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primitive methodists

primitive methodists broke away from the main Wesleyan body and formed their own connexion in 1811, led by Hugh Bourne, a carpenter, and William Clowes, a potter, who had been expelled for holding American-style camp-meetings at Mow Cop (Staffs.). Condemned by the middle-class churches as ranters, the primitive methodists provided a form of evangelism attuned to the needs of labouring people. In a crowded cottage or plain village chapel, listening to a local preacher who was a working man or woman, they felt at home in a way they seldom did in the parish church. The ‘prims’ were noted for their open-air, hell-fire style of preaching, their revivalist, tented camp-meetings, their acceptance of women preachers, and their teetotalism. Until the 1840s they re-enacted the religious ‘enthusiasm’ of Wesley's early preachers and suffered similar persecution. Thereafter the primitive methodists became more respectable and conservative, evolving from a sect into a denomination. Authority in the church became more centralized, though the power of the laity at local level was greater than in other methodist connexions. By the 1850s the primitive methodists had over 100,000 members, concentrated particularly in the Potteries, the Durham and Northumberland coalfields, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk. In 1932 they joined the United Methodist Church.

John F. C. Harrison

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