Leader signals end of Methodism

Reverend surprises general synod by suggesting that his Church should consider merger with Anglicans

The leader of Britain's Methodists made the astonishing suggestion yesterday that he would be willing to sacrifice his church's existence and forge an alliance with the Anglican Church if it was best way to continue spreading the Gospel.

Reverend David Gamble put forward the argument that seeking the Kingdom of God should be considered more important than the continued existence of individual Churches.

In a remarkably candid speech to the Church of England's general synod, the president of the Methodist Conference announced: "We are prepared to go out of existence, not because we are declining or failing in mission, but for the sake of mission. In other words, we are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom."

The speech was greeted by many as a sign that the Methodist leadership is keen to forge stronger alliances with Anglicans. Seven years ago, the two churches officially buried the hatchet following a 200-year theological rift by agreeing to a "covenant" under which they would work towards establishing "organic unity" between the two faiths.

Although there are still major sticking points between the two sects – British Methodists, for instance, are opposed to bishops – many within the Methodist church believe the pace of that unity is progressing too slowly. Both the Anglican and Methodist churches have experienced drastic falls in their congregations over the past two decades, and some believe an official alliance would enable both to pool their spiritual and financial resources.

The Methodist Church in particular is in seemingly terminal decline. Only 265,000 members are left, many of whom are from an older generation. Some analysts believe worship at Methodist chapels could be all but extinct by the middle of the century.

But closer co-operation may be hard to achieve. Traditionalists, Anglo-Catholics and some evangelicals within the Church of England are vehemently opposed to Methodism because of the leadership roles that women hold in the latter. Reconciliation talks between the two faiths began in the early 1960s, but the first attempt to build a covenant was rejected by a synod in 1972 after a successful campaign of opposition from Anglo-Catholics. It took another 40 years, in which the established church took on an increasingly progressive and liberal guise, for the Methodists to be welcomed back.

Anglo-Catholics have been threatening to leave Anglicanism if the Church of England pushes ahead with the consecration of women bishops. Their departure would make Methodism's potential inclusion in the Anglican Communion much less problematic.

Methodism: A brief guide

* Methodism's founder John Wesley (1703-1791) was a charismatic Anglican theologian who began a deeply spiritual Christian revival movement. Ironically he never intended to create his own church. His brother and fellow Methodist leader Charles said: "I live and die a member of the Church of England."

* Wesley's insistence on taking worship away from parish control and into some of Britain's poorest cities caused friction among church leaders which, after his death, eventually led to schism.

* Throughout the industrial revolution, Methodism grew with evangelical fervour. But the late 20th century has seen a steady decline, with just 265,000 followers remaining. Margaret Thatcher was born into a devout Methodist family.

* In the US, the United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant church after the Southern Baptist Convention.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Electrical Technician

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Urgent requirement for Electrical Techni...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on