Friday, August 29, 2008

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Swanton Abbott Wesleyan Reform Church, The Street, Swanton Abbott, Norfolk. Although the website refers to an evening service, that was discontinued some years ago due to the increasing infirmity of several of the leading members of the Church (Mrs. Hunt, the Church Secretary, is 100 this year, and still the Church Secretary, and quite active in the role).

The service is at 11.00 am.

The name 'Wesleyan Reform' has no reference to Reformed doctrine, the Wesleyan Reform Union being decidedly Wesleyan, but to Church Government. After the death of John Wesley, the Methodist Church was governed by the Conference, which was an exclusively clerical body. Since Methodist ministers were moved at least evry three years, and in addition were set over Circuits of Churches, not individual churches, it was felt by some that the conference did not represent the ordinary member in the pew, but only the ministers. In the years leading up to 1849 there was an agitation for a more representative make-up of the Conference, including representatives of the Circuits, and a call for a form of government that was more representative and less autocratic. Some desired more autonomy for the local churches, rather than the system that Wesley had left, of Conference dictating to them.

In 1849 this agitation resulted in the expulsion by the conference of three ministers, Revs. J Everett, S Dunn and W Griffiths. It was felt by many in the Methodist Church that these men had been badly treated, and so a number of churches, and some whole circuits, seceded from the Methodist Church to form the Wesleyan Reform Union. While the majority of the Wesleyan Reform Union merged with several other Methodist groups to form the United Methodist Free Churches (later the United Methodist Church, and now a part of the modern Methodist Church), a remnant remained outside of the United Methodist group, and they are the present-day Wesleyan Reform Union.

The Wesleyan Reform Union today consists of twelve circuits and twenty-five non-circuit Churches. They are based in Sheffield, and their main strength is in that area, although their churches are scattered across Great Britain from Clydebank in Scotland to Cornwall.



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