Methodist New Connexion

The death of John Wesley* in 1791 forced constitutional changes in Methodism. An existence over against, and not simply within, the Church of England could hardly be denied: it was soon clear that the conference of preachers would hold both power and authority in the movement. Alexander Kilham* and others argued for a more radical recognition of separation from the Church of England, and for lay participation in Methodist government. The Methodist New Connexion, formed after Kilham's expulsion, embodied these ideas: its second conference (1798) had fifteen preachers and seventeen laymen. William Thorn, a respected Scottish preacher of Wesley's, was the first president.

The new body made slow headway-it was twenty-five years before it doubled its numbers. In that period its image of “democracy” and consequent association with revolutionary principles was probably a disability. “Rational liberty” became its watchword, as against tendencies reflected in the type of Wesleyan Methodism represented by Jabez Bunting.* The ferment of the 1840s saw the departure of a radical element associated with Joseph Barker. Barker's chief opponent, William Cooke, was perhaps the Connexion's most considerable mid-century figure. By the end of the century there were some 30,000 members, with a strong movement in Ireland and missions in China. Union with other Methodist bodies was often discussed, and less often sought; but in 1907 the MNC joined the United Methodist Free Churches and the Bible Christians to form the United Methodist Church.* The influence of the MNC was disproportionate to its numbers; it is noticeable that MNC principles were eventually adopted by the main Methodist bodies.

See S. Hulme, Memoir of the Rev. William Cooke, D.D. (1886), and G. Packer (ed.), The Centenary of the Methodist New Connexion (1897).