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

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.

300547.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (26MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email