The Queen’s visit to Ireland has been, by all accounts, a great success, symbolising a real decline in animosity between two groups that have until recently been dedicated to ending each other’s existence. Colm Toíbín, whose grandfather took part in the 1916 Easter Uprising, wrote an article in the Guardian and pointed out that among the many who have helped bring about this decline were

historians, who had begun to write about the sheer complexity of the relationship between the two islands over many centuries, insisting that the campaign of violence in the name of history misrepresented history in all its layers, nuances and ironies.

Partisan history is still one of the biggest difficulties Evangelicals face, no matter where they are in the Anglican Communion, but especially here in the Episcopal Church. One of  the most important tools of the 19th Century Anglo-Catholic revival was a view of history that supported the cause. The Anglo-Catholic History Society played a major role in this, and there is, as far as I know, an evangelical equivalent only in Australia. But it’s also true that most of the partisan history was written in previous generations, and what we face now is merely the assumption, even by Evangelicals, is that the received story, which portrays Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church as illegal immigrants, if not hostile invaders, is true.

The Ecclesiastical History Society’s annual conference this year is on the theme The Church on its Past, and will begin with a discussion on the question ‘What has Church history ever done for the Church?’ For most of the history of the Christian Church, the answer would have to be ‘provide ammunition for factional wars’. We have already noted on this blog some signs that historians may be interrupting the  supply of the ammunition that has been used against Evangelicals in the past (here, for instance), but there is a long way to go before the complexity of the relationship between the various parties in Anglicanism over the centuries will be fully examined.

But the current movement is in the right direction; anything that Evangelicals can do to contribute to it, and to acquaint themselves and others with the results of it, will be well done.

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