Methodist Church of Great Britain
|Methodist Church of Great Britain|
Channel Islands · Isle of Man · Gibraltar · Malta
|Origin||1932 (Methodist Union)1|
|1. The Methodist movement started in the 18th century|
The Methodist Church is the largest Wesleyan Methodist body in the United Kingdom, with congregations across Great Britain (although more limited in Scotland). It is the United Kingdom's fourth largest Christian denomination, with around 300,000 members and 6,000 churches, and is the largest of the Nonconformist churches. Congregations in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar also form part of the British Methodist Church. It is a member of the World Council of Churches, the World Methodist Council, and other religious associations.
Methodism began through the work of John Wesley (1703-1791), who led an evangelical revival in 18th-century Britain. An ordained Anglican clergyman, Wesley adopted unconventional and controversial practices, such as open-air preaching, to reach factory labourers and newly urbanised masses uprooted from their traditional village culture at the start of the Industrial Revolution. His preaching centred upon the universality of God's grace for all, the effect of faith on character, and the possibility of perfection in love during this life. He organised the new converts locally and in a "Connexion" across the whole of Britain.
Following Wesley's death the Methodist movement became a separate Church, with its own ordained ministers. During the 19th century, the Wesleyan Methodist Church experienced various divisions, with the largest off-shoot being the Primitive Methodists. The main streams of Methodism were re-united in 1932, forming "The Methodist Church".
- 1 History
- 2 Beliefs
- 3 Organisation
- 4 Ecumenical relations
- 5 Worldwide Methodism
- 6 Methodist Recorder
- 7 Work with young people
- 8 Methodist associations
- 9 Architecture
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
The movement which would become the Methodist Church began in the mid-18th century within the Church of England. A small group of students, including John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, met at Oxford University. They focused on Bible study, methodical study of scripture and living a holy life. Other students mocked them, saying they were the "Holy Club" and "the Methodists", being methodical and exceptionally detailed in their Bible study, opinions and disciplined lifestyle. Eventually, the so-called Methodists started individual societies or classes for members of the Church of England who wanted to live a more religious life.
The main Methodist movement outside the Church of England was associated with Howell Harris in Wales. This was to become the Calvinistic Methodist Church (today known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales). Another branch of the Methodist revival was under the ministry of George Whitefield, resulting in the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion.
The largest branch of Methodism in England was organised by John Wesley. It is a tribute to his charisma and powers of oratory that "Methodism" is commonly assumed to be Wesleyan Methodism unless otherwise stated. Theologically, Wesley held to the Arminian view that salvation, by God's grace, was possible for all human beings, in contrast to the Calvinistic ideas of election and predestination that were accepted by the Nonconformists of 18th-century England.
As Wesley and his colleagues preached around the country they formed local societies, that were given national organisation through Wesley's leadership and conferences of preachers. Wesley insisted that Methodists regularly attend their local parish church as well as Methodist meetings. In 1784 Wesley made provision for the governance of Methodism after his death through the 'Yearly Conference of the People called Methodists'. He nominated 100 people and declared them to be its members and laid down the method by which their successors were to be appointed. The annual Conference has remained the governing body of Methodism ever since, with various modifications implemented to increase the number of preachers present, to include lay members (1878) and later women (1911).
Although Wesley declared, "I live and die a member of the Church of England", the impact of the movement, especially after Wesley's clandestine ordinations in 1784, made separation from the Church of England virtually inevitable. The estrangement between the Church of England and the Wesleyan Methodists was entrenched by the decision of the Annual Conference of 1795 to permit the administration of the Lord's Supper in any chapel where both a majority of the trustees and a majority of the stewards and leaders allowed it. This permission was extended to the administration of baptism, burial and timing of chapel services, bringing Methodist chapels into competition with the local parish church. Consequently, known Methodists were often excluded from the full life of the Church of England accelerating the trend for Methodism to become entirely separate from the Established Church.
