Methodist New Connexion in Ireland

The tensions which led to the formation of the MNC in England had parallels in Ireland in areas as far apart as Lisburn, Dublin and Cork. In 1795 a petition to the Irish Conference from the stewards and leaders at Lisburn (then the largest Irish circuit) to allow the administration of the Lord's Supper by their own preachers was rejected. In 1798 32 of the Lisburn leaders petitioned Conference for lay representation at the District meetings and Conference. Against a background of widespread rebellion and civic unrest the petition was dismissed as 'Jacobinism'. The Irish dissidents were recognized by the 1798 MNC Conference, which planned to send missionaries to Cork and Lisburn. For the next 25 years the few Irish societies remained isolated, but in 1824 the MNC decided to make Ireland its first mission field. The plan was to strengthen and extend the existing societies in the north east and later expand into the south. But there was no serious missionary thrust among the RC population until 1836. Under the leadership first of William Cooke the work began to expand rapidly. At this stage they had their own Conference and under his leadership started their own monthly journal and established causes in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Rathkeale (Co. Limerick), Galway and the Aran Islands, employing Irish-speaking missionaries and teachers.

The Irish Mission suffered from lack of resources and adequately trained and equipped indigenous personnel. The crisis over Joseph Barker, coinciding with a period of general economic hardship, resulted in a cut in the annual subvention of £1,000 to the Mission. The first to suffer were the southern stations: missionaries were withdrawn and stations closed. The Irish MNC contracted again to a few causes in the linen triangle of Ulster. An initiative of the Irish Conference's Bangor society to purchase the MNC premises there led to the transfer in 1905 of the other nine remaining MNC causes in Ireland for the sum of £4,000. By that time the looked-for rights which had led to the original split in Ireland had long been granted.

  • C.H. Crookshank, A History of Methodism in Ireland (Belfast, 1885-1888) vol. 2
  • D.A.L.Cooney, The Methodists in Ireland (Blackrock, 2001) pp.136-7
  • Robin P. Roddie, 'The Methodist New Connexion in Ireland, 1798-1905', Bulletin of the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland, vol. 27 (2022), pp 39-92.

Entry written by: RPR
Category: Denomination
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