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this being the case, Conference must provide for this need in the Church.82 The Methodists were too poor to own sittings in the Church, and when they crowded large churches to hear good sermons they were ordered out when it came time for the communion. The clergy did not want Methodists at their communion services. 83 These were the reasons why the Methodists should be at full liberty to have their own communion services. A wide and sympathetic hearing was given to all argumentation of this nature. The determination of the Methodists was increasing
Conference was finally obliged to note the trend of senti(ment, and in 1796 it gave the district superintendents accurate instructions in regard to the communion. Each society that
wished the sacrament should have it. If the superintendent would not give it, he had to supply a properly qualified preacher who would. No preacher was to urge his people to have this communion; neither was he to keep it from them. They were to be left free to decide upon this matter as they wished.84 This arrangement had all the marks of a bona fide separation. The people could do as they pleased about separating. The outcome of this one can see in the Plan of Pacification, which was brought forward in 1795.
SECTION VI. TRUSTEEISM AND THE METHODIST NEW
As the struggle raged between the radicals and the conservative party in regard to the sacrament, so did the struggle wax warm between these same parties in regard to the position in Methodism of trustees of property. Conference had none too good an opinion of the trustees, for in a circular letter of 1793, it said that there were disloyal trustees who did not adequately support Methodist work, but rather bred discontent by holding sittings in Dissenting meeting houses. Conferences suspected them of desiring to get all power into their hands.85
Op. cit., p. 8.
Feeling at this time ran high as was evidenced by the tone of this letter. Conference thought of these men as having tendencies toward the Dissenters. Abel Stevens called them the “high-church lay-aristocracy of Methodism.”86 And the later actions of these, he characterized as: “a blow at the fundamental plan of Methodism; and generally followed, it would have destroyed the itinerant system by subjecting the pulpit to local control.”87 Both of these opposite views do not deny but that trusteeism tended to destroy the feeling of unity which made Methodism such a movement as it was.
This tense feeling came to an expression when the trustees ousted Henry Moore, a preacher ordained by Wesley, from a Methodist chapel in Bristol; because he had not been appointed to the said chapel by them.88 Just previous to this action they had requested Conference for the right to sit with that body, and to decide with it regarding the administration of the sacrament; but Conference did not let these trustees become a part of itself; instead, it sought to compromise the matter and to do this, issued rules governing the actions of the trustees. 89 The principle involved in this action of the trustees was twofold: it was a question of the extent of the power of the Conference, and it was a question of further deviation from the Church. “The Conference may be assured that the Bristol trustees desire most earnestly to concur with them in the appointment of preachers for this circuit,” but the trustees advised Conference to send only able men, for no others would be acceptable. This was the attitude of the trustees, while Conference insisted upon the subordination of the trustees to its will.90 Yet the trustees added that it was not a question of whether the trustees controlled or not; but rather a question of whether Henry Moore should turn into Dissenters the society of Bristol; of whom nineteen out of twenty were members of the Established Church. The consciousness of separation from the
88 Vol. iii, p. 53.
Myles : p. 227ff.
Church was present in the reasonings of the trustees. They further added: "It was the divine will we should be auxiliaries to, and not separatists from the Established Church. Consequently, we cannot permit the ordinances of baptism or the Lord's Supper to be administered among us by our own preachers, nor having preachers in our chapels during the time of divine service in the Church."91 The trustees did not want further separation, in this instance, while the people did.
The preachers, and those who believed in supporting the powers of Conference, and who were not overcareful of the good will of the Established Church, bitterly attacked the trustees of Bristol for putting Moore out of their chapel. Benjamin Rhodes, a Methodist writer of the times, was exceedingly violent, and in his attack upon these trustees, severely handled them. His attack was upon three points : 1. Shall trustees in the Methodist connection place and dis
place preachers at their pleasure? or, shall they not? 2. Shall Methodist preachers aid trustees that claim such
power? or, shall they not? 3. Shall we suffer a combination of trustees and others to
overturn old Methodism? or, shall we not ?92 Longridge put the matter strongly by saying: “If any man on account of his property, influence, wisdom, or piety, arrogate a power to compel the consciences of others in their duty to God, he precisely resembles him who exalteth himself above all that is called God. It is probable that our brethren are not aware of these consequences.” And further, he stated that these trustees used the same principles as did the pope.