For half a century after John Wesley's death in 1791, the Methodist movement was characterised by a series of divisions, normally on matters of church government (e.g. Methodist New Connexion) and separate revivals (e.g. Primitive Methodism in Staffordshire, 1811, and the Bible Christian Movement in South West England, 1815). The second half of the nineteenth century saw many of the small schisms reunited to become the United Methodist Free Churches and a further union in 1907 with the Methodist New Connexion and Bible Christian Church brought the United Methodist Church into being. Finally with the Methodist Union of 1932 the three main Methodist connexions in Britain—the Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists and United Methodist Church—came together to form the present Methodist Church. Some off-shoots of Methodism, such as the Salvation Army and Church of the Nazarene, remain totally separate organisations.
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Some core beliefs affirmed by the Methodist Church are as follows:
- The belief that God is all-knowing, possesses infinite love and goodness, is all-powerful, and the creator of all things.
- God has always existed and will always continue to exist.
- God is three persons in one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- God is the master of all creation and humans are meant to live in a holy covenant with him. Humans have broken this covenant by their sins, and can only be forgiven if they truly have faith in the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus was God on Earth (conceived of a virgin), in the form of a man who was crucified for the sins of all people, and who was physically resurrected to bring them the hope of eternal life.
- The grace of God is seen by people through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in their world. (Personal holiness)
- Close adherence to the teachings of Scripture is essential to the faith because Scripture is the Word of God.
- Christians are part of a universal church and must work with all Christians to spread the love of God.
- Baptism and the Lord's Supper (Communion) are the two sacraments.
- Baptism is a sacrament involving the submersion or, more commonly in the Methodist Church, anointing of water which cleanses the stain of original sin. It also symbolises being brought into the community of faith.
- The Lord's Supper is a sacrament in which participants eat bread and drink juice to show that they continue to take part in Christ's redeeming resurrection by taking part in His body (the bread) and blood (the unfermented grape juice). Methodists believe in a real presence.
- People can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, not by any other acts of redemption such as good deeds.
Wesleyan theology stands at a unique cross-roads between evangelical and sacramental, between liturgical and charismatic, and between Anglo-Catholic and Reformed theology and practice. It has been characterized as Arminian theology with an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring holiness into the life of the participating believer. The Methodist Church teaches the Arminian concepts of free will, conditional election, and sanctifying grace. John Wesley was perhaps the clearest English proponent of Arminianism. The Church teaches that salvation is entirely a work of God alone with no work by which it can be earned (monergism), and that one cannot either turn to God nor believe unless God has first drawn a person and implanted the desire in their heart (the Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient grace).
It is a traditional position of the Methodist Church (as of many others) that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason by which to understand God's action and will, especially from reading the Bible. Methodists have also emphasized the importance of Scriptural holiness, which entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world. John Wesley made much of the process of sanctification, occasionally even seeming to claim that individuals could achieve "Christian Perfection" in this human life.
The doctrinal standards of the Methodist Church are as follows:
The Methodist Church claims and cherishes its place in the Holy Catholic Church which is the Body of Christ. It rejoices in the inheritance of the apostolic faith and loyally accepts the fundamental principles of the historic creeds and of the Protestant Reformation. It ever remembers that in the providence of God Methodism was raised up to spread scriptural holiness through the land by the proclamation of the evangelical faith and declares its unfaltering resolve to be true to its divinely appointed mission.The doctrines of the evangelical faith which Methodism has held from the beginning and still holds are based upon the divine revelation recorded in the Holy Scriptures. The Methodist Church acknowledges this revelation as the supreme rule of faith and practice. These evangelical doctrines to which the preachers of the Methodist Church are pledged are contained in Wesley's Notes on the New Testament and the first four volumes of his sermons.—Deed of Union
Social and moral issues
The Methodist Church takes a moderate pro-life position, admitting abortion only on extreme cases, as the "lesser of evils". The Church believes its congregants should work toward the elimination of the need for abortion by advocating for social support for mothers. It states that "Abortion must not be regarded as an alternative to contraception, nor is it to be justified merely as a method of birth control./ The termination of any form of human life cannot be regarded superficially and abortion should not be available on demand, but should remain subject to a legal framework, to responsible counselling and to medical judgement. They support contraception and family planning as ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
The Methodist Church also opposes euthanasia: "The final stage of an illness is not one which need represent the ultimate defeat for the doctor or nurse, but a supreme opportunity to help the patient at many levels, including those relating to emotional and spiritual well-being./ Dedicated workers in this field of care, including specialised hospices, demonstrate that it is possible to deal with all the symptoms which cause problems to the patient./ Euthanasia, assisted dying – both are artificial precipitation of death. Many Christians believe this idea is wrong. An approach to death as outlined above makes euthanasia inappropriate and irrelevant."
