George Cornelius Gorham
George Cornelius Gorham (21 August 1787 – 19 June 1857) was a vicar in the Church of England. His legal recourse to being denied a certain post, subsequently taken to a secular court, caused great controversy.
He was ordained in 1811, despite the misgivings of the Bishop of Ely, Thomas Dampier, who found Gorham's views at odds with Anglican doctrine. Gorham's views on baptism had caused comment, particularly his contention that by baptism infants do not become members of Christ and the children of God. After curacies in several parishes, he was instituted as vicar of St Just in Penwith by Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter, in 1846.
Upon examining him, Bishop Phillpotts took exception to Gorham's view that baptismal regeneration was conditional and dependent upon a later personal adoption of promises made. The Bishop found Gorham to be a Calvinist in this matter and hence unsuitable for the post.
Gorham appealed to the ecclesiastical Court of Arches to compel the bishop to institute him but the court confirmed the bishop's decision and awarded costs against Gorham.
Gorham then appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which caused great controversy about whether a secular court should decide on the doctrine of the Church of England. Ecclesiastical lawyer Edward Lowth Badeley, a member of the Oxford movement, appeared before the Committee to argue the Bishop's cause but eventually the Committee (in a split decision) reversed the Bishop's and the Arches' decision on 9 March 1850, granting Gorham his institution.
Bishop Phillpotts repudiated the judgment and threatened to excommunicate the Archbishop of Canterbury and anyone who dared to institute Gorham.
Fourteen prominent Anglicans, including Badeley and Henry Edward Manning, called upon the Church of England to repudiate the views that the Privy Council had expressed on baptism. As there was no response from the Church - apart from Phillpotts' protestations - they left the Church of England and joined the Roman Catholic Church.
Gorham himself spent the rest of his life at his post in Brampford Speke. As vicar, Gorham restored the church building, entirely rebuilding the tower, for which Bishop Phillpotts gave some money. He was an antiquary of some reputation, and the author of a number of pamphlets.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wood, James, ed. (1907). "Gorham, George Cornelius". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
- Documents connected with the Gorham Controversy from Project Canterbury
- "Gorham Controversy". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.