Low church is a term of distinction in the Church of England, initially designed to be pejorative. During the series of doctrinal and ecclesiastic challenges to the Established church in the 16th and 17th centuries, commentators and divines began to refer to the more Anglo-Catholic tendency in the English church as high church. In contrast, in the early 18th century those theologians and politicians who sought more reform in the English church and a greater liberalization of church structure were called "low church."
The term referred initially to those theologians who gave a "low" importance to the authority of the episcopacy. They devalued the bishops and church authority from the state. They also put a "low" emphasis on the sacrament of the eucharist and on the authority of priests. These positions coincided with those of the Non-conformist Puritan and Independents in the Church of England. When the term was first used, it referred to the latitudinarians. However, this usage went dormant by the middle of the 18th century, when latitudinarians began to be called "Broad church". When it was revived in the middle of the 19th century, it was used to refer to the Evangelical movement in England.
In contemporary usage, "low churches" are more Protestant than broad or high churches and are usually involved in evangelical Christianity.