John Wesley warned: "You see the wine when it sparkles in the cup, and are going to drink of it. I tell you there is poison in it! and, therefore, beg you to throw it away."  In 1744, the directions the Wesleys gave to the Methodist societies required them "to taste no spirituous [i.e., distilled] liquor ... unless prescribed by a physician."
Following John Wesley's lead, Methodists took a leading role in the temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and Methodism remains associated with teetotalism in the public mind. Methodists saw alcoholic beverages, and alcoholism, as the root of many social ills and tried to persuade people to abstain from these. Temperance appealed strongly to the Methodist doctrines of sanctification and perfection. To this day, alcohol remains banned in Methodist premises, however, the choice to consume alcohol is now a personal decision for any member.
From the start Methodism was sympathetic towards poor people. In 1753, John Wesley bemoaned, "So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection, ‘They are poor, only because they are idle’." In a joint report with the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland and United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church, regret this misconception is also prevalent today.
Vice President Daleep Mukarji, former Director of the charity Christian Aid, said economic inequality was more prevalent in the 21st Century UK than at any time since World War II. 25% of UK residents experience relative poverty, disproportionately many are children.
Working with others, people of faith or no faith, we need to work for justice, inclusion and development that benefits the poor and marginalised here in the UK and across the world. This requires that we be prepared for the education, organisation and equipping of our members so that we build the necessary energy and commitment to see changes in our society. (...) We must hold our leaders, the structures and systems accountable so that we see that the weak and vulnerable are given a better deal. (...) Many Methodists in our local churches and circuits have outstanding programmes that serve people in need. At this time when poverty, deprivation and neglect seem to have got worse we should do more. (...) Our Methodist church is known for our service, our commitment to social justice and our willingness to act to transform society. Daleep Mukarji 
Mukarji said the UK government stigmatises poor people which aggravates their troubles. Mukarji believes "In the context of so much despair, inequality, injustice, death and shocking treatment of our fellow human beings we must never give up." Rich people became richer while poverty sometimes increased. Unjust structures prevent people escaping poverty and deprivation. There is need for justice and for redistricting resources more equally, this is in the interest of better off people too because poverty causes alienation and civil unrest which can destroy nations. More than half a million British people require help getting basic food and regularly use food banks. Growing unemployment, underemployment, rising food and fuel prices while incomes fall will likely increase food dependency.
The Methodist Church is characterised by a strong central organisation, yet a lack of a powerful 'hierarchy'. The central governing body of the Connexion is the Conference, which meets in June every year. It represents both ministers and lay people and decides Church policy. Issues may be brought before the Conference in the form of "memorials", which are formally examined and discussed. The Conference will often publish statements on moral, social and doctrinal issues— such as the Church's stance on abortion—and is understood to have authority to speak on the Church's behalf.
The Conference is a gathering of representatives from each Methodist district, along with some who have been elected by the Conference and some ex officio members and representatives of the Youth Assembly. It is held annually in three sessions; for the presbyterate, the diaconate, and a representative session including lay representatives.
The Conference is presided over by the President of Conference, a minister (presbyter), supported by a Vice-President who can be a local preacher (lay person) or deacon. The President and Vice-President serve a one-year term, travelling across the Connexion and preaching at local churches.
