Included is information from letters and diaries of preachers as well as from John Wesley, some of which is newly published here. This material highlights some of the problems that arose in the meetings themselves, which in Wesley's eyes was merely summoned to advise him but, in his later years, almost imperceptibly became more of a legislative and ruling body, increasingly preoccupied with what would happen after Wesley's death. Despite the breadth of this volume, the American Minutes are not included, partly because they were in no sense Wesley's own work and partly because they could not be, at present, edited to the required standard. The Irish Minutes are included in an appendix.
Conference--in all of its variations--has been an enduring feature of the Wesleyan movements and churches for almost three centuries. This volume presents a scholarly resource for study of the conference as it existed in Wesley’s lifetime. The editors offer us manuscript and printed minutes with Henry Rack’s masterful introduction and notes. Church leaders, historians, and interested students of the eighteenth century will find this volume a valuable resource for understanding Methodism then and now.
--Scott J. Jones, bishop, Kansas Area, The United Methodist Church
If a personal journal is a window into the spiritual life of a disciple, conference minutes act similarly for a body of Methodists engaged in holy conferencing. These minutes reflect some of the early interactions between John Wesley and the conferences in England, Ireland, and Wales, and they give evidence of the mundane and the spiritual concerns of communities of believers "seeking to be made perfect." The similarities and differences between these events and our contemporary conferences will be of interest to those who organize, preside, and attend them.
--Harriett J. Olson, Deputy General Secretary, United Methodist Women
A great debt is owed to the editors of this important project. They have not only reminded us of the importance of history in general but also the complexity of our own history as both a Christian movement and subsequently a church in particular. We have been given a guided tour through a seminal part of our life that is both hauntingly relevant and never boring.
--Gregory Vaughn Palmer, bishop of the Illinois Episcopal Area, The United Methodist Church
Scholars in the field of Wesleyan and Methodist studies have eagerly awaited the first critical edition of the minutes of the early Methodist conferences. This publication brings to the field a very wide range of new source material that has not been available in the past, for example, draft agenda of the conferences, and variations on the minutes as recorded by different participants. The edition is accompanied by critical notes and a comprehensive introduction that will make the scholarly community aware of the range of precedents for the early Methodist conferences.
--Ted A. Campbell, Associate Professor of Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University