The first WM class meetings in the penal colony of New South Wales were established in Sydney and Windsor in 1812 by Thomas Bowden and Edward Eagar. In 1815, in response to an appeal to the British Conference, Samuel Leigh was sent as the first Methodist preacher, and was given encouragement and support by the Anglican chaplain Samuel Marsden. Leigh opened the first WM church in the colony (and the first in the southern hemisphere) at Castlereagh near Windsor on 7 October 1817 on a site given by a converted farmer, John Lees. The first church in Sydney opened on 7 March 1818 in Princes Street, in the area now known as The Rocks, through the generosity of Sgt. John Scott, who had arrived in Australia with the first fleet. This was followed by a church in Macquarie Street in 1821. The WM Centenary Chapel opened in York Street in 1840, became the Sydney Central Methodist Mission in 1884 and moved to its present site on Pitt Street in 1908.
In the early years the work was hindered for a while by dissention between Leigh and his colleagues, notably Walter Lawry, whose attitude to the Established Church led to strained relations with Marsden, but it recovered under the leadership of Joseph Orton and William B. Boyce. It became the base for missions in other settlements: Hobart, Tasmania (1820), Melbourne (1836), Adelaide (1837) and Perth (1840).
The State of Queensland began as the Moreton Bay convict settlement in 1824; it was opened to free settlers in 1842 before becoming a separate state in 1859. Methodist preaching began in a mission hall in Queen Street, erected by the Moreton Bay storekeeper, George Little. The first Methodist preacher in the future Queensland may have been a Corporal Fursman of HM 12th Regiment. In 1846 the chairman of the New South Wales District, William Binnington Boyce, in response to local appeals sent two young men to investigate and a Moreton Bay circuit was formed the following year, under the leadership of William Moore, later to be a pioneer missionary inFiji. On his arrival in October 1847, the German Mission settlement at Zion's Hill (established in 1838) and Ipswich quickly joined the Mission Hall, as preaching places in the circuit. Wesleyan chapels were opened in 1849 at Moreton Bay and Ipswich, before the Moores left to take up their work in Fiji.
By the end of the century, a higher proportion of the population in South Australia was Methodist than in any other of the states. An autonomous Australasian Conference was constituted in 1855 and assumed responsibility for the South Pacific Missions. From 1874, following the pattern of American Methodism, a General Conference, met every three years, with Annual Conferences for New South Wales and Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, and New Zealand.
The PM work began in South Australia in 1841 and in New South Wales in 1844-45 and the first BC preachers began in South Australia in 1849, where from the 1840s Cornish emigrants came in considerable numbers to work in the copper mines. WM, PM and other non-Wesleyan bodies were united in South Australia in 1900 and elsewhere in 1902, and a General Conference was held in 1904. In 1977 Methodism joined with Congregationalists and Presbyterians to form the Uniting Church in Australia, which is a member of the World Methodist Council.
Entry written by: EGC
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