The Connexion is divided into over 600 circuits governed by the (usually) twice yearly Circuit Meeting and led and administrated principally by a 'superintendent minister'. Ministers are appointed to these rather than to individual churches (though some large inner-city churches – known as Central Halls – are designated as circuits in themselves; Westminster Central Hall in central London being the best known). Most circuits have many fewer ministers than churches, and the majority of services are led by lay local preachers, or by supernumerary ministers (retired ministers who are not officially counted in the number of ministers for the circuit in which they are listed). The superintendent and other ministers are assisted in the leadership and administration of the Circuit by lay Circuit Stewards, who collectively bring their own skills and abilities, and together with the ministers form what is normally known as the Circuit Leadership Team.
The circuits are grouped in thirty-two districts covering Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands each supervised by a District Synod and a District Chair, except the new London District, created in September 2006, which has three chairmen with a 'Lead' Chair. Northern Ireland is part of the Methodist Church in Ireland.
The Methodist Church also helps to run a number of schools, including two leading Public Schools in East Anglia, Culford School and The Leys. It helps to promote an all round education with a strong Christian ethos.
Christ's ministers in the church are stewards in the household of God and shepherds of his flock. Some are called and ordained to this occupation as presbyters or deacons. Presbyters have a principal and directing part in these great duties but they hold no priesthood differing in kind from that which is common to all the Lord's people and they have no exclusive title to the preaching of the gospel or the care of souls. These ministries are shared with them by others to whom also the Spirit divides his gifts severally as he wills.—Deed of Union
As of 2005[update] there are around 3,600 ordained ministers in the Methodist Church. The Church recognises two orders of ordained ministry; that of the presbyter and deacon. Both may be referred to as Minister, although this title is generally used to refer to presbyters. Presbyters are styled "The Reverend", while "Deacon" is used as a title by members of the diaconate.
The two orders are seen as separate but equal in status, with presbyters and deacons each serving a distinct role in the ministry of the Church. Deacons are called to a ministry of service and witness: specifically to "assist God's people in worship and prayer" and "to visit and support the sick and the suffering". Presbyters are called to a ministry of word and sacrament: "to preach by word and deed the Gospel of God's grace" and "to baptise, to confirm, and to preside at the celebration of the sacrament of Christ's body and blood"
Unlike many other Methodist churches, the British church does not have bishops. A report, 'What Sort of Bishops?" to the Conference of 2005, was accepted for study and report. This report considered if this should now be changed, and if so, what forms of episcopacy might be acceptable. Consultation at grassroots level during 2006 and 2007 revealed overwhelming opposition from those who responded. As a consequence, the 2007 Conference decided not to move towards having bishops at present. Many Methodists believe that the function of 'bishop' is already part of the church's structures - though called by different names.
A notable feature of British Methodism is its extensive use of local preachers (as opposed to itinerant preachers, better known as ministers). These are lay people (non-ministers) who have been trained and accredited to preach and lead worship services in place of a minister. However, lay people cannot officiate at a Communion service. Local preachers are thus similar to lay readers in the Church of England. It is estimated that Local preachers conduct seven out of every ten Methodist services, either in their own circuit or in others where they are invited as "visiting preachers". A Methodist must become a local preacher before becoming a presbyter.
The Methodist Church participates in various ecumenical forums and associations. The church is a member of the three national ecumenical bodies in Great Britain, namely Churches Together in England, Cytûn in Wales and Action of Churches Together in Scotland, plus Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. From the 1970s onward, the Methodist Church has been involved in over 900 "Local Ecumenical Projects" (LEPs) with neighbouring denominations, usually with the Church of England, the Baptist Union or with the United Reformed Church.
It also participates in the Conference of European Churches and the World Council of Churches. The church has sent delegates to every Assembly of the World Council and has at various times been represented on its Central Committees and Faith and Order Commission.
Recently the Methodist Church has become one of the Covenanted Churches in Wales, along with the Church in Wales, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the United Reformed Church and certain Baptist Churches.
