Committee of Privileges

The Conference of 1803, faced by the issue of Sunday drilling of militia, answered the question 'How may we guard our religious privileges in these critical times?' by appointing a committee of ten which became known as the Committee of Privileges, annually elected by the Conference. It was also to be consulted prior to the commencement of any law suit in which the connexion was involved. The initial members were two preachers, Thomas Coke and Joseph Benson, and leading laymen, with Thomas Allan appointed as the Conference's 'general solicitor'. It was thus the first of the 'mixed' (ministerial and lay) committees which became known as Committees of Review.

Through Allan it played a very active part in the opposition to the Sidmouth Bill and in the enactment of the new Toleration Act (1812). It later acted for the WM Church on various occasions e.g. in opposing the 1839-40 proposals for a State teacher training college and in prosecuting the 1842 Gedney case on burial. It had full power to take action on all national occasions and in all cases affecting the interests, duties, rights or privileges of the Church, subject to Conference resolutions. An acting sub-committee (later 'the Committee of Exigency') was appointed from 1843. Provision was made in 1882 for an extraordinary committee to be convened when deemed expedient, eventually to include lay and ministerial representation from each district.By 1932 the Committee comprised 20 connexional officers, 15 ministers, 12 laymen from the London area and 10 from the country. Its functions were then assumed by the General Purposes Committee.

  • William Peirce, The Ecclesiastical Principles and Polity of the Wesleyan Methodists (1868), pp.497-501
  • G. Stringer Rowe, in WHS Proceedings, 6 pp.27-28