Year

1981

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.)

Department

Department of HIstory

Abstract

This thesis, a comparative study of Wesleyan and Primitive Methodism in the nineteenth century, is an exercise in religious and social history. Very little has been written on the religious and social history of the Illawarra region in the nineteenth century. Even Methodist historians have not explored the relationship between the Wesleyan and the Primitive Methodists in New South Wales. This thesis attempts to analyse Illawarra Methodism in the contexts of the history of Methodism and of Australian social history.

The thesis draws heavily on official church documents of Wesleyan and Primitive Methodism from the levels of the circuit (that is Wollongong), the District Meeting, the Conference or Assembly, and the General Conference as well as Connexional journals. There has been a higher survival rate for Wesleyan Methodist records than for Primitive Methodist ones, which has placed some limitations on the present study. Local newspapers have also proved valuable as a primary source. Diaries, an autobiography, preaching plans and written and oral recollections of past and present Methodists have given colour to the black and white of official church records and newspapers.

This thesis argues that colonial New South Wales inherited a divided Methodism, but not the reasons for the divisions, and, thus no further divisions occurred. The colonial environment diminished the differences between Wesleyan and Primitive Methodism particularly in the critical area of relations between clergy and laity, and thus opened up the possibility of re-union which occurred earlier and more easily than in Britain.

The structure of the thesis begins with a divided Methodism in nineteenth century Britain followed by its transposition into the New South Wales colonial environment, and the culmination of Methodist development in union in 1902 in Australia.

The history of, and the reasons for, the divisions within British Methodism are analysed in Chapter One. Chapter Two looks at Methodist (Wesleyan and Primitive) beginnings in New South Wales and then in Wollongong. The major part of this thesis is contained in Chapters Three and Four where an in-depth comparative study is made of several aspects of church and community life in the Wollongong Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist circuits. The final chapter examines a climax of Australian Methodist history: the movement towards union in 1902 together with some of its immediate results. Currie's model of ecumenical ism in an industrialised society is applied in a limited way to this example of church union.

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