In the 1960s, the Methodist Church made ecumenical overtures to the Church of England, aimed at church unity. In February 1963, a report, Conversations between the Church of England and the Methodist Church was published. This gave an outline of a scheme to unite the two Churches. The scheme was not without opposition, for four Methodist representatives; Kingsley Barrett, Meadley, Snaith and Jessop, issued a dissentient report. Through much of the 1960s, controversy spread in the two Churches. Central in the debate was the need for Methodist Ministers to be ordained under the Anglican historical episcopate. Critics claimed that this would be re-ordination and proponents of the scheme struggled to find a form of words to disguise this fact.
Discussions were renewed in the mid-1990s, with a series of Informal Conversations held in 1995 and 1996. These meetings concluded with the publication of a Common Statement in December 2000 which highlighted common beliefs and potential areas of cooperation between the two denominations.
In June 2002, the Methodist Conference voted by a large majority to seek the opinion of each District Synod and Circuit Meeting on the proposals in An Anglican-Methodist Covenant. At its meeting in July 2002, the Church of England General Synod voted by a very substantial majority to commend the proposed Anglican-Methodist Covenant to its dioceses for discussion. Finally, the Anglican-Methodist Covenant was signed at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster 1 November 2003 in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. This Covenant affirms the willingness of the two churches to work together at a diocesan/district level in matters of evangelism and joint worship.
St. Andrew's Scots Church, Malta is a joint congregation (LEP) of the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Church of Scotland situated in Valletta. There are also Methodist Churches in the Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (each forming a district).
Methodism is a worldwide Protestant movement. Its largest demomination is the United Methodist Church working in four continents (being its core area in the United States). Almost all Methodist denominations meet together quinquennially in a conference of the World Methodist Council, with its headquarters in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
The Methodist Recorder is an independent weekly newspaper that examines events and current affairs within the Methodist community in Great Britain and the Wider World. It has been published continuously since 1861, absorbing its major rivals the Watchman in 1883, the United Methodist in 1932 and the Methodist Times in 1937.
On 13 February 1992 the Recorder published its 7,000th edition and the following year published its first April Fools' Day joke, claiming that there would be a "complete standardisation of Methodist worship" which would require local preachers to wear a "uniform" and be trained in clowning and juggling.
In 2012 the paper was priced £1.95 per edition. Although not available online, the Recorder maintains a basic website offering subscription details and a brief outline of the newspaper's contents. The editor is; Moira Sleight. The Methodist Recorder is available on a memory stick free of charge for blind and visually impaired people from Galloway's Society for the Blind.
A full archive in both bound copies and microfilm is available from the Methodist Studies Unit of the Westminster College, Oxford, which is part of Oxford Brookes University in Oxford Public access is free of charge (by prior appointment) and a small charge is made for reproduction.
The former chairman of The Co-operative Bank, Reverend Paul Flowers, has been a regular contributor, including a spell as the art critic, writing the Gallery Notes column. He has also been part of the reporting team for the title at the Methodist Conference.
Work with young people
The Methodist Church has approximately 30,000 members under 25 years old, and some Methodist churches work with young people in their communities. Work with young people is overseen by the Children and Youth Team, (originally called MAYC). Once a year, young people have a chance to meet and discuss church issues at Methodist Youth Assembly and are represented throughout the year by the Methodist Youth President, a paid young person, and other representatives, who are elected to represent the Methodist Children and Youth at events such as the British Youth Council, the World Methodist Council, as well as the annual Methodist Conference. Formerly there was also a biannual event called "Breakout" which evolved from the London Weekend this saw its last festival in July 2010.
Although not part of the official structures of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, there are a number of fellowships and societies for Methodist interests. One of these is the Wesley Historical Society whose branches hold regular meetings and publish journals recording the history of Methodism. These are useful sources of information.
The Voice of Methodism Association (Charity registration 233722) was formed at Westminster Central Hall on Saturday the 25th January 1964, to oppose the proposal to join together the Anglican Church with the Methodist Church (see above). Opposition at the time was described as ‘formidable’.