All of Methodism was aroused over this question.
After Moore was ousted, he became very polemic and attacked the trustees in a pamphlet entitled, A Reply to a Pamphlet Entitled Considerations on a Separation of the Methodists from the Established Church. Moore said that in practice there had been separation from the Church in the societies of London
91 Ibid., p. 14;
92 Rhodes : The Point Stated, p. 4.
for the last forty years, “yet there is properly no separation from the Church in London—no independent Church formed. Every one that pleases may, as in Bristol, attend his parish Church. Meantime the Church Service is read every Lord's day, without any regard to any other worshiping body of people. The Lord's Supper is administered in them all.”94 Moore was clear-headed enough to see that separation was a fact, not a theory. After this general statement, he came at the trustees with the following: “That men professing to be Methodists should expel a preacher, appointed by the Conference, from those chapels, against the mind of the leaders, stewards, and people, without any charge preferred, or trial of any kind, taking counsel only with their attorney, is rather new in the religious world: And everyone that knows what Methodism is, must know that such conduct tends to its dissolution."95
The trustees were not inclined to be conciliatory; but continued their demands for representation in the Conference. They were put off with good words; but their agitations brought upon the whole connection the Plan of Pacification, in which Conference gained the victory, and the anti-separating trustees lost. 96 “The result of the struggle was most salutary, not only in the restoration of harmony, but, if possible, more so, as giving a consolidated government to Wesleyan Methodism."97 Had this attempt of the trustees to set aside the Deed of Declaration succeeded, “Methodist societies would have been converted into Independent churches,” and the whole of the Methodist plan would have fallen through.98 But this attempt came to nought.
The trustees openly claimed to support the conservative ideas of Methodism.99 In fact, they were so ultra-conservative that even the conservative Conference opposed them. Yet it is unique that these ultra-conservatives were backed up in their demands by the radicals. Alexander Kilham was the leader of these radicals. As early as 1791 he issued a circular in which
he made war on all who wished to remain in the Church. This came out just before Conference time and made a stir. 100 But the Conference took no notice of this attack and appointed him to Newcastle, where he found the societies split upon the sacramental question. To meet the situation, Kilham would not compromise; but published a pamphlet in which he advocated that the people should decide as they saw fit. The Conference of 1792 rebuked him for his “impolitic” pamphlet.101
Kilham supported the trustees in so far as they were in the opposition; but his principles were different from theirs. He did not wish the power of Methodism to be vested in the Conference; but neither did he wish it to be vested in the trustees. He was a thoroughgoing democrat, and wished the power to be vested in the people. The people, not the Conference, should control. For advocating this, he was expelled from Methodism in 1796, after a regular trial.102 Kilham was antagonistic; he had spoken of a ruling of Conference as a “Methodist Bull,” and such speech was not quieting to people who still remembered a certain Bishop Lavington.103 Kilham was also quite opposed to the compromising attitude of Conference in respect to the sacrament. He said that Conference was inconsistent in permitting it to be administered in some places, while forbidding it in others. This was "priestly domination."
The minority of the people demanded equal lay representation in the Conference, and even brought in a plan for such equality at the district and quarterly meetings. In 1797 all of these plans were vetoed by the Conference, and these people felt obliged to form the New Connection.104 Stephen Eversfield and William Thom refused to sign a declaration of Conference in 1797, and were forced to go along with Kilham.105 Thus Kilham with his refusal to compromise, with his definite program, with his truly democratic ideas, was forced out. Wesleyan Methodism could ill afford to lose this democratic force thus
Stevens: vol. iii, p. 32.
Myles : p. 235.