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The Methodist ChurchScallop Shell with M

A Church is a living organization and as yet I have not found a link which expresses as well as I would like what is special about Methodism as opposed to any other denomination.

The Methodist Church in the UK is organized as a national Church, which we call "The Connexion" (note the old-fashioned spelling!). For administrative purposes this is divided into "Districts", which are further divided into "Circuits". There are parallels between the Church of England's division into dioceses and deaneries, but in the Methodist Church the important levels are circuit and local Church, whereas in the Church of England diocese and parish are the major groupings. Our ministers are appointed to circuits, rather than local Churches, thus a minister will normally have "pastoral charge" over several local Churches. Each circuit has a senior minister called the "superintendent". For example, the Barton on Humber Circuit ( Lincoln & Grimsby District) has three ministers between nine Churches. To take another example, St Peter's is in the Manchester Circuit (19/1). The "super" is Stuart Wild. All districts and circuits have a number; ours is 19/1, indicating district 19 (Manchester and Stockport), circuit 1 (Manchester).

With so many Churches per minister it would be quite impossible for ministers to lead worship at all of them every Sunday. In fact, most services are led by trained laypeople called "local preachers". The provision of worship leaders for the local Churches is a circuit responsibility, and is arranged by the superintendant. In general, ministers lead worship in those Churches over which they have pastoral charge, local preachers go everywhere in the circuit.

Our church buildings come in all shapes and sizes, but for obvious reasons very few are much more than 200 years old. South Ferriby and Bonby (24K) are a fairly typical examples of a village Methodist chapel. High Barnet is a typical large Victorian Methodist Church.

How did we get this way? A concise description of most of the history of Methodism in the UK will help a bit; it does not have any pictures, but you will find some in the Methodist Archives and Research Centre. Methodism originated with in the English evangelical revival in the seventeenth century. The leading preachers of this movement were John and Charles Wesley (see also this link) and George Whitfield. The Wesleys opposed Whitfield's Calvinism, and Charles got married after sixteen years of preaching and writing hymns. Thus John is regarded as our founder under God. As the Methodist movement grew he appointed preachers to assist him in caring for the Methodist societies that were forming, and would grow into Churches. During the course of a long life (timeline) he had been a missionary to America and later sent out ministers for the growing Methodist community there. America was fertile soil for the Methodist message, and today the membership of British Methodism is dwarfed by the United Methodist Church of the USA. John Wesley's ordination of the ministers to serve in America is very important to how Methodism thinks about ordained ministry. This is covered in a UseNet article I wrote a while ago.

So much for structures and history, what about our beliefs about God and humanity? Before refering you to a collection of fragments from Methodist documents, a couple of notes: we are Arminians, (the Wesleys' split with Whitfield over Calvinism, mentioned above) hence all need to be saved, can be saved...; after Wesley's death a number of Methodist Churches formed including the Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists (books), Bible Christians, and the New Connexion. In 1932 three Churches, formed from a series of small reunifications, joined to form the United Methodist Church of Great Britain under the Deed of Union. There remain a very few independent Methodist Churches. The "Four Alls" are a fair summary of Methodist doctrine about salvation but John Wesley himself was less individualistic.

There is a Methodist directory on Church Net UK.

The United Methodist Church of the USA is so large that I can't leave it out. Online information includes official and unofficial home pages, and a substantial history; but do not expect everything said there to be true on this side of the Atlantic.

If you are totally bewildered by the differences between the denominations in England, try Rowland Croucher's review (really a collection of excerpts) of Gavin White's Book "How the Churches Got to Be the Way They Are".


This is a work in progress and is regularly added to (which explains the lack of organization) I hope to tidy it up shortly. Last Revised