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Conclusion

O'Brien, Glen (2015) Conclusion. In: Methodism in Australia: A History. Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VA, pp. 273-278,. ISBN 978-1472429483

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Abstract

Australian Methodists were given an opportunity in the early nineteenth-century to establish their faith in an altogether new environment. While retaining a strong sense of kinship with the ‘mother’ churches of Britain they were not restrained by the ecclesial arrangements that prevailed in the old world. While the posture of being ‘improved Anglicans’ was difficult to assert in the face of an Established Church and Methodists were considered Dissenters, in the colonies there was nothing to dissent from and no need for churches to define themselves in relation to the Church of England; it was a level playing field. In South Australia’s ‘paradise of dissent’ the opportunities for expansion on the back of devout immigrant farmers and miners from Methodist strongholds, were even greater, leading to a representation of Methodists per population that would be hard to equal anywhere in the world. A strong united Methodist Church of Australasia entered the century on a wave of optimism and with every reason to anticipate further progress. It could not have anticipated the disruption to its trajectory represented by the ‘challenges of nationhood’, in the first five decades of the century and of the ‘swinging sixties’ that followed. As was the case for all of the churches the 1950s represented for Methodists something of a high water mark in twentieth century religious participation but it proved to be a false dawn. The loss of religious certainty in the following decades and the rapid pace of social change saw Methodist struggling to keep pace with an increasingly alienated constituency. Of the three denominations that came together to form the UCA, Methodists were the most enthusiastic for union and put up the fewest roadblocks. John Wesley’s ideal of a ‘catholic spirit’ of openness to all Christians helped Methodists forward into a willingness to lose aspects of their own identity for the sake of a higher good – the unity of God’s people. The UCA also desired to be a truly ‘Australian’ church and indeed it became that, since though the precedent bodies had their origins in Great Britain, the Church that came into existence on 22 June 1977 was a fresh opportunity for an Australian church that could leave behind old world divisions and start out on a fresh journey of faith. In its adaptation to the remote bush, its active engagement with the coastal population centres, and its willingness to confront government policy when Christian principles were at stake, it was well fitted to make a contribution to such a project. The story of Methodism does not end in 1977, both because the Methodist spirit continues to inhabit the UCA, and also because of the ongoing existence in Australia of other Methodist churches whose history continues to be made and written.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Repository Version: Metadata Only
Keywords (separated by commas): History of Methodism, History of Australian Methodism, Australian religious history
Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950406 Religious Traditions (excl. Structures and Rituals)
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subject Area(s): C - Church History
Association with University of Divinity: SABC: Salvation Army Booth College
Depositing User: Rev Associate Professor Glen O'Brien
Date Deposited: 11 May 2016 13:03
Last Modified: 11 May 2016 13:03
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1959

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