churches. Anglican churches which, under the
influence of the Oxford Movement, developed a Catholic style of
worship and maintained Catholic doctrines, as far as this
was possible. In the late 19th century, they were
extrememly influential, leading the Church of England
away from the 'preaching house' style of worship that had
generally held sway for 250 years, towards a position
where the eucharist was the centre of worship. They
were characterised by their visually-rich ritual, with
processions, vestments, candles, sung services and even
incense. Churches were reorganised to focus on the altar rather than the pulpit, and no Suffolk parish church was
untouched by their influence.
Some medieval churches were redecorated in a Catholic style in extremis, the best examples in Suffolk being Lound and Kettlebaston. Some new churches were built in the style of Byzantine or Italian Catholic churches, with no reference to English tradition. The best example in Suffolk is Ipswich St Bartholomew. More restrained Catholicisations can be found at Ufford, Mendlesham, Barsham and Ipswich St Mary Elms.
By the 1920s, most Anglican churches in Suffolk would have seen themselves as belonging to the Anglo-catholic tradition. Since then, their retreat has been a drastic one. This has been due to a number of reasons, but it was exacerbated by the ordination of women by the Church of England in the early 1990s.
This decision was viewed by many Anglo-catholics as a distancing of the CofE from the worldwide Catholic Church, of which they had believed it to be a part. Consequently, hundreds of Anglo-catholic parishioners and ministers left the CofE, to be received into the Roman Catholic Church. Urban Anglo-catholic churches suffered the biggest loss, in Suffolk particularly Ipswich St Bartholomew and Ipswich St Mary Elms.
The surviving Anglo-catholic parishes have either aligned themselves with the liberal Affirming Catholicism movement, or with the traditionalist Forward in Faith movement. Surviving congregations are generally small, and the Anglo-catholics still have an influence in the CofE out of all proportion to their numbers. However, the Anglo-catholic position is viewed by many observers as an unsustainable one in the long run.