An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Maurice, Frederick Denison

(Aug. 29, 1805-Apr. 1, 1872). English theologian and proponent of Christian Socialism. He was born in Normanstone, England, the son of a Unitarian clergyman. In 1823 Maurice entered Trinity College, Cambridge University, to study law. However, he was denied his degree because as a Nonconformist he refused to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. After several religious crises, he decided to enter the Church of England. He was ordained priest in 1834. From 1840 until 1846, Maurice was Professor of English Literature and Modern History at King's College, London. In 1846 he was appointed Professor of Theology at the same school. From 1848 until 1854, he was a leader of the Christian Socialist Movement. He insisted that “Christianity is the only foundation of Socialism, and that a true Socialism is the necessary result of a sound Christianity.” In 1853 he published Theological Essays, in which he criticized the popular view of eternal punishment. He was dismissed from his position at King's College for teaching opinions “calculated to unsettle the minds of the theological students.” His major publication was The Kingdom of Christ (1838). He urged that the church must be a united body, transcending the diversities and partialities of its individual members, factions, and sects. He insisted that the true church had six signs: baptism, creeds, set forms of worship, the eucharist, an ordained ministry, and the Bible. These ideas may have influenced William Reed Huntington and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. In 1854 he helped to establish the first Working Men's College in London. It provided a platform for his radical social reform. In 1866 he was elected to the Knightsbridge Professorship of Moral Theology at Cambridge, where he lectured on ethical subjects. He died in Cambridge. Maurice had a significant influence on the founders of the Episcopal Theological School. Since World War II there has been a revival of interest in Maurice as a theologian. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Apr. 1.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.