Methodist Union

As early as 1886 Hugh Price Hughes had used the <span class="font-italic">Methodist Times</span> to advocate a merger of Wesleyanism and the Methodist New Connexion as a first step towards a wider Methodist Union.

In 1907, the Methodist New Connexion, the Bible Christian Church and the United Methodist Free Churches came together as the United Methodist Church. The Conferences of each were formally adjourned to a Uniting Conference at Wesley's Chapel on 17 September 1907, when the motion to unite was carried unanimously. This followed votes of about 90% in favour by Quarterly Meetings in 1904-5. The Union took place under the United Methodist Church Act 1907; the Foundation Deed was duly adopted under that Act and a new Model Deed executed in 1908.

In 1894 the PM Conference had entered into discussions with the Bible Christians with a view to possible union, but the proposals were defeated in the Quarterly Meetings. The union of 1907 precluded any further approach at that time.

Negotiations were first opened for further union in 1913, the first tentative scheme being reported to the WM, PM and UM Conferences in 1920. WM opposition, known as 'the Other Side', was led byJ. Ernest Rattenbury and Henry Lunn. The leading UM opponent was John N. Higman. Among PMs there were strong misgivings about sacerdotalism and bureaucracy, but the influence of A.S. Peake in favour of union carried the day. After many revisions, the proposals were approved in 1925 by the PM and UM Conferences but the required majority of 75% was not achieved in the WM Pastoral Session until 1928.The Methodist Church Union Act 1929 was enacted (after strong arguments before the Parliamentary Select Committees) thus enabling the union to take place.

In 1932 the three Conferences formally adjourned to a Uniting Conference on 20 September 1932 in the Royal Albert Hall, London. This Uniting Conference adopted the Deed of Union as setting forth the basis of union and declaring and defining the constitution and doctrinal standards of the Methodist Church, and a new Model Deed was executed. A lengthy period of adjustment followed, before the effects of the Union were widely felt at the local level.


'So where did it all go wrong? Well, the Union of 1932 brought together Conferences, colleges, departments and Districts, but it did not tackle overlapping circuits and local churches. Nor did it really address what the process of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant in our own time called "the healing of memories". Strong local loyalties persisted, fuelled by contested accounts of past disputes, secessions, expulsions and long-held rivalries.

'The path to Union had concentrated on winning votes in the quarterly meetings, the synods and the Conferences, rather than on winning hearts and minds in local churches. This allowed grassroots Methodists to ignore the practical implementation of Union at local level, or to resent and resist it.'

Martin Wellings, in Methodist Recorder, 14 September 2012

  • Leslie S. Peake, Arthur Samuel Peake: a memoir (1930) pp.159-85
  • Methodist Recorder, 30 September 1982
  • Richard N. Wycherley, The Pageantry of Methodist Union (1936)
  • John Kent, The Age of Disunity (1956) pp.1-43
  • Robert F. Wearmouth, Social and Political Influence of Methodism in the Twentieth Century (1957), pp.59-79
  • John H.S. Kent, 'The Historical Background of the Methodist Union in England, 1932', in Nils Ehrenstrom and Walter Muelder (eds.), Institutionalism and Church Unity (1963)
  • Robert Currie, Methodism Divided (1968) pp.217-89
  • John C. Bowmer, 'Methodist Union' in WHS Proceedings, 43 pp.101-10
  • Benjamin Drewery, 'Methodist Union: some theological issues', in Epworth Review, 9:2, May 1982, pp.32-39
  • Rupert E. Davies, in Methodist Recorder, 5 , 19 and 26 August, 2 and 16 September1882
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4 (1988) pp.615, 634-41, 646-9
  • A.J. Bolton, The Other Side: Opposition to Methodist Union 1913-1932 (Peterborough, 1994)
  • Kenneth Lysons, A Little Primitive: Primitive Methodism from Macro and Micro Perspectives (Buxton, 2001) pp.100-106
  • David Carter, Love Bade Me Welcome (Peterborough, 2002) pp.70-77
  • Christopher Metcalfe, 'The Long Courtship: Methodist Union in the Whitby Area', in WHS Proceedings, 57:4 (February 2010) pp. 133-43
  • Methodist Recorder, 15 September 1932; reprinted 15 July 1982
  • Martin Wellings, '1932 and all that', in Methodist Recorder, 14 September 2012