LATITUDINARIANS, or LATITUDE MEN were initially a group of
17th-century English theologians – clerics and academics – from
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England who were moderate
Anglicans (members of the Church of England, which was protestant ).
In particular, they believed that conforming and adhering to very
specific doctrines, liturgical practices and church organizational
forms, as did the
Puritans was not necessary, and could be harmful:
"The sense that one had special instructions from God made individuals
less amenable to moderation and compromise, or to reason itself."
Thus, the latitudinarians supported a broad-based protestantism; they
were later referred to as
Broad Church (see also
Examples of the latitudinarian philosophy underlying the theology
were found among the
Cambridge Platonists and Sir
Thomas Browne in his
Religio Medici . Additionally, the term latitudinarian has been
applied to ministers of the Scottish Episcopal Church in Scotland who
were educated at the Episcopal-sympathizing universities at Aberdeen
and St Andrews , and that broadly subscribed to the beliefs of their
moderate Anglican English counterparts.
Today, latitudinarianism should not be confused with ecumenical
movements, which seek to draw all Christian churches together, rather
than seeking to de-emphasize practical doctrine. The term
latitudinarian has taken on a more general meaning, indicating a
personal philosophy that includes tolerance of other views,
particularly, but not necessarily, on religious matters,
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church , latitudinarianism was condemned in the
Quanta cura .
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX felt that, with its
emphasis on religious liberty and the freedom to discard traditional
Christian doctrines and dogmas, latitudinarianism threatened to
undermine the church. Latitudinarianism within the Catholic Church,
which may or may not be hidden in certain ways, is criticized using
Cafeteria Catholic . Many people who espouse Catholicism
reject certain orthodox tenets such as the requirement that clergy be
male-only and the prohibition of divorce while strict Catholics
question how a person can claim to be Roman Catholic while ignoring or
denying aspects of Catholic dogma and praxis .
The latitudinarian Anglicans of the seventeenth century built on
Richard Hooker 's (1554–1600) position in Of the Laws of
Ecclesiastical Polity . Hooker argues that what God cares about is the
moral state of the individual soul. Aspects such as church leadership
are "things indifferent ". However, the latitudinarians took a
position far beyond Hooker's own and extended it to doctrinal matters.
As a positive position, the latitudinarian view held that human
reason, when combined with the
Holy Spirit , is a sufficient guide for
the determination of truth in doctrinal contests; therefore, legal and
doctrinal rulings that constrain reason and the freedom of the
believer were neither necessary nor beneficial. At the time, their
position was referred to as an aspect of low church (in contrast to
the high church position). Later, the latitudinarian position was
called broad church .
While always officially opposed by the Anglican church, the
latitudinarian philosophy was, nevertheless, dominant in 18th century
In England. Because of the Hanoverian reluctance to act in church
affairs, and the various groups of the religious debates being
balanced against one another, the dioceses became tolerant of
variation in local practice. Furthermore, after George I of Great
Britain dismissed the
Convocation , there was very little internal
Church power to either sanction or approve.
Thus, with no
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury officially announcing it, nor
Lords adopting it, latitudinarianism was the operative philosophy of
the English church in the 18th century. For the 18th-century English
church in the United States (which would become the Episcopal Church
American Revolution ), latitudinarianism was the only
practical course since it was a nation with official pluralism and
diversity of opinion and diffusion of clerical power.
* ^ A B Landsman, Ned (1997). From Colonials to Provincials,
American Thought and Culture 16801760. Ithaca: Cornell University
Press. p. 64.
* ^ George I was actually born in the Germanic state of
Brunswick-Luneberg, the capital of which was Hanover. He was the
Elector of Brunswick-Luneberg until his accession to the British
throne in 1714 at the age of 54. Because he was not a member of the
Church of England
Church of England , when he arrived, and despite becoming its head,
his lack of knowledge and experience would have limited his authority
to intervene in fact, if not in law.
* Abbey, Charles J.; Overton, John H. (1896). "Ch. 4 & 5". The
English Church in the Eighteenth Century