Thesis (Ph.D)

Methodist Union in Whitby: A study of the impact of organizational, social and cultural factors on Methodist Union in Whitby and District, 1918 - 1953


Arguably, Methodist Union in 1932 was the most significant event in twentieth-century Methodist history. It brought together in one Methodist Church, the former Wesleyan, Primitive and United Methodist denominations. It was led from the apex of each denomination by their Conferences and promised a renewal of evangelism, a better use of personnel and property and the setting of an ecumenical example to other Churches. However, it was at the level of individual circuits and Societies that these benefits were hoped to be felt. Although there is literature concerning Union encompassing a broad, national perspective and which discusses its overall outcomes, there has been little scholarly research into the detail of what happened at the local level. The focus of the study is a particular geographical area which, in 1932, was the territory of the Whitby Wesleyan and Whitby Primitive Methodist Circuits. It investigates the process of Union from 1918 until 1953, within the local geographical, economic and historical context. The sources of evidence are predominantly of a documentary nature, but a further strand of evidence is provided by oral history interviews. The study considers organizational factors and their relevance in the light of some concepts drawn from organization theory. The thesis argues that although Union presented many common issues across the Methodist denominations, including the increasing influence of secularization on society as a whole, it can only be properly understood by also taking local factors into account. The significance of the local culture is highlighted with its roots in seafaring and farming, together with the influence of tourism and the seasonal cycle of visitors. The influence of social class, related to the 'social geography' of Whitby, was also a significant factor. The organizational structures and practices of Methodism, although effective for maintaining the denominations in periods of relative stability, were not well adapted to deal with the changes involved in Union and circuit amalgamation and former loyalties, especially to individual chapels, could hinder developments in new areas of population. In conclusion, suggestions are made as to how the research could be developed further.

Attached files


Metcalfe, C

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Religion
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 2011

© Metcalfe, C
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