The Death of The Methodist Church

I have a certificate commemorating 50 years of preaching in the Methodist Church by my father. Every Sunday he preached twice in the churches of his circuit. A total in the region of 5,000 sermons.  And in the afternoons he lead the childen’s Sunday School.  My grandfather was also a Methodist preacher and he also preached every week in his time and walked the circuit to the far-flung village and town churches of Cornwall in England.  One of my ancestors went as a Methodist missionary to Australia. One of my uncle’s was a Methodist minster and served faithfully in many parts of England and a short time in the USA. He was the one who pointed me to the Lord in my teenage years. His son is now the pastor of a large charismatic church in Bristol (not Methodist).


In our family Methodism stopped with that generation. The stories finish there. I have a record of a circuit quarterly meeting from the early 1900s. In it all of the chapels reported how many people were converted in that quarter. There were a couple of dozen on average in every chapel. When I grew up those days were gone. The Methodist church that I knew was generally a social church, full of good works but the fire had gone out. I heard stories from days gone by but I do not remember anyone getting saved. As soon as I left the Methodist Church I found new life in a small Baptist Church.  Yet one of my favourite books is still the journal of John Wesley.


So what has happened to Methodism, that church that radically changed the life of the UK and saved the country from revolution? Instead of revolution like France experienced, there was such a spiritual revival that was never seen before or since and impacted the whole nation for 200 years. But no more.


We can learn a lesson from the death of Methodism. I was in a beautiful  chapel last month in a nearby seaside town. Diana and I went in for coffee. A handful of old people were there. We discovered this prime site chapel was to close in a few weeks. The people would disperse. There was no spiritual conversation to be had. Typical of many churches the congregation got older and forgot to evangelise and teach the young. Once evangelism stopped slow death followed. It is a common pattern as chapels convert to homes or businesses.


Yet they still continued their coffee mornings and raffles and concerts, as the infrastructure began to fall around them. It has been so sad to watch. At some point you would expect some great leader, another John Wesley to passionately turn things around with a similar fiery gospel message. Instead there was compromise after compromise as the leaders began to lose their way and the blind led the blind.


Finally Methodism is experiencing a rapid decline in the UK as it fully embraces the LGBT agenda and liberal theology.  Like in Animal Farm by Orwell where the new order began to look the same as the old order, so you can no longer easily distinguish the church from the world. Somehow it appears the leaders have felt that the way to win the world is to be like the world.


In 2019 the national conference proposed that the church should no longer require celibacy for the unmarried – meaning cohabitation as well as marriage is something that could be celebrated – and that the marriage of same-sex couples could be conducted on church premises. This is just so far from Methodism of my childhood that it is effectively a different religion. But this destination has been arrived at by decades of compromise, of liberal theology and lax morality. This alone is likely to force the remaining evangelicals out of the Methodist Church.


Many Methodists are now beginning to use the logo of an LGBT cross with the new motto – Dignity and Worth.  “Dignity and Worth is a campaigning group of Methodist and Wesleyans around the world but based in the UK, seeking justice, dignity and respect for all, especially LGBTIQ+.” This is their declared stance.  Their stated purpose is to push their agenda to victory even if the remaining evangelicals need to find a spiritual home elsewhere, as stated in their blog. I believe this will be the final exodus of evangelical Christians.


Finally we still need to acknowledge that there are still some Methodists fighting a rear guard battle in the UK to restore the original truths and mission of John Wesley’s vision. At the moment they are losing ground. Even so, the Methodist Church is very different in other parts of the world. Cut off from the influence of the UK they continue to thrive in Spirit-filled and Bible based congregations. Let us pray they hold on to the truth once delivered to them.


1 thought on “The Death of The Methodist Church”

  1. Yes, what a lot of lessons we can learn from the way things have gone! I feel so sad when I see Methodist chapels that our forefathers sacrificed to build empty of worship and being used for other purposes! We need to stay radical or we too will lose the fire! I thank God for those who have remained faithful; I also thank God for the prayers of the generations before us. Thank God, the church of Christ is not limited to denominational boundaries, but grows organically by the Spirit of God as those who love Him work together. I thank God for the sincere Methodists, Catholics and Anglicans who have encouraged and prayed for me, and am so grateful for the fresh moves of God which have resulted new congregations which are not limited to traditional forms and buildings. We must stay faithful in order to be available to God.

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