Growing out of a revival of High Church teachings and practices in the Church of England, the Oxford Movement found its acknowledged leader in Edward Bouverie Pusey. Born near Oxford, August 22, 1800, Pusey was educated at Christ Church College in that city’s University and was elected a Fellow of Oriel College in 1823. Not long afterwards he studied in Göttingen and Berlin, where he became acquainted with many leading German biblical scholars. During the next years he devoted himself t the study of Hebrew, Arabic, and other Semitic languages both at Oxford and in Germany. In 1828 he was ordained deacon and priest and was also appointed Regius Professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church, offices he held for the rest of his life. At the end of 1833 he joined John Keble and John Henry Newman in producing the Tracts for the Times, which gave the Oxford Movement its popular name of Tractarianism.
His most influential activity, however, was his preaching – catholic in content, evangelical in his zeal for souls. He drew on the Greek Fathers and the Christian mystical tradition, and his sermons, while stressing the heinousness of sin and the nothingness of the world, rise to contemplative rapture in their emphasis on the indwelling of Christ, salvation as participation in God, and the blessedness of heaven. But to many of his more influential contemporaries these teachings seemed dangerously innovative. A sermon preached before the University in 1843 on “The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent” was condemned by the vice-chancellor and six doctors of divinity as teaching error, and Pusey was suspended from his university pulpit for two years, a judgment he bore patiently. However, the condemnation secured a wider publicity for the sermon in printed form and drew attention to the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which Pusey defended with devotion. In another university sermon, preached in 1846 on “The Entire Absolution of the Penitent”, he claimed for the Church of England the power of the keys and the reality of priestly absolution. The sermon encouraged the revival of private confession in modern Anglicanism.
The death of his wife in 1839 left an indelible mark on Pusey, and from that time he practiced many austerities. His foundation of St Saviour’s, Leeds, in memory of his wife and daughter, created a model Tractarian slum parish. In 1845 he assisted in the foundation of the first Anglican sisterhood, and throughout his life he continued to encourage the establishment of Anglican religious foundations, giving generously from his own substantial private income.
When in 1841 Newman withdrew from the Tractarians, leadership of the movement largely devolved on Pusey. As the principal champion of the Anglo-Catholic movement he had frequently to defend its doctrines, e.g. baptismal regeneration in the Gorham Case. When Newman was received into the Church of Rome in 1845, Pusey’s adherence to the Church of England kept many from following, and he defended them in their teachings and practices.
Pusey died on September 16, 1882, at Ascot Priory in Berkshire, the convent of the sisterhood he had helped found. His body was brought back to Christ Church, Oxford, and buried in the nave. Pusey House, a house of studies founded after his death, perpetuates his name at the University he served throughout his life. His own erudition and integrity gave stability to the Oxford Movement that eventually spread throughout the Anglican Churches, and won many to Anglo-Catholic principles.
from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980) with amendments
and additions from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
Grant, O God, that in all time of our 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 do, and endure 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.
The propers for the commemoration of Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest, are published on the Lectionary Page website.