary Press
Pages: 384
Illustrations: 1 Illustrations, black and white
ISBN: 9781942699378
Published: 15th July 2021
Casemate UK Academic



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The Oxford Movement within the Anglican communion sought changes to the Church of England in its articulation of theology and performance of liturgy that would more clearly demonstrate what the movement's members believed was the place of their Church within the wider universal and ancient Church. In this regard they mostly looked to the Roman Catholic Church, but one of their most prominent members thought their goals would be better served by seeking recognition from the Orthodox Church.


This book charts the eccentric career of that member, William Palmer, a fellow of Magdalen College and deacon of the Anglican Church. Seemingly destined for a conventional life as a classics don at Oxford, in 1840 and 1842 he travelled to Russia to seek communion from the Russian Orthodox Church. He sought their affirmation that the Anglican Church was part of the ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church world-wide. Despite their personal regard for him, the Russians remained unconvinced by his arguments, not least because of the actions of the Anglican hierarchy in forming alliances with other Protestant bodies. Palmer in turn wrestled with what he saw as the logical inconsistencies in the claim of the Orthodox to be the one true church, such as the differing views he encountered on the manner of reception of converts into the Church by either baptism and chrismation or the latter alone.


Increasingly disillusioned with the Church of England, and finding himself without support from the Scottish Episcopal Church, Palmer closest Russian friends such as Mouravieff and Khomiakoff urged him to cast aside his reservations and to convert Orthodoxy. Ultimately he baulked at making what he saw as the cultural leap from West to East, and after some years in ecclesiastical limbo, he followed the example of his Oxford friends such as John Henry Newman, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church in Rome in 1855. He lived in Rome as a Catholic layman until his death in 1879.


This is a fascinating account of a failed "journey to Orthodoxy" that should provide food for thought to all who may follow this path in the future and offer grounds for reflection to Orthodox believers on how to remove unnecessary stumbling blocks that can arise on the path to their Church.


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