Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

No new rule is enforced by Conference until opportunity is given to bring it before all the quarterly
meetings, and it is not likely to become Methodist law if the majority object. The enlarged district synods

are an additional safeguard for the privileges of the people. By ballot the circuit quarterly meetings may

now elect one, or in some cases two gentlemen, who, with the circuit steward, shall represent the circuit

in the district synod.

In 1889, Conference sanctioned the formation of Methodist councils, composed of ministers and laymen,
to consult on matters pertaining to Methodist institutions in the towns. Their decisions of course do not

bind any particular Society.

The disaffection so fruitful of suffering had been due to a suspicion that men were retained in
departmental offices when they no longer had the confidence of the people. Now such officials are only

elected for six years, though eligible for re-election. One-sixth of the laymen on Connexional committees

retire yearly; they may be re-elected, but must receive a four-fifths vote. Visitors may be present when

the President is inducted into office, and during the representative session, when also reporters other than

ministers are now allowed to take notes.

It was the year 1878 which witnessed that most important development of Methodist economy, the
introduction of lay representatives to take part with ministers in the deliberations of Conference. This

was no sudden revolution; laymen had long had their share in the work of quarterly meetings, district

synods, and great Connexional committees; in 1861 they were admitted to the Committees of Review,

which arranged the business of Conference; they sat in the nomination committee each year, and had

power to scrutinise, and even to alter, the lists of names for the various committees. Now in natural

sequence they were to be endowed with legislative as well as consultative functions; it might be said they

had been educated to this end.

The committee appointed to consider the matter having done its work, the report was submitted to the
district synods and then to Conference. Long, earnest, animated, but loving was the debate that ensued;

the assembled ministers, by a large majority, determined that the laity should henceforth share in their

deliberations on all questions not strictly pastoral.

It was resolved that there should be a representative session of 240 ministers and 240 laymen. The
ministerial quota was to consist of President and secretary, members of the Legal Hundred, assistant

secretary, chairmen of districts not members of the Hundred, and representatives of the great

departments; six ministers stationed in foreign countries, but visiting England at the time; and the

remainder elected by their brethren in the district synods; the laymen to be elected in the synods by

laymen only. A small proportion at one Conference is chosen to attend the next.

Such were the new arrangements that came into force in 1878, causing no friction, since they secured "a
maximum of adaptation with a minimum of change"; there was no difficulty in deciding what business

should belong to either session of Conference. It is needless to dwell here on minor alterations,

introduced in the past, or contemplated for the future, as to the order of the sessions; it may amply suffice

us to remark that Wesleyan Methodism, thanks to the modifications of its constitution which we have

briefly touched upon, is one of the most truly popular Church systems ever devised. For, as the Pastoral

Address of 1896 puts it, "Methodism gives every class, every member, all the rights which can be

reasonably claimed, listens to every complaint, asserts no exclusive privilege, but insures that all things

are done 'decently and in order.'"

 

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