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Anglican ritualism in colonial South Africa: exploring some of the local discourses between 1848 and 1884.

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This dissertation examines South Africa’s colonial contribution to the spread of what is known in popular and academic literature as “ritualism” during the mid-nineteenth century. It also seeks to add a South African voice to the growing contemporary scholarship in this area. Three considerations shape the dissertation: definitions (high churchmanship, Tractarianism, ecclesiology, ritualism and Anglo-Catholicism); perceptions of what was often termed ritualism by clergy and laity; and portrayals of ritualism in public discourse. To understand these considerations in context, the study examines the role of South Africa’s first Anglican bishop, and his creation of an independent local church, in fostering a climate conducive to ritualism. This is followed by an examination of the protests against some of the early developments which were considered ritualist by colonial congregations. Finally, a few examples of advanced ritualism are analysed. Three distinct waves of catholic revival are identified: early (1848 through to the mid-1850s) characterised by architecture and symbolism; middle (mid-1850s through to about 1870) characterised by lay opposition to recognised Anglican ceremonial; and late (mid-1860s through to the turn of the nineteenth century) characterised by the introduction of the “six points” of ritualism not sanctioned in the Anglican prayer book tradition. The author finds that after the middle period of fairly robust antagonism towards ritualism, a general movement towards ritualist practices began to emerge. The sources consulted for this dissertation include letters, newspaper and periodical articles, archival material and several unpublished theses.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.