Methodist Union in New Zealand

The Last Conference and the First

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J Cocker

ORGANIC Methodist Union is now an accomplished fact in this land. There is only one Methodist Church in the Dominion, separate from and independent of Australia and entirely free to manage its own affairs. In its highest court ministers and laymen have equal voice and vote on all matters dealt with by the conference.

The last separate conferences of the two Churches were held at Wellington on Wednesday and Thursday, February 5th and 6th. The Primitive Methodist Conference took place in Webb Street Church. By an unanimous vote the Hon. C.M. Luke, M.L.L., was elected President. In the new Church the President must be a minister, and the Vice-President a layman. By the election of a layman to the presidency of their last Conference the Primitive Methodists demonstrated their adherence to the principle that a layman should be eligible to occupy the highest position in the Conference. The Rev. C.E. Ward, son of the pioneer missionary of Primitive Methodism in New Zealand, was elected to the position of Vice-President. Mr. T. Moor, a layman, was appointed Secretary.

The usual annual reports were discussed and Connexional funds were considered and prepared for amalgamation. For the last time New Zealand Primitive Methodism appointed delegates to the home Conference, for technically union will only become actual with the signing of the Conference minutes at Derby in June. Rev. J. Dodd Jackson, Connexional editor, was elected ministerial delegate—vice Rev. Henry Yooll—while Mr. J. Watkinson, a highly respected Colonial layman, was appointed lay delegate, Mr. J.H. Pugh, another highly esteemed Colonial, being elected vice. Legal resolutions were passed and, after a day and a half of hard work, we were ready for union. It may be confessed that there were tears in the doxology with which the last session closed, for we could not help but think of old days and remember the hallowed associations of that term Primitive Methodist so soon to be used no more.

At an appointed hour on the Thursday afternoon the delegates of the two Conferences met in front of the Town Hall. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and there was much handshaking and rejoicing, especially on the part of those who had worked for union. Then the three hundred delegates sang very heartily the Doxology. After this the brethren, singing the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” marched to the large Methodist Church in which the Conference was be held. On arriving at the front of the Church the processional hymn was changed to “All hail the power of Jesu’s name,” sung to “Diadem.”

The opening proceedings were conducted by the Rev. Dr. Youngman, President of the Australian Methodist Conference. The Rev. S. Lawry, a former Wesleyan minister, and an enthusiastic advocate of union, was elected President, while a unanimous vote placed the Hon. C.M. Luke in the Vice-President’s chair. Addresses were given by Dr. Youngman, who has a singular personal resemblance to the late Dr. Samuel Antliff, and Dr. Morley, now of Australia, but formerly for many years in New Zealand. Then followed a great tea meeting in the Town Hall, at which one thousand persons were present, and many new friendships were made.

The crowning event of a great day was a mighty meeting held in the City Hall. The building was crowded by an audience of nearly four thousand rejoicing Methodists. At eight o’clock Lord Liverpool, the Governor of the Colony, accompanied by his Prime Minister, entered the hall; the great organ pealed forth and the audience stood and sang the National Anthem. After devotional exercises the Governor gave an address on Imperial, Civic and Church unity. Then followed addresses by the President, Vice-President, Dr. Youngman and Dr. Morley; but the great event was the signing of the Deed of Union by persons appointed by the two Conferences. The signatures were witnessed by His Excellency the Governor and the Premier, Mr. W.G. Massey, the audience standing as the names were traced, and singing the Doxology on the completion of the act. It was a great and electric meeting, and will long be remembered as an historic event.

Among other public functions of the Conference at which there were very large attendances may be named the ordination service, at which the ex-Presidents of the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Conferences delivered the charges, the former speaking to the candidates, and the latter to the Church.

Commencing on February 6th, the assembly continued its sittings until February 18th. As might be anticipated, there was a good deal of special business, such as the making of new districts, readjustments of circuits, stationing of ministers, and consideration of missionary policy. Much time was given to a discussion upon the spiritual work of the Church. Arrangements were made for special evangelistic services throughout the Dominion, and it is hoped that a great spiritual awakening may be experienced during the first year of Union. After an existence of twenty-four years, during which almost a thousand pounds of well-earned profits have been devoted to the Home Mission Fund, “The New Zealand Primitive Methodist” will now amalgamate with “The Methodist Times.” The writer has been its Editor, solely or jointly, for the last eight years.

Looking back over the gathering, we are of opinion that it was a great conference. There was a spirit of aggression. Among other important decisions was one to commence a central mission in the city of Christchurch and a new theatre has been engaged for five years, the writer being appointed to take charge. A request for six men is being sent to Cliff College in order that an urgent need for more workers may be supplied. The Conference laid emphasis upon the need of more open-air work, and a largely attended camp meeting was held on the Sunday. Of this gathering the Vice-President was leader, the preachers being the Revs. T.G. Brooke (Missionary Secretary) and the Rev. J. Cocker. The latter pointed out the significance of the fact that while one hundred years ago the camp meetings conducted by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes were condemned by the English Wesleyan Conference, now, at the end of a century, the Union of the two Churches in this land was celebrated. in such a gathering.

The Conference was brotherly and harmonious. The Primitives had no cause to complain; they were fairly recognised in the appointing of officers and committees, and, in the stationing, the circuits to which the Primitive ministers were appointed were equal in quality to those they had occupied in their own Church. In the new Church every man will have an opportunity of finding his own place and have a wider sphere of usefulness.

There was less stiffness, too, than might have been expected. In bringing together two separate conferences in which many of the delegates must be entire strangers to one another it might be expected that there would be some sense of strangeness, but it was pleasing to see how quickly this wore away. Viewed from the standpoint of the first Conference there appears every reason to believe that Methodist Union will be a success. Before the Methodist Church in this Dominion, if she be true to her traditions and ideals, lies a a period of victory.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/398

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