Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Flying like a bird with a broken wing

In the early days of the Primitive Movement (1811-1819) there was considerable tension between consolidation and extension. How much effort should the movement devote to consolidating the gains already made (in terms of strengthening existing societies) and how much effort should be devoted to expanding the movement and starting new churches?

This tension became so significant that the Tunstall circuit enacted the “Tunstall Non-Mission law”. The cry was “let Consolidation be our main business, and not Extension”. It proved to be an unsound and unwise move.

Hugh Bourne, one of the movement’s chief founders, put it like this “Extension and Consolidation must go on together. There must be a double movement, or the Church will fare like the bird which attempts to fly with a broken wing.”

However men with a big vision challenged the accepted wisdom and broke the Non-Mission law. John Benton, a leading travelling preacher pleaded that “Primitive Methodism should be allowed to go through the land as it was raised up to do.” He realised that this movement had the potential to impact England and beyond. In fact, the movement spread to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

History proved the point: it is estimated that there was an average yearly addition of 490 in membership in the years from 1811 to 1819. Finally, in 1819 Tunstall Circuit freed itself from the fetters of the Non-Mission Law and took up aggressive work with great vigour. The movement grew rapidly in 1820 from 8,000 members to 33,000 members in 1824.

The challenge for a healthy church is to consolidate and expand at the same time. Both wings are needed to fly.

Abridged from “History of the Primitive Methodist Church”, published in 1919, by H B Kendall.

1 comment:

  1. Dave, As we recently discussed, thank God that there is a reason to discuss this tension again in today's Australia. Thanks for your wisdom. David Everard