Another in a series of thoughts, sources, and reflections that elucidate the characteristics of the Anglican patrimony.
Hood-doff to Corey French for bringing the attached “Ritualism in the Church of England” map to my attention. It seems this map was produced by anti-Ritualists, i.e., intended as a warning rather than as a celebration of the increased influence of Ritualism in the CofE.
If one takes the short view of Anglican history, the Ritualists were enormously influential in spite of the fact that they were generally excluded from positions of authority in Anglicanism (or perhaps because they were often excluded from positions of authority). It might be safe to say that without the influence of Ritualism, there would have been far fewer Anglicans who would have become acclimated to the Roman way of doing things, which might have meant fewer cases of “swimming the Tiber,” which might in turn have meant less successful advances in ecumenical dialogue over the next century.
To take the long view of Anglican history, however, Ritualism’s influence is only one chapter in Anglicanism’s expressions of High Churchmanship. When people discover the Oxford Movement, for example, they are often surprised to learn that its leaders were not as concerned with ritual as they were with theological—and especially ecclesiological—issues. This does not mean the Ritualist movement does not flow logically from much that the Oxford Movement was about. But it is perhaps too close to us in time for us to predict accurately what its role will be further into the future.