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William Stevens (1732-1807): Lay activism in late Eighteenth-Century Anglican high churchmanship

Andrews, Robert (2012) William Stevens (1732-1807): Lay activism in late Eighteenth-Century Anglican high churchmanship. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Set within the context of a neglected history of lay involvement in High Churchmanship, this thesis argues that William Stevens (1732-1807)—a High Church layman with a successful commercial career—brought to the Church of England not only his piety and theological learning, but his wealth and business acumen. Combined with extensive social links to some of that Church’s most distinguished High Church figures, Stevens exhibited throughout his life an influential example of High Church ‘lay activism’ that was central to the achievements and effectiveness of High Churchmanship during the latter half of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth.

In this thesis, Stevens’s lay activism is divided into two sub-themes: ‘theological activism’ and ‘ecclesiastical activism’. Theological activism was represented primarily by Stevens’s role as a theologian or ‘lay divine’, a characteristic that resulted in numerous publications that engaged in contemporary intellectual debate. Ecclesiastical activism, on the other hand, represented Stevens’s more practical contributions to Church and society, especially his role as a philanthropist and office holder in a number of Church of England societies. Together, Stevens’s intellectual and practical achievements provide further justification of the revisionist claim that eighteenth-century Anglican High Churchmanship was an active ecclesiastical tradition. Additionally, however, Stevens’s life challenges conventional assumptions about the High Church tradition—especially its tendency to emphasise the lives and experiences of clerics. Stevens, it is argued, though a layman, was one of the influential High Churchmen of his age.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Strong, Rowan
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