About the Methodist Church

The Methodist Church in Britain is the country's fourth largest Christian denomination with around 330,000 members and 6,000 churches.


Central Hall Westminster - exteriorMethodism arose as a revival movement within the Church of England in the 18th century, and was organised by the Anglican 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.


Central Hall Westminster - interior

The British church does not have bishops, but it is characterised by a strong central organization, the Connexion. The annual Methodist Conference is chaired by the 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, each supervised by a District Synod.

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 (retired) 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.

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Page last updated: 28th March 2018 8:19 PM