Camp Meetings Resisted by English Methodists

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Mow Cop Primitive Methodist Church

Ironically, in England, despite the importance of field preaching in the development of early Wesleyan Methodism, after John Wesley’s death in 1791, the Wesleyan Methodists became settled and “proper” enough to oppose outdoor preaching such as that done at camp meetings.

On Sunday, May 31, 1807, the first camp meeting was held in England at Mow Cop by Methodist preacher, Hugh Bourne. Because the Wesleyan Methodists disapproved of camp meetings, they subsequently expelled Bourne from the British Methodist connection. Their reason? “Because you have a tendency to set up other than the ordinary worship,” which was exactly the same thing John Wesley had done and which the American Methodists were successfully doing.

Me preaching at Mow Cop Primitive Methodist Church in 2011
Me preaching at Mow Cop Primitive Methodist Church in 2011

Hugh Bourne, having been kicked out by the Wesleyan Methodists, eventually formed the Primitive Methodist Church. It still continues to this day, is still centered in Mow Cop, and still holds annual camp meetings.

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Ian, a modern camp meeting convert

During a 2011 visit to Mow Cop, during which I had the privilege of preaching at the Mow Cop Primitive Methodist Church, I met an Irishman named Ian, who walked six miles to church each week. An Irish Catholic, Ian describes himself as having been converted at a camp meeting in Mow Cop a few years earlier.

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