Calvinistic Methodism

The title was first given to those who in the eighteenth-century revival adhered to the doctrinal emphases of G. Whitefield.* It developed into a denominational differentiation with reference to the church in Wales which eventually emerged. More than twenty years before the conversion of either Whitefield or the Wesleys, Griffith Jones* of Llandowror had heralded the awakening in the principality with his evangelical preaching. He was soon to be supported by Howel Harris,* Daniel Rowland,* Howell Davies, and the hymnwriter William Williams* of Pant-y-Celyn.

The first Methodist Association in Wales met in 1742, thus anticipating Wesley's earliest Conference (1744). The societies were regarded as belonging to the Church of England, like those of the Wesleyan Methodists. But as opposition grew, separation became virtually inevitable. From 1763 onward Rowland was no longer permitted to exercise his parish ministry at Llangeitho, although there is no evidence his license was actually revoked by the bishop, as has been alleged. He preached in a meeting house erected by his sympathizers. It was largely on account of Harris's unswerving allegiance to the Church of England that steps toward formal secession were deferred until 1795.

The name of Calvinistic Methodists was also attached to other groups which owed their existence to the ministry of Whitefield. Those belonging to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion* fall into this category, along with what was known as the Tabernacle Connexion of Whitefield Methodists.

In 1770 the publication of an annotated Welsh Bible by Peter Williams led to a renewal of interest in the Scriptures, and in 1784 the work was extended to N Wales through Thomas Charles of Bala. In 1795 the protection of the Toleration Act (1559) was sought, while in 1811 the body was officially recognized as the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion and regular ordinations began. The Confession of Faith, containing forty-four articles based on the Westminster Confession* as “Calvinistically construed,” was published in 1823, and the Connexional Constitutional Deed was ratified in 1826.

A ministerial training college was opened at Bala in 1837, with another for the south at Trevecka in 1842 (transferred to Aberystwyth in 1905). Until 1840 the Calvinistic Methodists supported the London Missionary Society, but in that year they started their own work in France and India. The constitution of the church combines features of both Presbyterianism and Congregationalism. Its membership in 1969 was 110,155.

W. Williams, Welsh Calvinistic Methodism (1872); D.E. Jenkins, Calvinistic Methodist Holy Orders (1911); J. Roberts, The Calvinistic Methodism of Wales (1934); M.H. Jones, The Trevecka Letters (1932); Legal Hand Book for the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion (1911).