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Legal Hundred

By the Deed of Declaration (1784) John Wesley defined the Conference for legal purposes as consisting after his death of one hundred preachers (including eleven Irish-based) listed by him, with provision for their succession in perpetuity. This numerical limit and his choice of names created some dissension and resignations. Some of the itinerants who were not named in the Deed initiated an appeal against it and at the Conference of that year feelings ran high, until an intervention by John Fletcher reconciled the opposing sides.

The 1791 Conference, in response to Wesley's letter, read after his death, unanimously resolved 'that all the preachers in full connexion with them shall enjoy every privilege that the members of Conference enjoy', and it became customary for these other preachers to meet and share in discussions. Their rights were extended to some extent with regard to elections in 1814; but ratification by the Legal Hundred of all elections and decisions continued to be necessary in the WM Church, even after the introduction of the Representative Session in 1878, until the Legal Hundred was abolished at Methodist Union in 1932. The post-1932 Conference has included a number of Conference-elected representatives to provide some continuity of experience from year to year.

Quotations

'Our Conference began with some contention. We had war for many days on account of the Deed of Declaration. Alas! for this. Dear Mr. Fletcher, by prayer and his great humility, gained his point at last.'

Christopher Hopper in Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers, vol. 1 p.220

'Never while memory holds a seat in my breast shall I forget with what ardour and earnestness he expostulated, even on his knees, both with Mr. Wesley and the preachers. To the former he said: "My father, my father! They are your children!" To the latter: "My brethren! my brethren! He is our father!" And then, portraying the work in which they were unitedly engaged, he fell again on his knees, and prayed with such fervour and devotion that the whole Conference was bathed in tears and many sobbed aloud. Thus were the preachers, except in the case of one or two individuals who left the Connexion, subdued and reconciled to the glory of God and of his Gospel.'

Charles Atmore, quoted in J.S. Simon, John Wesley, the Last Phase(1934) p.218

Sources

  • J.S. Simon , A Summary of Methodist Law and Discipline (5th edn., 1923), pp. 382-86
  • J.S. Simon in WHS Proceedings, 12 pp.81-93; 13 pp.14-21
  • Kenneth B. Garlick, 'The Legal Conference', in WHS Proceedings, 41 pp.156-57

Entry written by: SRH
Category: Subject

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