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The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia

O'Brien, Glen (2011) The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia. Uniting Church Studies, 17 (2). pp. 67-81. ISSN 1323-6377

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The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia has survived and extended itself beyond small beginnings in a context of rapidly changing religious outlook. An important strategy of survival has been active co-operation with other evangelical Christians, and, to a lesser extent (and in more recent times), with Pentecostals, the tradition with which they probably have the most in common theologically. Friendly relations with fellow Evangelicals, though necessary for survival, were hard-won, especially while the label of ‘sinless perfectionism’ clung to the early pioneers. Reformed evangelicals were suspicious of the Wesleyan stress on ‘Spirit-filled’ individualism and Pentecostals believed Wesleyans had the opposite problem in ‘quenching the Spirit’ by rejecting the ‘gift of tongues.’ But the Wesleyan Methodist Church experienced growth largely through ‘switchers’ from these two groups, leading to an inevitable dilution of 'Holiness' distinctiveness. As the membership demographic of the Wesleyan Methodist Church has become more and more like other Churches, there has been much less uniqueness exhibited among constituents. It has become more mainstream, borrowing freely from trends in the broader Pentecostal-Evangelical culture. Numerical growth in membership, coupled with the development of strong denominational structures, has given the Church all of the features of an established denomination. Yet the strong commitment to biblical authority and a stress upon evangelism have kept the Church anchored at a level of religious tension higher than most other Protestant groups, but probably less than Pentecostals. Individual Wesleyan Methodists still like to think of their Church as a ‘movement,’ but in terms of the sociology of religion, it is something else. Movements are hungry to survive and prosper; Churches have arrived and settled down. The future of the denomination may well depend on what its leaders and constituents believe its mission to be. Indications are that the Church is aware of this and is taking seriously the question of what it might mean to apply John Wesley’s mission of ‘spreading scriptural holiness’ in twentieth-first century Australia.

Item Type: Published Articles
Repository Version: Published Version
Keywords: Wesleyan Methodist Church, Wesleyan Holiness Churches, 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
Subjects: C - Church History
College/Association with University of Divinity: SABC: Salvation Army Booth College
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Rev Associate Professor Glen O'Brien
Date Deposited: 11 May 2016 03:04
Last Modified: 11 May 2016 03:04
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1968

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