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United Methodist Church

One of the three Methodist Churches in England to participate in the union of 1932. In 1907 the Methodist New Connexion, the Bible Christians, and the United Methodist Free Churches came together in a single communion known as the United Methodist Church.

The Methodist New Connexion* was the first to secede from the parent body of Wesleyans. In 1797 Alexander Kilham* had unsuccessfully petitioned the conference to allow Methodists to receive Communion from their own preachers. He founded the “New Itinerancy” or “Methodist New Connexion” with equal representation of ministers and laymen in its oversight.

The Bible Christians* were so called because of their attachment to the Scriptures in drawing up the rules which governed their societies. Their Cornish founder, William O'Bryan, prefixed “Arminian” to the title as an indication of his theological standpoint. In his evangelistic zeal he launched out independently in a way which brought him under the discipline of the Stratton quarterly meeting. In 1815 he eventually established his own circuit at Week St. Mary, with James Thorne as his coadjutor. In 1829 O'Bryan himself left the connexion after a dispute over the leadership.

The United Methodist Free Churches date back to 1857, when the Wesleyan Reformers and the Wesleyan Methodist Association amalgamated. The Grand Central Association came into being in 1834 in protest against the growing authoritarianism of the Wesleyan Conference. In 1836 they were joined by the Protestant Methodists, formed in 1827 because of similar objections, and in successive years by the Arminian or Faith Methodist of the Midlands and some Independent Methodists from Wales and the North. Another dissident group known as Wesleyan Reformers had also seceded, and in 1857 most of them joined forces with the Wesleyan Methodist Association to comprise the United Methodist Free Churches, although a rump remained separate to establish the Wesleyan Reform Union in 1859.

G. Eayrs in A New History of Methodism (ed. Townsend et al.), vol. I (1909), pp. 485-551; H. Smith, J.E. Swallow, and W. Treffry, The Story of the United Methodist Church (1932); O.A. Beckerlegge, The United Methodist Free Churches (1957) and United Methodist Ministers and their Circuits (1968); T. Shaw, The Bible Christians (1965).