Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

"'Though mountains rise, and oceans roll,
To sever us in vain.'"

The growing affection among Methodists of all branches made the idea of an Oecumenical Conference
practicable.

The suggestion took form at the Joint Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America in
1876. The American Methodists sent a delegate to the British Conference, proposing a United

Conference which should demonstrate to the world the essential oneness in doctrine, spirit, and principle

of all the Churches which historically trace their origin to John Wesley; such a manifestation, it was

hoped, would strengthen and perpetuate that unity.

Further, the Conference was to discover how to adjust our mission work so as to prevent waste and
friction; suggesting also modes and agencies for the most successful work of evangelisation. Nor was this

all; its promoters trusted to gain light on the relation of universal Methodism to education, civil

government, other Christian bodies, and missionary enterprise at large, and looked for a vast increase in

spiritual power and intelligent, enthusiastic activity among the various branches of Methodism, whose

gathering together might well draw "the attention of scholars and reformers and thinkers to the whole

Methodist history, work, and mission," while a new impulse should be given to every good work, and a

more daring purpose of evangelisation kindled. The British Conference pointed out the need of frankly

recognising the not unimportant differences amongst the various Methodist bodies, so as to rule out of

discussion any points which had a suggestion of past controversies. The American Conference accepted

this.

The smaller Methodist bodies being invited to join, the four hundred delegates were sent up by the
various branches of the Methodist Church as nearly as possible in proportion to their numerical strength;

seven sections of British Methodism and thirteen from the United States and the Mission fields,

numbering probably twenty millions, were represented. It was fitting that the first Oecumenical

Conference should meet in City Road, the cathedral of Methodism. Bishop Simpson preached the

opening sermon; the delegates then partook of the sacrament together, and Dr. Osborn, President of the

Conference, gave the opening address. The Oecumenical Conference did not aim at determining any

debated condition of Church membership, or at defining any controverted doctrine, or settling any

question of ritual; it met for consultative, not legislative purposes. As such, the gathering brought about

the thing which is written: "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they

sing... Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged."

By a happy coincidence, that largehearted son of Methodism, the late Sir William M'Arthur, was then
Lord Mayor of London, and he gave a congratulatory welcome to the delegates at a magnificent

reception in the Mansion House.

The next important event in Methodist history during the Queen's reign is the rise and progress of the
great Wesleyan Missions in the towns - a vast beneficent movement, in which some at least of the

aspirations cherished by the promoters of the first Oecumenical Conference appeared to have been

realised.

The tendency of our day is towards a steady flow of population from the villages to the towns, especially
to London. In 1837, there was only one London district, covering a very wide area, and including six

circuits, whose total membership was only 11,460, after a hundred years of Methodism. The various

 

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