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Civil War Era Studies; History


The religious culture of Anglicanism has, since the beginning of the 19th century, developed an extraordinarily rich and eclectic texture of liturgical symbol. The fact that symbol and ritual do bear such a weight of meaning for Anglicans suggests, in turn, that the savage conflict of evangelical and anglo-catholic in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the 1840s through the 1870s over vestments, relics, decorations, and even altar flowers, existed on more than the level of bad feelings or party crankiness. As it is, the very savagery of that conflict in those decades, along with its failure to achieve resolution until the evangelicals had actually seceded to form the Reformed Episcopal Church under Bishop George David Cummins, indicates that evangelicals and anglo-catholics were carrying on no small-scale, intramural disagreement. But more than that, the deliberate choice of vestments, chalices, postures, and altars as the evangelicals' chief grounds of contention actually heightens rather than (as some have suggested) trivializes the meaning of the evangelical/anglo-catholic struggle in America. [excerpt]

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