Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

members, and allowance must be made for this terrible loss in estimating the progress of Wesleyan
Methodism. The troubles began when certain anonymous productions, known as "Fly Sheets," severely

criticised the administration of Methodism and libellously assailed the characters of leading ministers,

especially Dr. Bunting, who stood head and shoulders above all others in this Methodist war. He was

chosen President when only forty-one, and on three other occasions filled the chair of the Conference. He

became an authority on Methodist government and policy. Dr. Gregory says, "As an administrator, he

was unapproached in sagacity, aptitude, personal influence, and indefatigability... his character was

spotless." He was a born commander. The "Liverpool Minutes," describing the ideal Methodist preacher,

are his work.

Dr. Bunting volunteered to be tried by the Conference as to the anonymous charges against him, but no
one came forward with proofs to sustain them. Three ministers, Messrs. Everett, Dunn, and Griffiths,

supposed to be the chief movers of this agitation, refused to be questioned on the matter, and defying the

Conference, were expelled. Thereafter the agitation was kept up, and caused great disaffection in the

Societies, resulting in the loss we have referred to. The seceders called themselves "Reformers"; many of

them eventually joined similar bodies of seceders, forming with them the "United Methodist Free

Churches." These in 1857 reported a membership of 41,000, less than half that which was lost to

Wesleyan Methodism. But now they may be congratulated on better success, the statistics for 1896

showing, at home and abroad, a total of nearly 90,000 members, with 1,622 chapels, 417 ministers, 3,448

local preachers, 1,350 Sunday schools, and 203,712 scholars. It may be noted with pleasure that the

leaders of the movement outlived all hostility to the mother Church; one of them attended the

Ecumenical Conference of 1881, and took the sacrament with the other delegates.

With great regret we speak of this painful disruption, now that so much better feeling animates the
various Methodist Churches. Practically there is no difference of doctrine among them. It has been well

said, "Our articles of faith stand to-day precisely as in the last century, which makes us think that, like

Minerva from the brain of Jupiter, they were born full-grown and heavily armoured."

An influential committee has been appointed to ascertain how concerted action may be taken by the
Methodist Churches; and the hope is cherished that their suggestions may lead to the adoption of

methods which will prevent strife and friction and unworthy rivalry. The New Connexion and Methodist

Free Church Conferences also appointed a joint committee to consider the same subject. The brotherly

desire for spiritual fellowship and mutual help and counsel thus indicated must be held as a very hopeful

token of something better than numerical advance.

The bitter experiences through which the Church passed called attention to the need for modification and
expansion of Wesleyan Methodist polity. The Conference of 1851 appointed a committee of ministers to

consider the question; 745 laymen were invited to join them. Their recommendations led Conference to

adopt resolutions defining the proper constitution of the quarterly meeting, and to provide for special

circuit meetings to re-try cases of discipline, which had been brought before the leaders' meeting, when

there was reason to think that the verdict had been given in a factious spirit. The chairman of the district,

with twelve elected by the quarterly meeting, formed a tribunal to re-try the case. From this decision

there was an appeal to the district synods, and also to the Conference. Provision was made for the trial of

trustees, so that every justice should be done them. Local Church meetings were guaranteed the right of

appeal to Conference, and circuits were allowed to memorialise Conference on Connexional subjects,

within proper limits. The quarterly meetings, having considered these resolutions, gave them a cordial

reception, and they were confirmed by the Conference of 1853.

 

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