Primitive Wesleyan Methodism

The early Irish Methodists had more support from landed and entrepreneurial classes than the English and this prolonged their link with the Established Church. It was not until 1814 that the Irish Conference was strongly urged to allow the administration of the sacraments. After two years' considerable agitation, in 1816 the Conference gave conditional approval.

Opponents convened a conference at Clones in October and stationed 19 local preachers as itinerants. In January 1818 a committee formulated their Constitution, which was adopted in July, with the name 'Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Society'. They took approximately one third of the WM membership. Primitive Wesleyan Methodists continued to receive the sacraments in the Church of Ireland.Adam Averell was elected President for life. In time the Society's ministers adopted clerical style and dress. From the 1850s they suffered a steady decline in numbers. The Disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1870 raised the question of the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist future. Several of its preachers were ordained to fill vacant Church of Ireland parishes, leaving Methodist interests to prevail. The Wesleyan and Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Conferences reunited in 1878 as the Methodist Church in Ireland.

The Primitive Wesleyan Methodist connexion was effectively confined to Ireland. But a number of its emigrants from Lisbellaw in Ulster settled on Lake Huron, Canada, where they built a chapel and worshipped for some years without reference to the parent body. Only in 1862 did they inform the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Conference of their existence. A preacher named McCappin was sent, but he returned after three years, perhaps because of failing health. The congregation then affiliated to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

  • C.H. Crookshank, A History of Methodism in Ireland (Belfast, 1885-88) vol. 2 pp.402-66; vol. 3 passim
  • R.Lee Cole, A History of Methodism in Ireland 1860-1960 (Belfast, 1960) pp.20-32
  • WHS Proceedings, 7 pp.155-58; 8 pp.49-51; 20 pp.36-38; 34 pp.73-75, 135-40; 43 pp.77-85, 171-2
  • Dudley Levistone Cooney, The Methodists in Ireland (Blackrock, 2001)
  • Dudley Levistone Cooney, 'They met in South Great George Street', in Bulletin of the WHS, Irish Branch, vol.7 (Winter 2001) pp.34-48
  • Robin P. Roddie, 'Keeping the Faith: Ireland's Primitive Methodism', in WHS Proceedings, 57:6 (October 2010), pp. 225-45

Entry written by: DALC
Category: Denomination
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