Tuesday, October 14, 2014

History of Anglicans: Ridley College at 125

At the private Catholic boys school where I did my high school years, the understanding was that there were Catholics and then there was a vast undifferentiated mass of non-Catholics all pretty much blurred together. It was something of a surprise to me some years later, to encounter an Anglican with a precisely reversed perspective: she saw the world as C of E and then everyone else. I’m not sure it had much to do with theology or faith in either case. For the Catholics it was a tribal loyalty; for my friend it was maybe more tinged with class consciousness.

Much later, the DCB asked me to write its Volume 15 entry on one Newman Hoyles. Hoyles was being included mostly for his legal career, which I knew something about. But I became intrigued to encounter through him another Christian subdivision I’d never really considered before: the low and the high Anglicans, and particularly the feud between them in Toronto and Ontario in the late 19th century.

As I now understand this (mostly from my immersion in Hoyles), low Anglicans were/are “protestant:” evangelical, anti-hierarchical, and aspiring to a direct, unmediated experience of faith, while the high Anglicans were/are “Anglo-Catholic:” respectful of hierarchy, convinced of the wisdom of authority and received tradition, and not entirely accepting that there had ever really been a “protestant” schism between Rome and Canterbury. (There is a good deal of scholarship, notably by Curtis Fahey and Alan Hayes, to put this corner of Canadian church history much better.)
Anyway, my man Newman W. Hoyles was not at all low society but he was very much low Anglican. Alongside his career in the law, he lent much time to helping build up low-Anglican institutions to parallel the high-Anglican ones Ontario had inherited from the Bishop Strachan/established church/clergy reserve times. By the end of Hoyles's career, the low Anglicans had Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto to match the high Anglican Trinity. They had the elite girls’ school Havergal as their alternative to Bishop Strachan School. They had the Evangelical Churchman to balance whatever the high Anglican paper was called.
And in 1889 they launched the private boys’ school Ridley College in St. Catharines to counter Upper Canada College in Toronto. Newman Hoyles, then 45 and established in both his legal career and his low-Anglican good works, was very much involved. The name alone suggests what the evangelical Anglicans thought of Anglo-Catholicism. None of that Cardinal Newman stuff for them: poor Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake in England during the Catholic restoration under Queen Mary. My tribal-Catholic remnant found this all two-churches-in-one thoroughly implausible, but my more dominant historian side was kinda charmed.

Which is all to say that this year Ridley College school (not just boys any more) is observing its 125th birthday, and I was asked if I’d like to take note. Duly noted.
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