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Title: Prophets and profits : the financing of Wesleyan Methodism, c.1740-1800
Author: Norris, Clive Murray
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 8508
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis attempts a comprehensive account of the financing of eighteenth century Wesleyan Methodism, based mainly on primary sources such as Methodist account books. In the late 1730s John and Charles Wesley launched a movement to reform the Church of England, preaching throughout the British Isles, and creating a network of supporters who met in local societies. In time this ‘Connexion’ deployed full-time preachers, paying them stipends and allowances, funded by regular contributions from members. Chapels were built to house preaching services, partially financed by debt underwritten by John Wesley and other preachers. By 1766 25,000 members employed some 100 preachers, and occupied 100 chapels; a commercial publishing operation produced 60,000 books and pamphlets a year, distributed by the preachers; and the Connexion ran a boarding school and various local welfare activities. As its chapel debts became unsustainable, the leadership launched an intensive fund-raising campaign, and decentralised financial responsibility for them to the local preaching ‘circuits’, though with continuing central oversight of chapel debt. Now the costs of supporting preachers put pressure on local society funds, especially because more preachers acquired families. By 1780 the Connexion’s finances were again stretched; a complex system of cross-subsidies developed, for example from richer areas to poorer, and the movement became increasingly dependent on the financial commitment of its wealthier supporters. New educational, welfare and missionary initiatives emerged, often funded independently of the Connexion. On John Wesley’s 1791 death, neither burgeoning Book Room profits nor increasing revenue from voluntary collections could prevent renewed resource pressures, which fuelled a series of disputes over governance and practice, leading in the mid 1790s to the emergence of the Wesleyan Methodist denomination, outside the established Church. While Wesleyans viewed their movement as inspired by Heaven, they worked with the market to ensure that their ambitions were financially achievable on Earth.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available