'The Deed of Declaration' by John Wesley in 1784, followed by 'The Plan of Pacification' in 1795 after his death, are historically significant documents within the Methodist movement in relation to its separation from the Church of England. This paper will briefly outline how the separation developed, the crucial points of separation, possible misinterpretations of Wesley's intentions and the consequences of separation.
The Methodists derive their roots from the work of John and Charles Wesley. The Wesley brothers and associate Whitefield travelled widely preaching to considerable crowds attracting many of the working class. By 1738 they had organised small groups within the Church of England for religious sharing, bible study, prayer and preaching. Their emphasis was 'primarily on practical religion and not dogmatic' (WEBER 1999). This movement had spread throughout England, Ireland, Wales and further abroad.
The division between the Church of England and John Wesley heightened in 1738 when Church of England congregations started banning John Wesley from their pulpits. In order to unite the many small groups, in 1743 John and Charles Wesley in 1743, issued "General Rules" and became known as the "United Societies" (Dowley 1990:455). In 1744 John Wesley established "bands" and "class meetings" to preserve the fellowship within these "United Societies". During this conference standards for doctrine, liturgy and discipline were also adopted.
At no time did John Wesley personally break ties with the Church of England, maintaining his ordination and devotion to the Church of England, and he expected the "united societies" to "attend Anglican services and sacraments" (Dowley 1990:453). Even though his ministry grew and he had to employ laymen to preach and to assist, he never referred to them as "ministers and he refused t...