Butler, Dr Joseph

Bishop of Bristol 1738 and of Durham 1750. He was brought up as a Presbyterian and educated at a dissenting academy; then conformed and studied at Oriel College, Oxford 1715-18. John Wesley spoke approvingly of his answer to Deism, The Analogy of Religion (1736). In the summer of 1739, as Methodism was developing rapidly in Bristol, Wesley had three interviews with the bishop in which he defended his irregular preaching activities, claiming that as Fellow of Lincoln College he had a roving commission. He distanced himself from any claim to 'extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost', which the bishop characterized as 'a very horrid thing'. Butler's proposal in 1750 for establishing colonial bishops might have radically changed the development of Methodism in America after the Revolutionary War.

  • W.A. Spooner, Bishop Butler (1901)
  • Ernest C. Mossner, Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason (New York, 1936)
  • WHS Proceedings 20 pp.63-67, 193-94; 42 pp.93-100
  • History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain 4 (1988) pp.29-31
  • Oxford DNB


Entry written by: JAV
Category: Person
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