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Feast of Edward Bouverie Pusey (September 18)   Leave a comment

Above:  Edward Bouverie Pusey

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest

Feast day in The Church of England = September 16

Feast day in The Episcopal Church = September 18

Edward Bouverie Pusey, born into a wealthy family, spent most of his adult life at Oxford University.  He, from 1841 the leader of the Oxford Movement, was a priest more influential in the Anglican Communion than most bishops were.

Pusey, born near Oxford on August 22, 1800, took naturally to university life.  He, educated at Eton then Christ Church, Oxford University, became a Fellow of Oriel College in 1824.  He spent 1825-1827, studying in Berlin and Göttingen, where he met leading German Biblical scholars and critics, as well as studying Semitic languages in Germany and at Oxford.  In 1828 and 1830 Pusey published An Historical Enquiry into the Probable Causes of the Rationalist Character Lately Predominant in the Theology of Germany (two parts), a work critical (in the academic sense of that word) of German Rationalistic theology.  He linked it to spiritually dead Protestant orthodoxy.  When certain people mistook the work for a defense of German Rationalistic theology, he withdrew the Historical Enquiry.  Also in 1828, Pusey married Maria Catherine Barker (1801-1839).  The couple had four children.  Our saint, ordained to the diaconate then to the priesthood of The Church of England, accepted appointment as the Regius Professor of Hebrew and Canon, a position he held for the rest of his life.

At Oxford Pusey met John Keble (1792-1866) and John Henry Newman (1801-1890), leader of the Oxford Movement, also known as Tractarianism and Anglo-Catholicism.  The Roman Catholic revival within Anglicanism was controversial.  Some opponents, who thought that Holy Mother Church was the Whore of Babylon and the Pope was the Antichrist, went to the logical and predictable extreme of labeling the Oxford Movement nothing short of Satanic.  For decades priests bowing to altars, candles being present on the altar, and other practices were controversial.

The Tractarians, whom Pusey joined in 1833, took their name from the Tracts of the Times series.  Our saint wrote some of the Tracts, notably #18 on fasting on its spiritual benefits) in 1834 and #67 and #69 (on baptism) in 1836.  The Tractarians, consistent with their priority on classicism, published the Library of the Fathers series.  Pusey translated the first volume, the Confessions of St. Augustine of Hippo, in 1838.

Pusey became the leader of the Oxford Movement in 1841, as Newman moved toward his conversion to Roman Catholicism, in 1845.  Our saint became so identified with the Tractarian Movement that “Puseyite” became a synonym for Tractarian.  He remained within The Church of England, so many who would otherwise have followed Newman into the Roman Catholic Church chose not to cross the Tiber River.

Pusey donated generously to churches for the poor and founded a religious community to minister to impoverished people.  The Sisterhood of the Holy Cross, also known as the Park Village Community, founded in 1845, was the first Anglican religious community founded since the English Reformation.  In 1856 the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross merged into the Society of the Most High Trinity, founded by Priscilla Lydia Sellon (1821-1876) in 1849.

Pusey frequently found himself engaged in controversies.

  1. In 1843 his sermon before Oxford University entitled “The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent,” in which he favored Transubstantiation, led to his suspension from the Oxford pulpit for two years.
  2. Another sermon, “The Entire Absolution of the Penitent” (1846), was a defense of the proposition that The Church of England had the priestly power to absolve sins.  This was the beginning of private confession in Anglicanism, a practice still too Catholic for many Anglicans.
  3. In 1862 Pusey accused Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893), the Regius Professor of Greek of heresy.  Jowett, a Hegelian, had written “On the Interpretation of Scripture” for Essays and Reviews in 1860.  Pusey found Jowett’s conclusions theologically erroneous.  The Chancellor’s Court acquitted Jowett, who remained at Oxford and received promotions.
  4. In 1865 Pusey wrote that barriers to Anglican reunion with the Roman Catholic Church included purgatory, indulgences, and Marian devotion.  During the next few years Newman and Pusey engaged in a long-form, written debate, topics of which also included Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception.
  5. One of the controversies in The Church of England in the late 1800s was whether to remove the Athanasian Creed from Morning Prayer.  Pusey argued for retaining it.  Although that creed remained in the form for Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1662), the practice of congregational recitation of that creed declined within Anglicanism.

Pusey, aged 82 years, died at Ascot Priory, Berkshire, of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity, on September 16, 1882.  He was a transformational figure and a positive influence within Anglicanism.

Pusey House, a religious institution at St. Giles, Oxford, constitutes a tangible part of our saint’s legacy.





Grant, O God, that in all time of testing we may know your presence and obey your will;

that, following the example of your servant Edward Bouverie Pusey,

we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to bear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Psalm 106:1-5

1 Peter 2:19-23

Luke 3:10-14

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 591