Protestant Methodists (1827–1837)

an aversion to organs

The catalyst for the split in the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion which occurred in 1827 was a proposal to put an organ into the recently opened Brunswick Chapel in Leeds. This was rejected unanimously by the Leaders’ Meeting, acting on behalf of the membership. The Trustees, who included the man who had paid for the organ, appealed to the District Meeting, and when that body sided with the members they went right to the top, to the Methodist Conference itself. Conference, a national and ministerial body overruled the leadership of the chapel, with the result that 1,000 members in Leeds left Wesleyan Methodism to form the Protestant Methodist Connexion, which held its first Assembly in 1828.

The secession was a conflict between lay rights on the one side and ministerial authority with support from wealthy, influential trustees on whose financial support the Wesleyan Methodists depended, on the other. It was a question of who ran the church at a local level: the local leaders, local preachers, prayer leaders and Sunday School staff; or the ministers, who were stationed in an area for three years at the most, often less, and the national leaders of the church? The members thought they had left dominance by clergy and rich benefactors behind when Methodism left the Church of England.

Outside Leeds the main Protestant Methodist secessions were mainly in Yorkshire (Barnsley, Keighley, Sheffield and York), Lancashire (Burnley and Preston) and south London. These were on similar grounds. During their brief existence the Protestant Methodists dispensed with ministers, having annually elected elders.

The Protestant Methodists amalgamated with the Wesleyan Methodist Association in 1836, at which point they had 4,000 members.

Suggestions for further reading would be welcomed, as would photographs of Brunswick Chapel.

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