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Plan of Pacification

Immediately after John Wesley's death, the diverging views about the relationship of the connexion with the Established Church, and in particular about the administration of the sacraments by the itinerant preachers and the times of preaching services, came to the fore. The 1791 Conference resolved simply 'to follow strictly the plan which Mr Wesley left us'. This was open to conflicting interpretations and much disturbance followed, with successive Conferences reflecting the tension between the 'Church Methodists' and their opponents, and also the issue of local as against connexional control of chapels.

The 1795 Conference therefore chose a committee of nine preachers to draw up a plan to bring peace. Their Plan was passed unanimously at that Conference and approved also by the assembled trustees. It marked a crucial stage in the separation of Methodism from the CofE. It laid down that the Sacrament of the Lord\'s Supper should not be administered in any chapel except where both a majority of trustees and a majority of stewards and leaders allowed it and the Conference sanctioned it. The same rules applied to baptism, burial and services in church hours. Holy Communion was to be administered only by those authorised by the Conference (i.e. itinerant preachers in full connexion). Rules as to the time and order of services were laid down. Not all societies availed themselves of these provisions immediately, but eventually the Lord's Supper became an integral part of Methodist worship.With regard to the powers of trustees, it was provided that stationing of preachers was solely by the Conference, but moral or doctrinal charges or disputes about a preacher's abilities could be heard by a District court. The failure of the Plan to give greater authority to lay members led to the secession of Alexander Kilham and, despite the 'Leeds Concessions' of 1797, the beginning of the MNC.

Sources

  • J.S. Simon in London Quarterly Review, Oct 1884 pp.1-24
  • J.C. Bowmer, Pastor and People: A study of Church and Ministry in Wesleyan Methodism 1791-1858 (1975)
  • J.M. Turner, Conflict and reconciliation: Studies in Methodism and Ecumenism in England 1740-1982 (1985), ch. 5
  • History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain vol. 4, 'Documents and Source Material (1988) pp.264-69

Entry written by: SRH
Category: Subject

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