"High church" is a term used in Protestant Christianity in general, and churches associated with the Anglican tradition in particular, in relation to those congregations that continue, with modifications, much of the ritual associated with the Roman Catholic Mass. Supporters of the "high church" stance emphasize that it has to do with holiness, sanctity, and respect for God, His Son, and the Church itself, and that it is "catholic" primarily in its attempt to be "universal", not that it is solely an attempt to ally with Rome and reject Protestantism.
The 19th Century Oxford Movement within the Church of England began as a high church movement; however, over time, many of its leading lights converted to Roman Catholicism, following the path of their spiritual forebear, John Henry Cardinal Newman. Today, the primary source of separation between high church Anglo-Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Church itself if the liberal attitude taken by many in the Anglican communion regarding issues which to the Catholic Church are still anathema, such as the ordination of women, and, increasingly, the calls for the acceptance and ordination of homosexuals. It is the disagreement over these issues more than over worship styles that keeps Anglo-Catholicism and Roman Catholicism separate.
In the 17th century, the term "high church" was a description of those divines who placed a "high" emphasis on complete adherence to the Established church position. In the early days of the diversion from the Roman Catholic church, this position was unremarkable, but as the Puritans began demanding that English church abandon liturgical emphasis, episcopal structures, parish ornaments, and the like, the "high" church was distinguished from the latitudinarians. After the Restoration, "high church" was beginning to mean Anglo-Catholic only in contrast to the "low" church position of the latitudinarians. By the 19th century, "high church" referred exclusively to the avowedly Anglo-Catholic position in the English church, while the latitudinarians were referred to as Broad church, and the emergent Evangelical movement was dubbed Low church.