The Ritualists to which the Rev. T. H. Sparshott refers to in this tract is a part of the Romeward Movement that emerged in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. The Romeward Movement sought to reunite the Church of England with the Church of Rome. To that end the Ritualists sought to introduce into the Anglican Church the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The thinking was that if they made the Anglican Church like the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope would accept the Church of England back into the Roman fold.
Their efforts to change the character of the Church of England naturally would engender resistance from churchmen who did not share their aspirations. Among these churchmen were Protestant High Churchmen as well as Evangelicals. The Church Association was formed to combat this development and to uphold the Protestant and Reformed character of the Church of England.
In the twenty-first century the Romeward Movement has borne fruit in the form of Anglicanorum coetibus and the Personal Ordinariates of Pope Benedict XVI. The Romeward Movement failed to attain its goal of so transforming the Church of England that the Church of England would be acceptable to the Pope. But it has left its mark on the modern-day Anglican Church. It has created within the Church of England and her daughter churches pockets of Christians who are Anglican in name but Roman Catholic in doctrine and practice.
In the United States Anglicans and Episcopalians are, due to the influence of the Romeward Movement, more familiar with the Tracts for the Times than the Church Association Tracts that were written to counter the stream of propaganda that the Ritualists produced in support of their introduction of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice into the Church of England in defiance of English ecclesiastical law. The Heritage Anglican Network will be publishing the Church Association Tracts, which provide us with a window into this critical phase in English Church history and are a reminder of the Protestant and Reformed character of historical Anglicanism.
To read the tract and learn more about the Church Society, which was formed from a merger of the Church Association and the National Church League in 1950, click here.