About the Methodist Church
The Methodist Church in Britain is our country's fourth largest Christian denomination with around 330,000 members and 6,000 churches.
Methodism arose as a revival movement within the Church of England in the 18th century and was organised by the Church of England clergyman, John Wesley. As Wesley and his colleagues preached around the country they formed local societies, that were given national organisation through Wesley's leadership and conferences of preachers. Although Wesley declared, "I live and die a member of the Church of England", the impact of the movement, especially after Wesley's clandestine ordinations in 1784, made separation from the Church of England virtually inevitable.
After Wesley's death in 1791 the Methodist movement suffered a series of divisions but the second half of the nineteenth century saw many of the small schisms reunited to become the United Methodist Free Churches. A further union in 1907 with the Methodist New Connexion and Bible Christian Church brought the United Methodist Church into being. Finally in 1932 the three main Methodist groups in Britain, the Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists and United Methodists came together to form the present Methodist Church.
The British church does not have bishops,. It has however always been characterised by a strong central organization, the Connexion, which holds an annual Conference. This is presided over by a President (a minister, elected by Conference for a year) and a Vice-President (a lay person or deacon). The connexion is divided into thirty-two districts covering Great Britain and the Isle of Man each supervised by a District Synod and a District Chair, except the new London District, created in September 2006, which has three chairs with a "lead" chair.
The districts are divided into circuits and most are administrated by a "superintendent minister". Methodist ministers are appointed to circuits rather than to individual churches. Most circuits have many fewer ministers than churches, and many services are led by lay local preachers or supernumerary ministers.The superintendent and other ministers are assisted in the leadership and administration of the Circuit by lay Circuit Stewards, who collectively with the ministers form what is normally known as the Circuit Leadership Team. There are over 6,000 churches and around 630 Circuits in 32 Districts in Great Britain.
In the 1960s, the Methodist Church made ecumenical overtures to the Church of England, aimed at church unity. These were rejected by the Church of England's General Synod in 1972, but co-operation continued leading in 2003 to the signing of a covenant between the two churches.