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Church and Chapel in Industrializing Society

Anglican Ministry and Methodism in Shropshire, 1760–1785

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D. R. Wilson

Church and Chapel in Industrializing Society: Anglican Ministry and Methodism in Shropshire, 1760–1785 envelopes a new and provocative revisionist history of Methodism and the Church of England in the eighteenth century, challenging the Church’s perception as a varied body with myriad obstacles which it dutifully and substantially confronted (if not always successfully) through the maintenance of an ecclesiastically and theologically rooted pastoral ideal. This model was lived out ‘on the ground’ by the parish clergy, many of whom were demonstrably innovative and conscientious in fulfilling their pastoral vocation vis-à-vis the new demands presented by the social, ecclesiastical, political, and economic forces of the day, not least of which was the rise of industrialisation. Contrary to the effete arguments of older cadre church historians, heavily reliant on the nineteenth-century denominational histories and primarily the various forms of Methodism, this book provides a thoroughly researched study of the ministry of John William Fletcher, incumbent of the parish of Madeley at the heart of the industrial revolution, whose own work along with that of his Evangelically minded Anglican-Methodist colleagues found the Church of England sufficiently strong and remarkably flexible enough to rigorously and creatively do the work of the Church alongside their non-Anglican Evangelical counterparts. Despite the manifest challenges of industrializing society, residual dissent, and competition from the Church’s rivals, the Establishment was not incapable of competing in the religious marketplace.
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Chapter Eight: Conclusion

Extract

chapter eight

Conclusion

Studies of John Fletcher have tended to focus either on his contribution to Methodist theology (as the product of the Calvinist-Arminian controversy), or on his designation as Wesley’s successor as the leader of the Methodists. He has typically been viewed as a low churchman whose parish was a place of semi-retirement, providing him with ample leisure to either write on Wesley’s behalf or to focus on pious devotions after his perfunctory duties as vicar of Madeley were performed. Madeley has been, for the most part, peripheral to Fletcher studies. The present study, however, has aimed to examine Fletcher in his parochial context; to study both what the parish tells us about Fletcher, but also what Fletcher tells us about the parish, and more specifically, about the eighteenth-century church in a local context.

Three recent works have helped to mark the way for such an approach. Trinder’s revision of The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire, Streiff’s Reluctant Saint, and Forsaith’s Unexampled Labours, all attempt to place Fletcher firmly within his parochial context. These three scholarly studies provide a triad for understanding Fletcher: (1) in his industrial context; (2) in his theological context; and (3), in his relationship with leaders in the Evangelical Revival. This book has sought to examine a fourth component: Fletcher’s work as an ordained clergyman of the Church of England, that is, in his ecclesial and ministerial context. This volume also builds on the growing body of scholarship which has...

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