Methodist" was originally a nickname applied to a revival movement in 18th century Britain, based within the Church of England and led by, among others, the brothers John and Charles Wesley. John went on to undertake numerous preaching tours of Britain and Ireland (it is estimated he travelled more than 250,000 miles on houseback). Charles became a great hymn writer, writing some 6,000 hymns over a 50 year period.
After the death of John Wesley,leadership of the church passed to the Methodist Conference and instead of one person exercising leadership for a length of time, the President of the Conference became, for the year of office, the representative of the Conference and leading minister of the church.
The Methodist Church has a Connexional structure rather than a congregational one. This is where the whole church acts and decides together. It is where the local church is never independent of the rest of the Connexion. Everyone who becomes a member through confirmation is a member of the Methodist Church as a whole, not just of the local church.
The Church is governed by an annual delegate conference which meets in early June each year with equal numbers of clergy and lay delegates.
The first conference of the Irish Methodist Church was held in Limerick in 1752, with John Wesley presiding. The first conference in Cork was in 1825 and conferences have been held in Cork on a regular basis since then, the four most recent being at Ardfallen in 1991, 1999, 2007 and 2019.
The Cork South and Kerry Circuit had been one of the ten circuits making up the Midlands and South District which stretched from Kenmare to Carlow and Galway to Waterford. This district, in turn, was one of eight districts which made up the Methodist Church in Ireland.
The Cork Conference in 2019 approved that the organisational structure of the church be changed, with the old 8 Districts being regrouped into 3 new Districts, these being North Eastern District, North Western District and Southern District.
Basic Methodist Doctrine
The Methodist Church is part of the whole Church of Jesus Christ. It claims no superiority or inferiority to any other part of the Church. All who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and accept the obligations to serve Him in the life of the Church and the world are welcome as full members of the Methodist Church.
The Methodist Church is part of the Protestant tradition, accepting
a. The supreme authority of scripture,
b. Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ,
c. The priesthood of all believers.
The distinctive emphases of Methodism have become known as
"The Four Alls"
All need to be saved
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
All can be saved
"God sent His Son into the world .... that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17)
All may know themselves saved
"The Spirit himself testifies with our Spirit that we are God's children (Romans 8:16)
All may be completely saved
"Therefore He is able to save completely .... because He always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25)
History of Methodism in Ireland
The Methodist Church is an Evangelical Christian Church that began as a renewal movement within the Church of England in the 18th Century.
John Wesley (an ordained Church of England priest, as was his brother Charles) had a conversion experience on 24 May 1738 when, whilst attending a Moravian service in London, he heard a reading on Martin Luthers's commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, and as he later reported, he became aware "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death".
A few months after this experience, Wesley was invited by his friend, George Whitfield, to preach to coal miners near Bristol who felt neglected by the Church of England. The itinerant, open-air preaching of John & Charles Wesley and George Whitfield drew immense crowds and led to a revival of faith among members of the English working and agricultural classes who felt alienated from the formalism and conservatism of the Church of England. The movement continued to gain ground among the outcasts of society and the Methodists (a name given as a nickname to John Wesley and a group of devout students at Oxford University who were methodical in regular Bible reading, attendance at Holy Communion and visiting prisoners in the local jails) formed a society within the Church of England. Methodist doctrines are contained in Wesley's Sermons and 'Notes on the New Testament'.
During this period both John and Charles Wesley paid many visits to Ireland. Charles Wesley first visited Cork in 1748 and John came to Blarney in 1749. John Wesley paid his last visit to Cork in 1789, having come to Cork during seventeen of his twenty one visits to Ireland.
In England, hostility between the regular Anglicans and the Methodists grew. In 1784, when there was a shortage of clergymen in North America, the bishop of London refused to ordain a Methodist. John Wesley then consecrated three men to serve in the United States. In the sameyear he made arrangements for governing the Society of Methodists after his death through an annual Conference. He died in 1791.
Four years later the Society broke with the Church of England and formed itself into the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the new denomination being governed by the annual Conference.
In more recent times the churches have drawn closer and in 2002 a Joint Covenant was ratified between the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland, committing the churches to closer working relationships in the interest of the extension of God's Kingdom. A similar Covenant exists between the Church of England and the Methodist Church in Britain.