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The causes and effects of the divisions within Methodism in Bradford, 1796-1857

Terry, James Gordan (1999) The causes and effects of the divisions within Methodism in Bradford, 1796-1857. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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    Some years ago I completed an M. A. degree at Huddersfield
    University on 'The Fly Sheet Controversy and the Wesleyan
    Reform movement in Birstall and the Spen Valley 1849-1857'. The
    present study is wider in scope and includes all the divisions
    within Methodism and is centred on Bradford, but includes the
    Bingley and Shipley circuits and the Birstall and Cleckheaton
    circuits, the whole being referred to as 'the Bradford area'.

    Between 1796 and 1857 several groups of Methodists left
    their Wesleyan chapels to create new societies, still Methodist
    in doctrine and tradition, but with different styles of church
    government. The Independent Methodists, Primitive Methodists
    and Bible Christians were looking for greater freedom to
    organise their worship and evangelical outreach without the
    restrictions imposed by Conference and the ministers. In other
    cases secessions followed disputes over specific issues - the
    Methodist New Connexion sought greater democracy and more lay
    involvement, the Protestant Methodists resented the approval by
    Conference of an organ at Brunswick Chapel, the Wesleyan
    Methodist Association objected to arrangements for ministerial
    training and the Wesleyan Reformers complained of ministerial
    domination of Methodism.

    Each division was different, but behind them all lay a
    pattern of continuing conflict between ministers and lay
    members. This obliged many Methodists to make difficult and
    far-reaching choices between remaining within Wesleyan
    Methodism and making a new commitment to an uncertain future.
    In every dispute both sides claimed the moral high ground, and
    both were certain that they were right. Wesleyan ministers
    claimed authority in accordance with the principle of the
    Pastoral Office, but found themselves in a difficult situation,
    being obliged by Conference to rule as well as to lead. Lay
    members felt in a strong position among family and friends
    within their chapels, but many were unwilling to give
    unquestioning obedience to men who were little different in
    background from themselves, preferring instead a more open and
    more democratic style of Methodism. The national background of
    each dispute is outlined before its impact on the Methodists in
    the Bradford area is considered in detail, and the outcome of
    each confrontation is then examined.

    An attempt is then made to assess the significance of
    membership of the different Methodist denominations in terms of
    political activities and relationships with other churches,
    although it is suggested that little evidence is available to
    distinguish between members of the various Methodist groups.

    In summary, conflict between ministers supported by
    Conference and the lay members weakened local Methodism. The
    hardening of attitudes by both sides and their refusal to
    compromise, which led to the creation of new Methodist groups,
    destroyed the unity of Methodism in the Bradford area.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Additional Information: EThOS Persistent ID
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy, Religion, History
    Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
    H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
    B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
    D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
    Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
    Depositing User: Graham Stone
    Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2009 13:29
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 19:37


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