From around 1967 onwards, the Anglican-Methodist unity scheme began to run into problems. There was strong opposition from Anglo-Catholics, and the Voice of Methodism campaigned against it. Following initial alarm that the Scheme would begin in 1965, voting was delayed until 1969. There were many arguments over the ‘Service of Reconciliation’. In asserting the Historic Episcopate, the doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers, stated in the 1932 Methodist Deed of Union, was being denied. The debate became acrimonious, reaching a low point with the publication of the book 'Anglican-Methodist Unity: Some Considerations Historical and Liturgical' by Margaret Deanesly and Geoffrey Willis. The Voice of Methodism brought a Chancery Court case against the Methodist Connexion. It was claimed that the degree of opposition expressed in the Methodist District Synods and Circuit Meetings did not represent the true depth of feeling against the Scheme in the pews. Around a tenth of the Church left. At the votes taken in July 1969, the Methodist Conference accepted the Scheme, but insufficient support was given in the Anglican Convocations, and despite several attempts to revive it, the proposals lapsed.
The 'Voice of Methodism Association' was taken into administration in by the Charity Commission in 1992. A renewed trust was formed by the Charity Commission in 2002. This renewed trust seeks to support unity between Christians without uniformity. It has continued to campaign against attempts to merge the Methodist Church with the Church of England on grounds that all current schemes for merger compromise Methodist doctrine. The charity also gives small scale grants to support Methodist churches and encourages Church members to preserve the distinctive Methodist identity.
Methodist Evangelicals Together
Methodist Evangelicals Together is the recently (2007) adopted name for Headway, an association of evangelically minded Methodists. Headway was formed about 20 years ago when the Methodist Revival Fellowship and Conservative Evangelicals in Methodism merged. It has over 2000 members, including some 400 ministers, and exercises increasing influence. The journal, METConnexion, has articles covering a wide range of topics.  An archive of articles is available.
In the early days of Methodism, chapels were sometimes octagonal to avoid conflict with the established Church. The first was in Norwich (1757). It was followed by Rotherham (1761), Whitby (1762), Heptonstall (1764) and ten others.
The Heptonstall chapel is the oldest in England in continual use. The building featured in the BBC Four series "Churches: How to read them". Dr Richard Taylor named it as one of his ten favourite churches, saying: "If buildings have an aura, this one radiated friendship." 
- Methodism (for a more detailed look at Methodist theology and history)
- Holiness movement
- Christian perfection
- John Wesley
- Arminianism and, more specifically, Wesleyan Arminianism
- Temperance movement in the United Kingdom
- ^ What sort of bishops?:Models of episcopacy and British Methodism
- ^ METConnexion magazine Editorial
- "Current President and Vice-President". The Methodist Church in Britain. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- "Methodist Church — World Council of Churches". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- Gwyn Davies, A Light in the Land, Christianity in Wales 200-2000, 2002, Bryntirion Press, ISBN 1-85049-181-X, pp. 70-79.
- Richard Bennett, Howell Harris and the Dawn of Revival, 1909, English translation 1962, Banner of Truth, ISBN 1-85049-035-X
- Rev. Philip S Watson, Anatomy of a Conversion, 1984, Francis Asbury Press (now Zondervan), ISBN 0-310-74991-3, p. 26.
- Baker, Frank (2000). John Wesley and the Church of England (2nd ed ed.). London: Epworth. p. 1. ISBN 978-0716205388.
- John Wesley, Sermons on Several Occasions for further detail.
- J. Steven Harper, "The Way to Heaven: The Gospel According to John Wesley", (1983), ISBN 0-310-25260-1
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Methodist churches in the United Kingdom.|
- The Methodist Church in Britain - Official website
- The district - Includes maps and links to district websites
- The Methodist Diaconal Order
- Methodist Media - Official Twitter stream for the Methodist Media Service
- Anglican-Methodist Covenant
- Methodist Recorder newspaper
- Methodist Evangelicals Together (formerly Headway)
- Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland
- BBC - Religions - Christianity: Methodist Church