Primitive Methodists were a major offshoot of the principal stream
of Methodism - the Wesleyan Methodists - in 19th Century
In the early decades of the 19th century there was a growing
body of opinion among the Wesleyans that their Connexion was moving
in directions which were a distortion of, not to say a betrayal of,
what John Wesley had brought to birth in the 18th century.
Eventually a Methodist preacher called Hugh Bourne became the
catalyst for a breakaway, to form the Primitive Methodists.
Probably 'primitive' was used to clarify their self-understanding
that they were the true guardians of the original, or primitive,
form of Methodism.
The sorts of issues which divided the Primitives and the
Wesleyans were these:
- The Primitives focused attention on the role of lay
The Wesleyans developed a high doctrine of the Pastoral Office to
justify leadership being in the hands of the ministers.
- The Primitives stressed simplicity in their chapels and
The Wesleyans were open to cultural enrichment from the Anglican
tradition and more ornate buildings.
- The Primitives concentrated their mission on the rural
The Wesleyans on the more affluent and influential urban
- The Primitives stressed the political implications of their
The Wesleyans were nervous of direct political engagement.
By the end of the 19th century these two streams of Methodism
realised they had more in common than they might have supposed. So
conversations began which led to their being the two principal
partners in the union to form the present-day Methodist Church in
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